Those Bleeping Disney Princesses

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Those Bleeping Disney Princesses

March 2009

Parents of 4-year-old girls, I need your help. My daughter has been in a Disney princess phase for the last 6 months. Whenever she's at home, she wears one of 2 Disney princess outfits (hand-me-downs) that her babysitter gave her. She constantly talks about being a princess and how beautiful princesses are.

She didn't get this from me. I detest Disney princesses for the usual social/political reasons: corporate capture of childhood, bad lessons for little girls about being ''beautiful'' (wearing fancy dresses and high-heeled slippers). When she's in a listening mood, I sometimes say something simple about this at a 4YO level. Still, I was going to accept the bleeping princesses along the lines of BPN postings about Barbie (which are very helpful) and trying to see a 4YO's fascination with princesses as a developmental stage of liking sparkly, colorful things.

But I can't. It just grates, and I lie awake at night ruminating on how much I hate Disney princesses. And (this is what I need advice on) I would like to find some ways to just chill. I know this is at least as much about me as it is about her. I was a protofeminist in kindergarten, and it pains me to see her yielding to the culture on this. And I'm not inclined to take any of the nuclear options -- fire the babysitter for whom dressing up as a princess is a lovely part of being a little girl, remove her from the preschool where the kids play princess dress-up and teachers say, ''Oh, how beautiful.'' If I took her dresses away, I know I'd be doing it mainly so I don't have to see them on her, not out of any conviction that confiscating her 4YO sparkly things would help her learn good social/political values in the long run.

So what can I do? I could really use advice about what to do now, not what I should have done when the dresses first appeared in the house. Not a princess

Your post makes me laugh. Though I have 2 boys, I remember my niece went thru the princess (Jasmine)thing for about 2 years. She wore ''princess'' clothes 24/7...and they live in ALASKA. I think you need to bite the bullet Mom, and let her go thru it. I guarantee she will get over it.(my niece is now 21 and hasn't been a ''princess'' in a long time) By the way, there was a period I remember when I carried a ''magic fairy wand'' everywhere I went. I must have been 4 or 5 or so......I got over it at some point and thru my teens and since, my most comfortable attire is, I know it's frustrating, commercial, annoying, but you need to get over it and let her have her princess time. Some day you may miss it when she's 18 and doesn't want to be around you. former fairy queen

My daughters are now grown, but my 3 year old grandson is obsessed with robots, especially Transformers, so I wonder if this is the Disney princess correlate for little boys ... I don't have any advice except on how to laugh at this issue -- take a look at Sarah Haskins, of Current TV, her on Disney Princesses es.htm While you're at it you might like some of her other videos (such as about Barbie), which are humorous looks at media/TV marketing to women. I think these preschool obsessions will run their course. Never was a princess, myself

I could have written this exact letter 3 years ago - you describe my situation to a tee. I came up with a solution that has worked wonders for us; of course, your mileage may vary. I decided to make my peace with the toys and dresses, but banned the actual movies and books. Instead, my daughter and I used the Disney characters as raw material but we totally reinvented all the actual stories, using our own imaginations and mashing up plotlines from other themes.

At 7, my daughter is still completely devoted to her princesses, who fly around the galaxy in their spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, while solving crimes and saving the world from evil with their superpowers. Her imagined universe contains giant robots, evil queens, kind-hearted monsters, prankster fairies... all of it shaped to her needs and inspired by her own creativity. My kid dresses in pink tutus and glittery bangles - but she also loves science and exploring and building and fierceness. If you tried to suggest to her that any of that was incompatible, she would be genuinely confused, then quite indignant.

Personally, I think that forcibly subverting the corporate characters is more empowering than simply trying to ignore them or minimize them. I truly feel like I have taught my kid to take the symbols that CultureCorp is trying to force her to swallow and re-mix them to her needs, never blithely accepting their message. Also, every time we are given a mass-market princess toy, I cut the all pictures out of the boxes and we use them in our story collages and diorama - recontextualizing both the waste packaging and the characters themselves. As much as possible, I try not to buy the crapola at all, but I often print images from my computer and then help her cut out the figures and paste them onto cardboard. For my daughter, it has been perfect; a smashing success. The other day a teacher gave her some Disney Princess stickers and on her own she used them to create a comic book called the *Power Pop Fairies*. When asked why the all characters looked like Disney Princesses with wings made of heart-shaped stickers, she informed that they were actually super-hero fairies playing Princess dress-up! Tara

My 3 yo is also VERY into Disney princesses much to my dismay. She loves the role playing and the dressing up.

Recently, however, we went to the play ''A Year with Frog and Toad,'' downloaded the music, and got some Frog and Toad books. She is now obsessed with Frog and Toad; we still role play and dress up, but at least it's not all ''bleeping'' Disney princesses!

