I have a vehement distaste (it might blend into disgust territory) for Princess Culture. And I am routinely surprised (really? I don’t know why anything surprises me any more…) at the conversations I have with my friends about Princess Culture being harmless. They were raised with tiaras and poufy dresses, and believe they have suffered no ill effects as adults. WHY AM I TRYING TO RUIN CHILDHOOD?!?!?
What does this have to do with my son? I think Princess Culture is damaging to both girls and boys. I think it creates and strictly enforces gender roles, and it does so in a very playful manner. It’s DISNEY! How bad can it be? Lighten up! But the more images children are presented with of things occurring a certain way, the more likely they are to subconsciously internalize those images as “right.” The more cultural reinforcement that pink is for girls, the worse off we all are.
It’s not just Princess Culture. It’s bromance, and chick flicks. It’s all -things-boy must by blue, and all-things-girl must be pink. (Right down to toothpaste and car seats.) It’s professional football players, and cheerleaders. It’s the intense pressure that exists in the United States to conform, and to perform gender appropriately.
I thought long and hard about this a few weeks ago, as I spent several hours on Amazon looking for books for my toddler son (he’s 21 months) that would offer him non-gendered, cultural, and racially diverse images. (I know this will come as a shock, but those books are surprisingly hard to find.)
My son is a sponge. He mimics what he sees his father and I do, and every day I watch him mimic other people’s behaviors EXACTLY. He is learning to compartmentalize his world, before he even knows that compartments exist. Because he’s seeing what happens around him and filing it away for that moment where he will synthesize all this knowledge he didn’t even know he had. And so I need to give him knowledge to store away. I need to show him boys in dresses, and girls on tractors. So that when he hears, “That’s not for …” he can have that nagging feeling that this isn’t exactly true, because he’s been exposed to “…” doing exactly what he was just told isn’t right.