exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

she loves to be one of the girls

by Jen at 1:04 pm on 8.05.2010Comments Off
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

while i was home visiting my family, i got to spend a lot of time with my niece p, who is rapidly approaching the ripe old age of 5.

she’s got a lot of toys – not nearly as many as most kids these days, but a lot nonetheless. i guess once you have a kid, these things seem to multiply of their own accord – toys are gifted, handed down, left behind accidentally.

and being that my niece is a five year old girl, she is at that age where she has a plethora of pretty pink plastic princess toys. these computer-chipped, pepto bismol coloured, tacky disnified toys. much to my sister’s chagrin, i couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut. part of me thought they were hilarious in their grotesqueness, the other part of me thought they were noxious – sexist and consumerist in the extreme. this one in particular, was the most odious.


it’s a disney princess cash register/till. disgustingly pink, it features all the stereotypically sexist disney princesses (snow white, belle, ariel, cinderella etc.) and buttons which say things like “cosmetics”, “toys”, “shoes”, “handbags”. it apparently also comes (when new) with plastic credit card and makeup.

it says this:

i think my sister felt i was critiquing her parenting by criticising these toys. “if you don’t make a big deal out of them, they’re not a big deal jen!”

and to a large extent, i know that that is true. after all, there are few well adjusted adult women who expect to life to replicate a disney fantasy.

but think about how many women who epitomise shopping as a feminine hobby, or who expect to be “treated like a princess” by a man, or who profess a love of all things pink – not an insignificant number. when these are the kinds of behaviours little girls find attention and reward in, it gets harder to dismiss these kinds of toys as being innocuous.

yet they are almost impossible to avoid – even i, a non-parent, can see that. even if my niece’s life were to be purged of all this consumerist pink princess crap, it’s what her friends play with at their houses. it’s in television and movies, it’s in the books and dvds at the library. it’s postitively insidious, creeping in from every angle. so why wage a war against something you can’t win?

i understand that. i do. and i’m not criticising parents, who are essentially helpless to prevent this invasion.

i’m criticising the corporations. it’s infuriating that so much of a little girl’s childhood is for sale – that there are people who make money by specifically targeting an avalanche of consumer goods at little girls which tell them in a million different ways they are most valued, most feminine when they conform to stereotype. that there are people who get rich by making sure little girls are tied up with a pink ribbon – it’s crass and amoral and, yes, damaging. because if you’re a little girl, the stereotype that you are being continually assaulted with is that all little girls like pink plastic princesses, and their parents like little girls who like pink plastic princesses, and therefore you must like them too.

it’s enraging that little girls and their parents have to battle these messages at all. and it’s disheartening to know so many of them won’t.

my sister says if you don’t make a big deal out of it, it’s not a big deal, and i want to believe that. sure, today my niece’s favourite colour is (predictably) pink. but maybe tomorrow it will be purple or green. she has that putrid pink princess register, but rarely plays with it – one of her current favourite toys is a wooden workbench. and if indeed, the most direct influence on molding and shaping a young girl is the role model of her mother, then my niece is one extremely lucky girl indeed.

i only wish all little girls could be so lucky.

pretty in pink – the national

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