So what worked for me was throwing an alternative to the Disney stuff into the mix. She still likes the princesses ok, but her constant obsession with them has cooled off significantly. good luck. meredith

Every little girl and most every grown up woman wants to feel beautiful, and I see nothing wrong with that. Just let her enjoy her dress up clothes. I think that you will want to provide her with other dress dress up clothes and other stories though. Tell her about the charity work of Princess Diana. Get books about female scientists like Rosalind Franklin or Barbara McClintock. Talk about women she knows that have responsible positions or are doing great volunteer work. I think that as long as the Disney princesses are not the only influence in her life, it is not that big a deal. Sanon

I wonder if your daughter is deliberately doing this to annoy you, since you seem to have such a serious reaction to it? I know four is a little young to be deliberately baiting one's parents, BUT it clearly has an effect on you... And, at the risk of pissing off a whole lot of people, I thought the point of ''women's lib'' (for lack of a better term) was that women (and all people) should be free to be who they are, and do what they like, regardless of society's (or their parents') expectations. I understand that it's annoying to you... but your daughter loves it. I would focus on trying to accept it, rather than on trying to get her to knock it off. kevin

I have one ''Princessy'' daughter and one not. I also hate the Disney crap. When ''Princess'' was little, I created alternate princess stuff--went down to the sari shops & bought scraps & used garage-sale sparkles & jewelry to dress her up non-Disney style, which helped. She loved it. I also thought about the archetype of the princess: youth, beauty, promise, nobility, potential power, all of which I could approve of, and I used to meditate on this when I got obsessed about the Disney helpless-bimbo side of it. Princess grew into a queen, as much of a feminist as I am, even though she still loves sparkles. Mama Bear

You need to figure out what you'll tolerate with your daughter and what you don't. If you can't get over this, how will you be when she wears/does other things that you disagree with? Pick your battles. I remember being fascinated with girlly princess things when I was little (but, this was before there was an entire marketing army that supported it so I didn't have all the dresses...I just admired them on TV or whatever). I still grew up to be a feminist. I am a tom boy, but I'm also girly and was always into fashion. Dressing up as a princess is part of a fantasy. Give her other options, but let her dress up. I think that gender identity is strong. That doesn't mean that she needs to be weak or subversive. You CAN attempt to move her into the fairies! hahahaha. Fairies to me, seem more independent, the possess magical powers, can fly, while still wearing frilly outfits and gossamer wings. Might be a good compromise. girlie girls are cool too

I felt similarly to you: my daughter was obsessed from about two until five. Then, the day she turned five, she started wearing pants (she'd refused anything but dresses before), declared princesses ''dumb'' and ''for babies'' and changed her favorite color from pink to red. And, I have to say, I was a little sad (relieved too). I realized that in our society the princess thing is so coded as GIRL and I wondered if when I was turning my own nose up at it and as she started noticing others (especially boys) thought princesses were stupid, that she was getting the message that there was something less valuable about being a girl and she'd better butch up, you know? I'm sure I'm over thinking it, but those were some of the thoughts I had that made me wish I'd embraced the princess phase while it lasted. mom to former princess

I hated the princesses too and I feel your pain. I think what we have to remember is that our kids are just going to have different interests than us, no matter how much it irks us. Your daughter is not going to be ruined by the princesses. She'll actually grow out of it quickly. My 5 and a half year old told me the other day that she was too old for princesses (oh happy day), but now she's into Hannah Montana. Ugh. I just keep quiet about it, let my daughter pretend to be a rock star (however, I don't purchase the merchandise or let her watch the show) because she really seems to enjoy her ''Hannah Montana world.'' It makes her happy and isn't that what really matters? jo

Ah, I know it well! We had two girls go through this phase, but our first daughter had it really bad! She would change into her gown the minute she got home from pre-school, and wear then all weekend (with necklaces and high heels).

On the bright side, this phase passes quickly! Don't fight it! Let her enjoy the fantasy (even if it is not YOUR fantasy), and let her explore this dress-up phase. Before you know it, she will shun all dresses, and refuse to wear anything but skinny jeans and t-shirts! You won't find a dress in the house.

We have piles of dress up clothes that have not been touched in years, and I look at them sometimes and remember the amazing fantasy play that my daughters enjoyed during those early years. Neither one of them in into fashion, make- up...and both of them are strong, vibrant girls.

It IS a new day! Our girls can be anything they want to be, including, briefly, a Disney Princess! Those princesses turn into teachers, doctors, professors, and so on.... Don't worry. Proud Mama of two strong girls

You are not alone, sister! I have never understood my daughters' infatuation with the princesses. However, instead of banishing the Disney dimwits from my home (my fantasy), I have instead told the girls that it is fine that they like the princesses, but that I am not a fan because the princesses are not smart or strong. My girls surely think I am crazy, but that's fine (that goes with motherhood, no?). I also introduced them to Pippi Longstocking; a character who is clever, as well as other fictional characters whom I admire more. My girls still play princess sometimes, but at least they also play Pippi once in a while, too... -Been There

I hope the other anti- Disney poster reads this as well-princesses are more PC than when I grew up-they were either asleep or dead in the 60's and early 70's to ONLY be saved by their prince. Mulan and Jasmine definitely kick some butt. Ariel in all her glorious defiance is a teen and Belle finds that she can get past looks to like the person. I'm sure there are many people who will skin me alive for this but really, it's a phase. It's fantasy, make believe and will your daughter grow up to be a helpless maiden in distress? Probably not. I nannied many years BK (before kids) Many of the girls who ''glammed'' up as 4-7 yo are applying and getting in to great schools, change tires, hold jobs and generally kicking some serious academic butt of their male peers. Disney princesses will do WAY LESS HARM than the glammed up BRATZ/the 'tween real people Disney shows yadda, yadda.

