Let girls be girls

Somebody on Facebook posted a link to this story about a mom who’s not happy about her little daughter being into Disney princesses. I wrote a rather lengthy comment that I thought would make a nice blog post, so I’m simply copy-pasting here:

I don’t know about this; I think it’s a lot more important to let your kids be who they want to be and not who you want them to be. I came across a couple of stories a while back (and now, of course, I can’t find them) where it was little boys who were into everything pink, princess, girls stuff. One of them was about this little boy who didn’t want to wear anything but his sister’s dresses. While in both stories it was initially hard for the parents, eventually they learned to accept it and just go with it.

I agree that the female body image that Disney represents is distorted, and it really fits in this time to critize them for it, but it’s still just a cartoon, and I’d say that most kids grow up to learn to tell the difference between a cartoon, which people can draw however they want, and reality. The stuff that I grew up with is really not that different; Disney princesses haven’t changed that much since Snow White, and most of the stuff that I used to watch when I was a kid (may I be forgiven, but I actually watched He-Man and She-Ra, Saber Rider, Captain Future, and stuff like that 😀 ) had a very similar female body image. And yes, I had Barbie dolls, too. As a matter of fact, I saved some, just for the good memories. And yet I still came away with a healthy body image. The main thing is, it’s a fantasy, and that’s what you need to teach your kids.
Besides, the guys in the cartoons aren’t much different, at least not the good guys.

You can’t “protect” your kid from mainstream culture, not forever, and if you try, they might end up going totally extreme once they find out about it. Also, I think you can take everything too far, and that includes feminism.

As far as I’m concerned the fashion industry and the advertising industry are doing a lot more harm to the body image of girls and young women, because they either use anorexic (and therefore sick) models or pictures that are photoshopped to death, and that’s where education needs to kick in — not with cartoons that are aimed at an audience that’s way to young to care about body image.

Besides, if kids learn, at a young age, from the people who matter most in their life — their parents — that it’s ok to be who they are, they will be much less likely to fall into the body image or gender image trap later. If, on the other hand, they get the feeling that they’re not the person their parents wanted them to be, then you’ll end up with a mess sooner rather than later.

It turned out to be quite a novel, and I still wasn’t done. My brain insisted on going back to this, until I found I couldn’t go to sleep without adding three more points that I thought are important:

  1. If a little girl turns out to be a tomboy, nobody complains. Everybody just says, oh, isn’t that cute, and how wonderful, she’s not conforming to gender stereotypes. But if a little girl just wants to be a little girl, somehow that’s not o.k.
  2. The main focus of this story is about the looks of the princesses, but when asked why they like them, it’s not the first thing that comes to the girls’ minds. Instead they talk about personality traits, all of which are desirable.
  3. I have a little niece who just turned 3, and I have spent enough time at my brother’s house with the TV running to know that there are much, much, *much* worse things than Disney out there…

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