Me: “What did you do at school today?”
4yo: “Played princesses.”
Now, this answer should horrify me. I hate princesses, and their pastel domination of our girls’ childhoods. As a brand, they represent everything I don’t want for my daughter.
But I was curious, as I had a suspicion it might not be what I feared.
Me: “So how did you play princesses?”
This was where the fun began.
She played with two of her friends, pretending to be Elsa, Rapunzel, and Jasmine. First surprise: Who’s who. Jasmine wasn’t my brown, dark haired daughter – she was the coveted Elsa. Her very blonde friend was Jasmine. Her other blonde friend – previously a Frozen obsessive, and most likely Esla – went for Rapunzel.
My daughter wanted to be Elsa because a) she has superpowers, and b) she’s a Queen, i.e. a leader. Her friend wanted to be Rapunzel because she’d just seen Tangled. My daughter encouraged her friend to focus on the Tangled Rapunzel’s own superpower of Medusa-like hair.
The set up of their game was that they were a team of crime fighting heroes, and while Elsa and Rapunzel were off on a mission to capture Hans and bring him back to prison, Jasmine was going to look after Elsa’s kingdom of Arendelle. Adventure ensued.
A few things occurred to me after hearing this:
a) While not encouraging Princess fandom in my daughter, they’re not banned either – and knowing the characters and stories has been vital in helping her bond with other girls.
b) The princess characters themselves are often far more empowered than portrayed in merchandising. I’ve frequently highlighted to my daughter their achievements and power (whether it’s leadership, skills, or actual superpowers), and dialled back on how pretty they look, or how lucky they are to marry a prince.
As parents, we can easily reinvent princesses to present them as far more powerful than the imagery used on t-shirts and lunch boxes.
c) Introducing my daughter to other female hero stories – whether Batgirl, Korra, or My Little Pony – has given her different, more active female-led scenarios to use in her play and share with friends.
d) How awesome would a super team of Elsa, Rapunzel, and Jasmine be? A League of Extraordinary Ladies… Over to you Disney.