We had Barbies in the early 70's-I became a straight up Tomboy at 8-rode horses, rodeo and voluntarily didn't wear a dress until high school graduation and or Senior prom. I went to college, worked my tail off and never worried that my curvy strong self wasn't BLONDE or had the bust of Barbie and those weird pointed feet...I did however develop a shoes and bag habit but really who hasn't? It may or may not be Barbie's fault because she had some great shoes!?

Currently I have boys so the Mc Queen car has lived here. Ditto the Incredibles compliments of Mc D's-it was a phase like Thomas the Tank engine etc. You will have many of these. No harm, no foul. We had a ninja turtle phase too-if it helps other kids have already had these ''phases'' and their stuff is currently for sale on EBAY-Santa delivered Transformers and Ninja Turtles from the land of misfit toys(that had a life before they came to my house) Santa wrote a letter-it was FAB as I spent about $60 and my kids got about 20 Transformers & Turtles each....They are creative well behaved, smart, funny boys(6&9) Many of our phases have been given away-By fighting it you create more of a want that will keep it alive longer than just letting it play itself out.... Barbie girl

I am totally sympathetic on your dislike of the bleeping Disney princesses. I'm not sure what you can do about your immediate feelings of frustration. But overall what worked for me on a number of issues with my daughter was to think: ''What kind of person do I want my daughter to be at 20? How about at 30?'' and then tailor my parenting accordingly. You do not have to win the princess battle in order to raise a feminist. You can keep talking to your daughter about your values (separate from castigating Disney) and modeling the same. You'll have lots of opportunities to do this. And long after she's forgotten the princesses, she'll be the person you helped raise--ideally a strong woman with a sense of her own worth that is separate from her appearance. My kid is 18 and turning out okay

You could try introducing nature fairies as a supplement/diversion. Not Disney's Tinker Belle and Co. but more generic fairies. I've heard some girls like them because they still get to dress up, but they're more independent characters and have cool powers and such. mom to girls

I think that you are projecting way more meaning on your daughter's attraction to the Disney princesses than it deserves. I have a 6 year old girl who used to live and breathe Disney princesses and at this point she has pretty much completely moved on to other things. I have observed her and her friends who come from all different kinds of families and I have yet to see a little girl between the ages of 3 and 5 who is not enamoured to some degree by the princesses. It is normal for little girls that age to be interested in fantasy, dress up and pretty princesses, that is part of play and how they learn. It does not mean that they will grow up to be helpless women. It simply does not have the same meaning to them as it does for you, they like the princesses because they are non threatening and wear pretty dresses, they are not thinking about the deeper psychological and social representations of the princess lifestyle! I loved Barbies growing up, still do. I like glitzy pretty stuff and so does my daughter. I'm also a professional woman who has never been taken care of by anyone. I was raised by a feminist, I am a feminist and I am raising a feminist. No amount of Barbies or princesses can destroy the values of strength and independence that I am teaching my daughter. I think you should chill out and let her play. The more you rail against the princesses the more your daughter will want to cling to them. don't be afraid of princesses

I was born in the early 70's, and my parents (among a lot of parents during that time period) were following a gender-neutral approach to parenting. However, mine took it to an extreme. I wasn't allowed to take ballet classes, they dressed me in very unisex clothing, and I had a short, boyish haircut. However, I didn't want to be a gender-neutral type of kid! I loved all the girlie stuff, Barbie dolls, long pretty hair, and dressing up. But my parents frowned on all of that, for whatever kooky 70's mind-set that was going around at the time. So I tried to be as gender-neutral for them as possible, thinking that it would make them happy, even though I was really unhappy that they wouldn't just accept me for the little girlie-girl I was.

I'm guessing that you are not taking anything to an extreme the way my parents did, but I would have loved to dress up as a princess when I was a little girl and not have my parents look at me with disdain (I have issues about that even now, thirty years later!). The Disney princesses are obviously a huge marketing tool, and it's no wonder - so many little girls love fairy tales, Prince Charming, and the ''happily ever after'' fantasy, myself included!

So what does this have to do with your situation? I think it's great that you are just wondering how to ''chill out'' about it, rather than to make your daughter quit dressing up as a princess. It's a developmental phase, and I've heard that little girls will usually outgrow it after a couple of years. I can't give you any specifics, since I have 3 little boys and everything revolves around Star Wars. But maybe if you try to think about it as a developmental phase just like any other, then it will be easier to tolerate. It won't last forever. Wish I had been a princess!

I found much comedy in your posting. Perhaps you might find comedy in this situation. BUT, I TOTALLY empathize with you and if I had a girl, that would get under my skin too. (I hate hearing people comment on girls looks all the time...''oooohh your soo pretty''---sending the message during these formative years that outer beauty is important and worthy of social praise and i think it's ultimately horrible for children's self esteem. So...what to do? If it were me, I would just talk about it a lot. Let her be a princess (it's obviously important to her), but probe also...why it's important to her and open conversation about it...''What do you like about princesses?'' ''how do you feel as a princess''. I would not denigrate at all, but I would offer that everyone is beautiful and also emphasize all the things that makes your daughter special that has nothing to do with what she is wearing. hope that helps!

