Friday, October 26, 2012

My pirate is gonna plunder your princess for Halloween


As Halloween approaches, Lindsay and I have been asked how we're going to dress Addison up. In some ways, it seems she might like to try "psychopathic killer," but we've been keeping pencils away from her for a while just in case.



Last year we were visiting my parents in Alabama, and my mom got her a ladybug costume to wear. It was cute. Here she is, one year ago:


That emotion she's expressing? It's glee. She's making an attempt at a smile and pumping her fist in awesomeness.

Since then, however, Addison's been learning about princesses. She reads about or watches something involving Ariel or Belle or Cinderella or Jasmine every day. She has little skirts that she puts on and spins around in, calling herself a "pretty princess."

That's fine. I don't mind if she thinks dresses are pretty, or if she idolizes these Disney princesses . . . or well, yes I do. I tried to make it work in my head, but I couldn't. I mean, fine to think dresses are pretty, I suppose. But I can't say I want my daughter to be obsessed with princess stuff. This is the moment where some people would spout about feminism or cultural determinism or something, but . . . I'm tired. Let's just say that I'm thinking of writing a children's book involving princesses who get totally filthy and run fast and confidently punch monsters in the face. Because I need to subvert Addison's conception of princesses, and I need to do it really soon, I think.

I'm just glad that Addison is not expecting to be a princess for Halloween. Lindsay and I have tried really hard to help Addison appreciate pirates, and this year she's pretty excited to be a pirate. Here she is, receiving a free box of Krispy Kreme donuts for dressing up on International Talk Like a Pirate Day and saying, "Argh!" She also likes "Avast, matey!" and "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me!"


She's probably gonna be a pirate on Wednesday. She's already been practicing looking for people to rob and towns to plunder.


I feel good about this. I can nurture an inclination towards piracy. We'll see how long it counters the immense gravitational pull of ALL THINGS PRINCESS on little girls. We may have to bring in some other heavy-hitters. I'm already planning ahead. Next year I'm going to work the Jawa angle:

Ootini!

I showed her this paint-shopped picture, and she said, "That's GREAT! I yike that picture!" And then she said, "That's me?" I hope so, honey. I'll do everything in my power to make it come to pass. I would gladly have my little girl running around the house in a dirty robe and bandolier, disassembling all our appliances, and selling them on the black market if it meant doing away with those silly princess fantasies.

20 comments:

  1. I love the Julie Andrews quotation: "Diversity is what matters when it comes to what feminism is. You need to be allowed to let your own sparkle out no matter what you think being feminine means, whether that is being a princess or being a truck driver. There are no boundaries or rules except to be decent." I may get blocked for my next comment, but I'm just going to say it anyway: I hope one year Addison's itching to be a princess because she'll look so cute in a fancy dress with a matching purse and a little tiara. :)

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    1. I knew you'd pipe up for princesses, Elizabeth! (I did not, however, realize you studied feminism in your spare time; good on ya!) Despite my personal appearance, I honestly don't have a problem with her wanting to wear fancy dresses or dressing very feminine. For me, my egalitarian impulses are bothered by the rich, royalty aspect more than anything. I try to tell her we're more like peasants around here. But she says, "NOT a peasant, a princess!" I have no doubt a princess Halloween is in our future eventually.

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    2. Elizabeth, I'm voting you off the island.

      Just kidding. I don't mind if Addison wants to be a Princess one year. But she only gets ONE YEAR. I'll even help her go all out for it, everything she could dream of. But I don't think I want to do it time after time, as I see so many other little kids do.

      Also, that's a good quote from Julie Andrews. There's some truth in it. But here's one back at you:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RFMxYkeGaJc

      Also, I'm totally going to work to teach Addison that Princesses are really ninjas in disguise.

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    3. Haha, I'm glad she knows she's a princess, even if that will eventually just mean to her ninja in disguise. Oh man, that is such a sad and priceless video. But, most importantly, lovely Jawa picture. :)

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  2. When my daughter was still little, she decided to go as a bride one year for Halloween. I tried to convince her to add some fake blood but NO. Girls. Jeez.

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    1. Or, if not blood, at least a concealed piece strapped to her leg under the dress. SOMETHING to spice it up.

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  3. Great post. And you (and Lindsay and Addison) should come hang at our house sometime. Technically K has seen a princess movie---Cinderella at a friends house. But she doesn't remember anything about it, probably because she was coming down with a horrible cold with fever as she watched it. (Am I allowed to be happy about that?) She owns a sippy cup with princesses on it that was originally referred to (by her) as her "pretty girl cup," which has since been shortened to just "girl cup." She also refers to fairies as "pretty girls" for lack of another term. It's not that I'm full-out anti-princess; I have been at least average in "girlieness" and traditional feminine behaviors my whole life. Some of my decision to purposely not expose my daughter to princess stuff in our home at this age has to do with feminism type stuff, but some of it is just angst toward marketers preying on the easily seduced mind of toddlers and parents. I try not to buy much of anything with a character on it. I don't know that any parents would argue that kids are easily addicted to things, and I feel better about resisting that tendency and filling it with things that at least don't cost so much money. Quality toys like legos and blocks and books, you know?

    Also, overall I do like that Julie Andrews quote, but I think it's fair to say there is some difference in a woman "choosing" to be a princess or a truck driver. First, with such strong cultural messages bombarding girls from the time they come out of the womb (have you seen the new Disney Princess baby dolls, yuck!), is picking a Princess as a role model really much of a choice? And then there is the issue that to fit in the cultural ideal model for princesses a girl has to keep her body a certain size/proportion and look and dress a certain way. As much as everyone loves Princess Fiona from Shrek, a doll made for the Ogre version of her hasn't exactly seen the same success commercially as the other Disney princesses.

