Last week, Barbara Ehrenreich posts a feminist polemic about Disney princesses. It’s picked up in a couple of places and linked a lot in the “feminist blogosphere.”
This week, this dad named Trey Ellis writes a response. He’s a good feminist dad and his daughter still likes princesses.
Like Ms. Ehrenreich and all good PC parents at first I was terrified. Where had I gone wrong? Why is my little angel (princess?) so obsessed with cuddling her dolly, tea parties and wiping off the dining room table? I knew it was best to let her make her own toy choices but it was hard. It was as if she had been possessed by the Beaver’s mom or Donna Reed. Or maybe she was in long-term training to grow up to become a scullery maid.
Three years later her little brother came along and for a while he delighted in playing dolls with her. Now, however, he is six and has dedicated himself to becoming a ninja.
The more you watch your kids the more you realize that some key gender specifics are as hardwired as hunger and thirst. Most, but not all little girls go through a pink, princessy phase. Most, but not all little boys go through a phase where everything needs to be whacked and/or destroyed.
(Emphasis mine.) How do you know these gender things are hard-wired? Does his daughter have no female peers who like princesses? Watch no TV? Have no contact with women who are traditionally feminine from whom she modeled this behaviour? I find it exceedingly hard to believe that a three year old is actually genetically predisposed to care about painting her nails. I’m not sure what part of the chromosome that’s on.
I honestly don’t think a little girl liking Disney shit is anything to worry about, necessarily; most people aren’t defined by one cultural influence. For example, I loved The Little Mermaid when I was a kid and my parents are fiscal conservatives, but they raised me to think for myself and they valued my intelligence, so I turned out a feminist and somewhat of a commie.
But, like Jezebel points out, grown women are buying tiaras for their weddings. I think the existence of the wedding industry is a pretty good rebuttal to anyone who thinks that the whole princess narrative is something every girl “grows out of.”
I think Ellis really missed the point; he was like “my individual daughter likes princess shit, that doesn’t make me a bad dad.” But Ehrenreich wasn’t talking about him as a dad, she was talking about the princess thing as a cultural and commercial entity, which is some scary shit.