I have to open with the caveat that my own child is still too young to ask for what I've been calling ''corporate juggernaut toys,'' so please take this post with the grain of salt due a parent who has not directly faced this reality-- I am still in my no-TV, wooden-toy bliss bust casting a wary eye at the playground paraphernalia that I see and wondering what's ahead for us.

That said, it sounds as though you need to decide whether you can live with the Disney Princess ''stuff'' in you house and life, or not. If you decide to keep it, my tip comes from a good friend's daughter, who was also in love with those Disney princesses and whose parents could barely stand the message-- both good feminists, they decided not to purge their house but to keep fostering their girl's strengths: courage, creativity, and strong artistic skills. Fast forward to now: she just turned eight and is a highly ikmaiginitive, artistic, and athletic child, one who sticks up for classmates and thinks seriously about what's fair. She's a good kid-- not the whiny, entitled brat her parents feared would grow beneth the sparkly gowns.

Maybe the thing to do if you decide to live with ''the stuff'' is to continue fostering your girl's creativity and smarts. When playing princesses, does the pincess reign over a magical island? (then build the island!). Does she build her own castle? Does she use her princess power to help people, animals, and magical creatures? Is she a pirate and a princess? If she gets to make the rules, does she go about this in a way that's mean or a way that's fair?

What I'm saying is that the process of a four-year-old's imaiginative play is what's valuable, not the Disney packaging it comes in. Good luck. I may well be posting about (sheesh) GI Joe in the same way in a few years.

I am in total agreement with you about the princesses but jut keep this in mind - if you ban them, she'll want them more.

A cycle in my family: my grandmother hated the color pink and everything it stood for so she NEVER let my mother wear pink. my mother LOVED the color pink and never got to wear it as a child so she ALWAYS dressed me in pink. I was ALWAYS dressed in pink and can't stand it... not a fan of Disney princesses either.

The ''Disney Princesses'' as they exist in their current, scary, omni-present force to be reckoned with state didn't exist when I was a child, but I was the girliest of girly girls when I was little. I loved to play dress up with high heels and sparkly feather boas. My family nickname was ''The Pink Princess.'' I had at least 15 barbies and more evening gowns for her than I could keep track of. But I was also known as ''the feminist'' at my high school. I went to a women's college (go Mills!). I've been quickly promoted and held leadership positions at every job I've ever had. Every relationship I've ever been in has been a true partnership. And today I tend to wear a lot of low-heeled slip on shoes.

I can talk about the social ramifications of praising little girls for being pretty and roll my eyes at a movie about a woman who literally gives up her voice for a man (are they kidding me with this Little Mermaid crap?!?!) as well at the next feminist, but in my opinion (and my experience) the thing that makes the biggest difference in a girl's life is what her parents teach her about being a woman and all that entails. My mom and dad taught me that I was as smart or smarter than the boys in school, that if I worked hard I could do anything I could dream up and to respect myself and my body. That's the stuff that stuck with me. Keep talking to your daughter and she'll hear these messages. You are more important to her than Disney will ever be! pink handbag carrying feminist!

stop the self-recrimination and relax, it's a phase and it will pass. all you can do in the meantime is offer other things she might be interested in that you like better - Ponies? former barbie fiend

I am curious to see some of the other answers to this question. We have the same problem. We HAVE taken away certain parts of the princess thing (which were also given to them) like high-heels...ugh!

We have been able to do some redirection with our 6 year-old. We have introduced her to Wonder Woman and she now loves Wonder Woman, sometimes her 4 year old sister will be ''Little Wonder Woman''. I remember playing Bionic Woman when I was about her age, but that wasn't available on DVD. I don't know if you find Wonder Woman any more appealing, of course there are issues with her, too. Do they have alternative costumes to wear? Just the act of dressing up at that age is really powerful.

One of the things that we have done is played with our 4-year old to guide her ideas of what a princess could be. We focus on dragons and monsters, not on balls or finding princes and true love.

Have you heard of the book ''Paper Bag Princess''? I still think that she doesn't fully ''get it'', but our 4-year old does love the book, which is about the liberation of a princess. Definitely check it out.

While we haven't cut them off from Barbie, we don't especially promote it. We DO encourage non-corporate fairies, Dora and other dress-up. I'll bet if you dressed up as something and made a really fun game out of it, they would want to, also.

Have you talked to your babysitter about this? I agree cutting it off is not going to work, but trying to nudge the play in certain directions may! Good luck!! DeAnna

Reeelllaax! It is a phase that seems to be universal among girls and they all seem to turn out just fine by 3rd grade. In defence of princess play - it is imaginary play. Do you know how great it is to have more imaginary play rather than TV? Who cares what it is if they can work out things in their lives and create their own stories. I don't know of any 3rd grade girls that still wear dress-up princess clothes. My daughter was shocked that you didn't like princesses. Anon

Relax. It's just a phase. Let her have fun but use it as a positive teaching opportunity.