    I was a little surprised but not unpleased that when K picked her Halloween costume out of our existing dress-ups (we're peasants, too), she passed over the ladybug and ballet dancer (which she often chooses) and went for monkey (she adores CG). I think she was the only little girl at the trunk-or-treat not wearing either pink or tulle, but she looked pretty darn cute. As did our pea in a pod baby Elisabeth.

    Finally, I'm on board with you about the princess stuff, but we differ greatly in what to replace it with. I tend toward pacifism (even if there are velociraptors around), so I sincerely hope my girls never want to get into martial arts or piracy (although my husband dressed up as Inigo Montoya one year for Halloween, and I think that is super cute). Of course, if they do, I have several brothers who would be happy to foster their ability to defend themselves from ancient Japanese warriors, dragons, and zombies. :)

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    1. How did you avoid princess products so easily?! Everyone and their sister wants to give Addison Disney books and DVDs and sparkly skirts and pretty shoes and pretty hair accessories. I think most of our family is pretty clear on my curmudgeonliness concerning gift-receiving, but I've still not been able to avoid ALL the culturally "girly" things people love to give her. And that's probably okay, much as I grouse about it. It's good to have tensions.

      I'd be pretty stoked if Addison wanted to get into martial arts...and not just for the raptors or zombies. It could be one more way she can stand up for herself and prove that girls don't always need to be protected by men, and one more tool to use to be able to escape scary situations.

      But even though I think it would be cool for her to get a black belt, we're pretty serious with her about violence not being a desirable solution. The Jawas know this; any scavenger's got to know how to stay out of situations that can only end in tears.

      I think we're mostly on the same page. Addison is beautiful, and doesn't need tiaras or gowns or make-up or fancy hair to prove that. But I'm not going to be able to make those kinds of things disappear, and I suppose I wouldn't even want to. I just want her to see that there's so much more than that sort of thing; I want to make sure that being a "princess" doesn't get any more time in her developing psyche than does being an explorer, or an artist, or an athlete, or an engineer, or a mother, or a teacher, or a musician, or an archaeologist, or a Jawa. There are a lot of things a little girl can be, and like you say, I just don't want our commercial culture's obsession with a single stereotype to be the main thing that fills her imagination.

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    2. But mostly, I just really want to see a little jawa wandering around our house

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  4. That book about princesses getting filthy, running fast and punching monsters in the face? That would be a book about my oldest. It can happen! I have a sparkly, girly, tutu-clad 4 year old who loves dirt & outdoors. Having girls scared me poopless because I am NOT girly (except for that shoe collection thing) but it's okay...I've learned to adjust since we've got balance. I was very anti-princess for a long time but she really loves them and for me, it's perspective. She really just likes to dress up in the outfits ~ she has not gone all Toddlers & Tiaras on me or putting on a princess dress & demanding a castle, a chariot, and Prince Charming. She was Cinderella last year for Halloween - this year, she decided to be a cupcake. My youngest was a devil last year (we called her SINderella) and this year? A firewoman.

    So there's hope. :)


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    1. SINderella is great :) By the way, Neal, you need to check out "The Paper Bag Princess" before you write your dirty princess book.

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    2. Thanks for the hope! It sounds like you've got some cool kids. And that you do cool things with them. I'm a fan! Sounds like your family weathers the cultural storm pretty well!

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    3. The Ordinary Princess.

      Addison should so totally create her own version of a princess; Disney seems to have got the drop on Pirate Princess(tm).

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    4. I've never read M. M. Kaye, but this may be my avenue in.

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  5. I guess we've lucked out with gifts, but everything that Katie does have that is related to princesses, ballerinas, and fairies (literally, everything) has been a gift from someone. And most of her pink toys have been gifts, too. When given a choice, I rarely go for pink. I love it, but someone told me and I have found, that if you do your best to get other colors, years down the road hopefully you won't have so much pink (because some is inevitable unless you're really hard core) that you're sick of it. That's kind of my general tactic with the princess thing (and pink/purple, the Santa myth, candy, and a lot of other stuff like that). Of course someone will give her a princess sippy cup here and there, and that will be plenty---we don't need to purchase her that kind of thing. It does help that both sets of gparents live long distance and are fairly non-conventional gift givers as far as gparents go. A lot of times they just send money and let me pick the gift, and both gmothers (who buy most things) have a strong appreciation for quality toys (my mother is LITERALLY a kid at heart and is a bit of a tomboy---she was ok having only 1 daughter and 6 boys) rather than fads (like, say, Tinkerbell).

    Oh, and I should have pointed out, this is by far the least of reasons why I need some Calls to come visit me! And in a pinch, sending Lindsay alone would suffice, of course. ;)

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    1. We'll wrap Lindsay up in bubble wrap and ship her post haste.

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  6. I know a family who's little boy really really loves princesses. He's an adorable little kid; but his parents are having trouble dealing with this obsession.

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    1. Aha, the tables turning! I played a princess with my daughter the other day, and we danced in circles holding hands. Because that's what she figures princesses do. It didn't hurt as much as I feared.

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  7. If you write your dirty princess book I'll give copies to my friends with small daughters...and now, thanks to Lindsay's heads-up, I'm thinking of giving copies of P-BP to them.

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    1. The Paper Bag Princess is a simple, sweet story about making courageous decisions and not merely doing what's expected of you. It's definitely worth reading to kids, whether girls or boys, I think. And I've been thinking more and more lately about working more on some kids books...I'll keep you in the loop!

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