This year, my family finally got its act together and made some Amazon wish lists. The adult ones are incredibly boring, but for the kids, it is quite useful. Then this happened. From the list of Ashlyn, age 3 1/2:
That is a Barbie Mariposa Fairy doll. I presume that it is from some Barbie movie or TV show about which I want to know exactly nothing. So this is what I think of as “The Princess Dilemma”. On one hand, I do not want my nieces to be engulfed in the princess culture. I do not want to contribute to the princess culture. But particularly in the context of Disney, this stuff is ubiquitous. They’ve already been exposed to it, they already want these toys. And I want to bring them things they like. So my response is not to fight it, but to use the toys as an opportunity to talk about stuff. For example:
A few years ago, my nephew Alex (then age 6ish) asked who my favorite princess was. When I told him it was Belle, he asked why. I told him to guess. He thought for a minute, lit up and said, “Because she likes to read books!”
Absolutely. She also rescues her father and the Beast and saves the day.
Around the same time, my friend Elijah (just turned 8) announced that he didn’t like Ariel, The Little Mermaid. He said, “She makes bad decisions.”
Yes! I am eternally grateful to Elijah, because he showed me how to explain my disgust with Snow White to the children without having to use the words “complete moron” or “makes me want the bad guy to win”. Snow White makes a very bad decision. And you know what? Ainslie, age 5, is already starting to outgrow Disney princesses. This year for Halloween she decided to be a lady bug, while Ashlyn was Cinderella. But back to Barbie.
I am somewhat less worried about the body image thing than many people. This is a post for another day, but I am rather convinced that the true enemy is Photoshop, not Mattel. But it has always irritated me that the Barbie dolls in my day were all Malibu, Cheerleader, Figure Skater blahblahblah. At least now Barbie has a career. Or several. So I bought that fairy Barbie doll. And a doctor Barbie doll. And an astronaut Barbie doll.