Once upon a time, I also bristled at all things princess-y. But rather than make a negative statement about my daughter\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s interests, my husband and I opted to use the opportunity to teach her that with privilege (of being a princess) comes responsibility (which she knows applies to our lives, too). We used it to teach lessons about fairness, strength of character, and good manners. We also used it to talk about families, family crests, and do related craft projects. During last year's election, we even used it to teach her about different forms of government.

We gave her the Costco version of the princess dress-up trunk the same Christmas morning we gave her a space shuttle, rocket, and astronaut set and a doctor's kit. Later, my husband gave her some Disney princess outfits (very well-constructed). She and her friends, ages 4-6, loved dressing up and role-playing. Sometimes it would be Cinderella (and furniture would get dusted), sometimes Princess Leah (Star Wars), but most times they would play completely non-princess roles. They were clearly kids having tons of fun, using their imaginations, dancing to beautiful music, and learning and practicing social discourse.

Now that my daughter is a little older, I read to her from ''The Royal Diaries'' series of books (historical fiction for kids) at bed time (skipping over the rough parts). She still builds castles with building blocks, but we talk about architecture and structural design as well as optimal placement for defense purposes. We're also talking about doing castle tours in Europe someday. Frankly, I'm going to miss all this. - Queen of the Household

Phases come and go. When the princess thing is over, it will be something else that drives you equally crazy, then something else. The problem with banning the object of a phase is that it then becomes an even more desired forbidden fruit, which can lead to sneakiness and your child not communicating with and resenting you by middle school. So my advice is just to roll with the phases, keeping lines of communication open with your child, because it really pays off when your child is a teen. -- mom of a former ''princess''

I feel your pain. I am also not at all a fan of the Disney-esque take on princesses and their dumbed-down versions of fairy tales. My advice is to offer her lots of appealing alternatives to the Disney stuff -- I like to tell my 5-year-old daughter ''yeah, princesses are pretty, but I like fairies better because they get to wear beautiful dresses but they can also fly and do magic.'' I read her lots of stories about fairies and she has a few wands and sets of fairy wings. I feel like her imaginative play is so much broader when she gets into the role of a fairy... she's saving people, she's making things better by performing magic, she's altering reality with her wand.... it's cool!

Also giving her plenty of dress-up stuff that isn't just Disney princess dresses.... pieces of beautiful fabric that she can drape and tie. Animal costumes.... mermaid tails....

Don't read her Disney versions of the fairy tales.... the original ones aren't that much better in terms of feminist thought, but the writing is of much higher quality and if you choose carefully you can expose her to some magnificent artwork. Also not a Disney fan

I think you are overreacting. This is a phase. I loved that stuff as a kid and I grew up to be a perfectly regular feminist. anon

I have a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old girl and have been exposed to lots of Disney and princess propaganda. I tried for a while to think of some good way to spin princesses and concluded that there is none (I don't want to convince my daughters to be clean or quiet or well-behaved or focused on looking pretty.) Here's a few thoughts: First, I pushed fairies. They are a pretty easy sell since they cover some of the same appealing glittery sparkly ground. However, they have a lot more going for them than princesses, who just have the good looks and royal blood. Instead, fairies have magic! Yay, magic is cool! And they can fly! And, they have a whole cool great nature/environment/science connection (especially in our house). So you can talk about different trees or flowers or fairies helping animals, and so on, and my kids spend hours building little houses in the dirt for the fairies, etc. Also, lots of kids like fairies so they're not something your wacky family likes but you wouldn't want to mention at school. There are fairy books of varying quality but over in our part of fairyland we especially like the Fairy Realm series, which have real plots and actual characterization, are not formulaic, and have no Disney or corporate connection. I read them aloud to both kids and they both loved them. Also, Cornelia Funke has several princess-themed subversive picture books that are a big hit in our house. See Princess Pigsty and The Princess Knight. They meet everyone's needs. Good luck! Make Mine Fairies

OK, those *Disney*Princesses* (TM) are pretty annoying as a gang. I also hate the way they are marketed now, with Disney pretty much admitting that they are all just one big blob. I hate it when my 4 year old tries to have Belle and Cinderella play together! What? But when you get to know them one on one, they are not so bad. Does she know the stories that go with the various princesses? Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella are honest to god parts of Western culture and you could read her non-Disney versions without making a big deal of it. My problem with them is the marketing on every surface, not the stories. I also don't think that dressing up in pretty clothes is bad. For Halloween, my daughter was ''Cinderella'' but not in the ''official'' Disney costume, just a really cute generic princess dress. If there is one story you can stomach (Beauty and the Beast??) maybe you could watch that with her (HUGE GIANT TREAT!) and make that be her favorite. And you just need to chill out! The anti-feminist things in there (their sexy figures, for example) are not on your 4 year old's back if these princessi are still her role models in 12 years! Just let it go and keep exposing her to lots of other things and this will pass. anon

I feel your pain! Ours is almost four, and I'd resisted buying any Disney princess stuff until about three weeks ago, when I bought princess toothpaste as an incentive for just laying down and going to sleep at night instead of popping out of bed numerous times. Saturday, we bought one pair of princess PJs. Her favorite babysitter brings a bag of princess puzzles and stickers every time she comes, which I don't mind so much because it's a special treat. The overmarketed Disney stuff drives me bananas, despite my worn-down resistance.

