Monday, June 29, 2015

In defense of princesses...

Let me get one thing straight, right off the bat: I have no desire to be a princess (my need to marry Prince Harry, not withstanding).

 Truthfully, it seems stressful; all of those humans scrutinizing your every move, having to dress perfectly ALL the time, and I'm sorry, but they always seem to be required to wear nylons. After 18 months of wearing them day in and day out, the absolute last thing I want to do is wear them on the daily. I realize that it appears that most of my objections with being a princess have to do with picture taking and wardrobe, but there are loads more, many of which are less superficial.

Another thing we need to get straight is that I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by incredible people who never gave me the idea that I couldn't be the queen of the world if I so chose.

At 2, I announced that I was going on an LDS mission to Japanese where I would speak Japan. Mama Kerry and Papa Steve bought me a Book of Mormon of my very own to carry around. They patiently listened when I required them to sit very still while I recited the stories that I had painstakingly memorized. (You might think I'm exaggerating, but Mama Kerry and Papa Steve can confirm this statement.)

There was also a short experiment with baseball in there somewhere. I'm not sure if I'd seen The Sandlot recently or if it's just something that all my friends were doing, but it was all over once they made me stand in the outfield for a whole inning. Mama Kerry was fine with it, but Papa Steve was a little sad to see my sports career end after one season. I didn't enjoy the baseball caps. Plus, I could definitely find a less ridiculous way of getting a popsicle.

When, after a viewing of The Nutcracker, I declared my intention to become a world famous ballerina, Mama Kerry bought me a leotard, tights, ballet shoes, and found me a dance studio. She didn't point out that I was a little short, or that I didn't have the ideal body type, or that the chances of my becoming the next Julie Kent were about as likely as her becoming an astronaut.

When I decided at 12 that I was going to be a lawyer, the padres were thrilled and allowed me to stay up late watching Law and Order. And never got annoyed when I insisted on reciting the Miranda Rights over and over again.

When I wanted to leave school to go on an LDS mission at 21, my parents were my number one cheerleaders. When I returned and declared that I was going to teach high school history, they were equally thrilled.

 And at 29 when I announced that I was again planning to go to law school and to subsequently take over the world, my wonderful parents did everything short of handing me a crown and telling me to get going already.

How do these two things connect? To understand,  you need to know one more piece of information:

I was (and still am, some days) absolutely princess crazy growing up. I can recite most of the original Cinderella word for word (see, I put those early recitation skills to GREAT use). I was Jasmine for Halloween in 3rd grade. Harem pants and all.  I was Belle in 4th grade. Complete with the yellow ball gown that Mama Kerry stayed up all night sewing for me. I took a children's lit class in college for the sole purpose of getting a grade to read princess stories, and I liked it. I have seen every Disney princess movie in the theatre and still have days where I wish I could be Belle, because who cares about the Beast, HAVE YOU SEEN THAT LIBRARY?!

Here's my thing: I did and do those things because I wanted to, not because I was forced to wear pink and play with my Jasmine Barbie doll. I have always enjoyed all things girlie, including a good true love's first kiss. And I genuinely feel that these types of stories have value in our society because when used sparingly, they help to illustrate kindness, patience, generosity, and just a little bit of fun. BUT (and this is important, so don't stop reading just because you don't agree with me so far), they need to be balanced out with so much more.

As I said before, I was raised by parents who never told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl or forced me to fit into a confined gender role. If I had wanted to play sports instead of dance, Papa Steve would have been the first in line to buy my cleats. There was never a massive divide between what was appropriate for my sisters and I and our brothers. I watch football and my brothers cook. My little sisters played lacrosse and soccer. My little brother paints. Another writes lyrics and music. My youngest brother would rather watch Frozen than any sporting event. They all, oddly, like to shop.

Most importantly, we were all taught from a young age that genuine kindness was more important than good looks and that quality of character was more essential than money.

It's about balance. When a child is mentally fed a steady diet of one thing or another, it's unhealthy. I'm grateful that my parents allowed me to like the things that I liked, encouraged me to try new things even if I didn't like them at first, and supported me, even when they would have made a different choice. This has helped me to grow into a strong, independent, and well-rounded human being who is capable of providing for myself.

I genuinely believe that it's not the stories themselves, but how they are applied which can be damaging. In my experience, there are very few things outside of drug use, murder, and the Kardashians that can be labelled as categorically evil (please note that this is not an exhaustive list of things I find to be completely evil. Mouth noises, the word moist, and people who don't shut cupboards could also be added).

Anyway, the whole point of this is to ask for a little bit of balance in the grand scheme of it all. Let's not paint all of us princess loving girls as anti-feminist and unaware.  Let's not characterize all non-princess loving, non-girlie girls as unfeminine and harsh. Let's come together and realize that, as with all good things, there's a great deal of variation and difference.

Now. I'm off to day dream about that library.


Liz said...

#platonicsoulmates right down to the upbringing and the plea for a balance of Princess and non-princess interests alike.

Baby Sister said...

Hear, hear!! Very well written. Also, I approve of your list of all things evil.

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