Anyway, it sounds like you could use a copy of ''The Paper Bag Princess'' by Robert Munsch. It's a great antidote, and really good story. In it, a dragon burns down a castle and kidnaps Prince Ronald. Princess Elizabeth, whose clothes are all gone, puts on a paper bag and sets out to find him. She tricks the dragon into wearing himself out, and steps over him into the cave where he's holding Prince Ronald, who tells her she's a mess and that she needs to go home, fix her hair, and put on princess clothes before she comes back to rescue him. She says, ''Ronald, your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.'' Then she skips off joyfully into the sunset (and does not marry him). You might pick up a copy of the CD ''Free to Be You and Me'' while you're at it too. And you might try to make a mantra out of, ''This is a phase.'' Hang in there. Pam

I hear you on this one! Argh! And the merchandise from these movies makes these princesses even more passive-looking and flirtatious -- in some of the movies at least they DO something besides pose in a ball gown. But hey -- here's your chance to be creative. Start retelling these stories with your daughter (e.g. bedtime) and give these gals some personality and gumption. Maybe Sleeping Beauty can be faking sleep to have a chance to run out and have a hundred years of her own adventures. Can ''Belle'' discover the spell that turned the prince into the beast and study stacks of old books to discover the clever antidote? There are a lot of great funny books that put some spin on these old tales as well. ''CinderEdna'' is a great one. Ask your children's librarian for more of the same. A great chapter book for reading outloud is ''The Ordinary Princess.'' We strong women need to reclaim these tails for our own and make sure our young girls feel empowered beyond the pretty gowns and batting eyelashes. I'm so glad you asked this question! Self-made Lady

Dear Not a Princess, Fortunately there is very little you need to do except catch up with your 4-year-old in realizing that she and you are two different persons! All you need to do is rejoice in the lovely independent personality of your daughter who won't be dissuaded from her passion, even if her dear mama doesn't understand what all the fun and fuss is about! It's OK. You're doing a great job as a mom in letting her be who she wants to be in her fantasy and play life. You are not being doctrinaire and dogmatic and she will thrive. When your teeth grind at night as you lie there hating Disney, change the channel. Instead, smile to yourself as you contemplate your vivacious little girl who knows what she wants and goes for it. Today it's a sparkly pretty dress. I don't think she's quite drinking the kool aid! Not pretty in pink mom

I understand your pain - my advice is just bear with it, eventually they grow out of disney and will become obsessed with something else that drives you crazy and you will wish for the ''bleeping princesses'' anon anon

As the mom of a 10-year-old girl who, at age 4, was so totally obsessed with Disney Princess that I thought I would lose my mind, I can give you some advice on coping. Just wait it out. I have an older son and I've seen this stage on the girls he knew back then. She will outgrow it. In fact, in kindergarten, a ton of girls dress as Disney princesses for Halloween, but after that it is seen as a ''little kid'' thing. My daughter, who would wear princess outfits, tutus, and dresses 24/7, is now a total tomboy who rarely ever wears a skirt or dress and she plays sports with the boys at recess and lunch. I did nothing to encourage her one way or the other. She found her own way. If we ever talked about Disney princesses, I was honest about what I liked and didn't like about them, but that was about it. I too was never into supergirly stuff as a kid, but with my daughter I realized that forcing her to give up princess stuff is just as bad as forcing girly stuff onto someone who isn't into it. Wait It Out

Whatever your daughter absorbs now can be steered in happier directions later, I'd say; check out the books by Gail Carson Levine, who does the princess/fairy thing with fairly positive, encouraging twists, and who has a most excellent book on writing fairy tales as well. Dad of Two Fairy Addicts

Seriously, don't worry about it. I hated princesses, I hated pink. It's not necessarily the ''corporate culture'' that the kids are ''buying into.'' Some of them just like some things about it. Many girls, especially young ones, enjoy sparkle, sweet, pretty, whatever. You might want to examine what your own issues are about it. I find it comical that people get so worked up about it--maybe it's because I got over my distaste pretty quickly when I realized that it wasn't about me, but about my daughter just feeling so HAPPY when she had princess whatever. And it didn't honestly matter too much whether it was a Disney princess or a Fairy princess or a Barbie princess or a Tooth Fairy. (though I confess I steered her toward the Disney princesses as a way of steering her away from the Barbie princesses, which didn't even seem to have a good story behind them, much less any substance, and the writing and filmmaking was bloody awful). Also, the preschool teachers aren't trying to encourage your daughter to be ''beautiful'' so much as they are REFLECTING your daughter's burgeoning feeling of beauty inside/out. And look at it this way, the Disney princesses are ALWAYS nice. (in fact, the ones at D-land are clearly screened for niceness, and listening to them at the storytelling times is hugely entertaining even for adults-there's usually a lot of subtle humor in their telling). Besides, the phase is GONE so quickly of its own accord that you will probably miss the ability to please your little girl so easily! By 6 or 7 (at the latest), it's embarrassing to like princess stuff, apparently. Take a deep breath and tell your daughter she's beautiful. Let her dress in a tutu if you hate Disney, which actually does a fabulous job of making the original fairytales entertaining, e.g., the original Snow White was monstrously stupid before Disney got hold of it (you think she sounds dumb now? she listened to the old hag 3 times in the original!), and the artwork is amazing). Me, I'm just grateful that my 4 yr old didn't wiggle like Britney Spears (truly shocking if you've never seen it), or that my 6 yr old thinks Hannah Montana and HSM is dumb.

I couldn't stop thinking about your post, so here is my way over-analyzed response. I would advise you to ask yourself where you come from, because I think we learn our attitudes about these kind of things from our families. Was your family like my MIL's, passing on a competitive/masculine/patriarchal paradigm, who says, ''pretty is OK as long as you are smart'' and sends the message that pretty,feminine, girly things are weak and second rate. Or was your family like mine who passed on a cooperative/feminine/matriarchal paradigm that stated pretty is powerful and it's fun and healthy to enjoy your own beauty and enhance it and use the attention it can bring to you in order to get things you want. This isn't the same thing as saying wear a girdle and lipstick to get a man to support you, but more of the concept of bella figura-if you look good, you feel good and you show your good qualities to others. I was also a protofeminist in Kindergarten. I thought girls were so lucky, because we could follow our dreams, develop our minds and bodies and wear pants or dresses depending on what we liked. Boys were so much more limited. I learned the wonderful ways women support each other and work together to create comfort and good things for the whole family and community. Traditional female dress was an honorable uniform that celebrated our creative and beautiful feminine power. You could also try to see the positive messages in the princess movies, especially the newer ones. Cinderella is rewarded with a comfortable lifestyle and a loving attentive husband because she won't let the stepsisters squash her compassion and kindness. Belle is not ashamed of her intellectual power and never considers abandoning it in order to be liked for her looks. In Sleeping Beauty, it's a bunch of females with the good and bad powers and the prince is a pinch hitter. In Aladdin, Jasmine refuses to compromise her values to marry a prince with lots of material wealth and no character. Mulan and Pocahantas are brave and persevere in finding the right path and role for themselves in society. My 6 yr. old daughter and I agree that Snow White is a grossly undeveloped character. Maybe you can find a way to revel in the power of pretty with your daughter. pink is not a four letter word

Can you remind daughter that being a princess also involves good behavior, and not just dressing up. Give her examples: Even before Cinderella becomes a princess, she is kind to the mice/smaller helpless creatures, so they are nice in turn to her and help her sew her dress. Snow White cleans up the dwarves' house, so she should be a princess inside and clean her room, and use proper manners at the table and wash her hands before eating, and be helpful and kind. (I'm living a fantasy, I know.)

Verbalize that princess-ery is not only dressing up, but also being a good person in her heart, being helpful, protective of lesser creatures, being kind to different looking people (Belle is kind to Beast though he's ''ugly'' and Cinderella is still kind to her jealous step sisters). I don't know the stories of Mulan and Jasmine, though you could find examples of their good behaviors, athleticism, character traits, instead of just the sparkly dress up part. Superheroes Can Be Just as Annoying

When are we going to stop being afraid of the Disney princesses??!! I'm no fan of DP's, but let's keep this in perspective. They're not your child's role models, you are. There is so much anti-Disney pressure in this area that if you don't hate them your feminist cred is called into question. This is just ridiculous. Trust me,like sleeping through the night or potty training, it feels like there's no end in sight then suddenly, it's over.

My daughter and her friends who loved glitter and princessy stuff as preschoolers are now teens. Here are 3 case studies: 1) One girl who would never be caught without her red glitter shoes is now an actor with her own unique style which does not involve dresses, let alone spangles. 2) A girl who was consumed by Disney princesses as a child helped me unjam my DVD player because loving Belle didn't prevent her from learning mechanical things with her dad. 3) My child was totally into the princess thing, but her obsession with fancy dress up has evolved into a beautiful sense of style and design. When it's time do do anything creative in our house - decorating for a themed party, helping me figure out the best way to wear something, or even decorating cakes for celebrations - she gets the job because she has such a good eye.

Please don't forget, there are so many ways to be a woman. Let your daughter explore. What she is at 4 in no way defines who she'll be even at 5! Please love her and accept her and let this go. If you have enough space in your life to be this worried about Disney princesses, you should be counting your blessings! I suggest a trip to the library. Find ''The Serpent Slayer'' by Katrin Tchana and ''Not One Damsel in Distress'' by Jane Yolen. These books have dramatic stories of strong females from around the world. Also, many cultures have Cinderella stories (e.g. the Native American ''Rough Face Girl.'') They're another way to engage with princess-types but learning about the way other people tell the story. When she's older, introduce her to the American Girl series. These books are great (and available at the library.) All the stories feature young girls who are independent, smart and, most important, have strong alliances with other girls, something our daughters need to learn early. So please get over this; it's not important. I don't mean to rant, but as someone who had the same concerns and is now on the other side, it's OK to relax! Get Some Sleep

I really really hate Disney princesses as well. The dress up didn't bother me that much--at least that's creative play--but sitting through those stupid books people gave us and having to look at all that other crappy merchandise was maddening. The way I dealt with it was to subtly convey to my daughter that it was okay for her to like those things but let her know that I didn't. So, at book time, I would agree to read one princess story but the others had to be something else. I myself made it a point never to give her anything with a princess on it because we got enough from other people at xmas and birthdays. If a princess item didn't get played with on a regular basis it sometimes disappeared. I made sure to read stuff like The Paper Bag Princess and Cinder Edna and to editorialize when reading the Disney princess stuff (''I wonder why Snow White keeps getting tricked by the mean queen that way. She doesn't seem very bright.'') I also tried to encourage other female role models like Madeline (there's a wonderful animated series available on DVD). As a result of these efforts, or perhaps just because of who she is, my 6YO daughter now has pretty much zero interest in princesses and even at its height never had the level of interest I saw in her peers at 3 and 4. She's even told me on her own on several occasions that so and so is really into Disney princesses but I'm not so interested in them. Good luck! another princess hater

this may come off sounding harsh but the truth is it was exactly this kind of thing (or more like 1000s of these kinds of things) that drove me away from american feminism. Like your 4 year old I too like all the ''wrong'' things...and that has been the message I received loud and strong from the mainstream american feminist movement; that to be a ''good'' woman I had to like certain toys, want certain careers, wear certain clothes, etc. But here's the thing. I really doubt you were drawn to non traditional toys because you were a good feminist; I think you were drawn to them because they brought you joy and fun and adventure. And, you were lucky enough to have people around you who didn't lay awake at night ruminating about what a ''bad'' girl that made you or how much they ''hated'' what you loved. What I wish for your daughter, for myself and for all the ''girly girls'' (plenty of whom are boys by the way) is that we too had people around us who sleep wasn't troubled (or nannies fired) just because we found our joy and fun and adventure in princesses, barbies, tea parties, etc. And, for what it's worth, despite a life long attachment to all things sparkly I still went to graduate school (first in my family), read the newspaper, vote and speak in full sentences. a lifelong princess (in a good way!)

Hey, mainstream feminism does not require you reject pink ruffles; it's is trying to stop forced marriage and genital mutilation ... trying to stop having to get spanked on the ass in order to keep your job. I'm over 50 and I was forced to wear a dress to school every day and I was threatened with suspension for wearing a too long dress. I was sexually assaulted by a Congressman who expected to get away with it (and did). You want to go back to those days?

Another mom trying to keep Disney boy cars out of the house -- personally we love shiny red plastic toys and clothes with superheros we have never even heard of. As my son says ''when I wear my Batman pajamas, I'm a little bit Batman.'' Hey, it's a scary world.

There's a wealth of children's stories now aimed at overcoming bad princess stereotypes -- you know the ones where the princess rescues the prince but decides not to marry him. Girls are blessed to have the choices we have today, although we need to look more towards France for good role models on a more family- friendly society. Our individualistic and workaholic culture is great in many ways, but it kind of sucks as a woman with kids. So we feminists have some work to do right at home, but we should also still be fighting for women who are not yet ''people'' in their countries. And keep fighting for feminism or we'll be right back to ... wait, doesn't our current governator still have a problem pinching asses and few are powerful enough to make him stop?

I've come to accept that a high percentage of girls are hard- wired to like baubles, frilly dresses, pink and purple ... especially if it's not forced on them as it was on me. But you live in HERE and she'll get lots of good healthy feminist messages ... there are so many things you'll lose sleep over as a parent ... heck, just tell her what's wrong with the princess myth, she'll get it! - another radical feminist happy housewife -

Disney Princess Cult

Feb 2005

Is anyone else troubled by the unbelievable success of the Disney ''Princesses?'' I spent my whole life determined that any daughters would not define themselves by the Barbie ideal only to find that my 3 year old and all of her daycare friends are obsessed with Disney Princesses (Which princess are they? What makes them a princess?). When her best friend declared (at like, 2 1/2 years old!) that my daughter wasn't a princess (probably because many of the other girls wear dresses on a regular basis), she went through a period of depression and back-slid on her toilet training. I really didn't see this coming!

We've had discussions where she's gotten REALLY upset at the notion that princesses can be heroes, smart, or otherwise self- reliant. According to her, they need to be ''saved.'' I can't seem to get away from this crap and she gets angry at me if I try to suggest that princesses can be strong or that she doesn't need to be a princess. I even tried to steer her towards ''Belle'' from Beauty and the Beast (arguably the most literate Disney princess) but she likes her the least.

My husband is overly politically correct about race (''were you talking to her about black people??'' like if you don't talk about racial differences children will never notice or have questions) but he doesn't get the fact that gender issues actually affect her perception of her own value, not just the way she views others.

Am I alone or do other parents have thoughts or concerns about this? In need of a neo-feminist dialogue

My 4 1/2-year old daughter is very into princesses too, especially Disney princesses. She plays princess by herself and with her friends, wants to watch Disney princess movies, wanted a princess birthday party, etc. She got this from other kids, as my husband and I tried to minimize exposure to the Disney phenomena. I was/ am bothered by her princess thing, but I'm mellowing out, namely because I realize the more I tried to dissuade her from the princess fascination, the more she seemed to gravitate toward it. And, seemingly unlike your daughter, when my daughter and her friends at school play princess, they tend to be strong, adventuresome princessess--''princess-superheroes'' as she dubs them. In fact, being saved doesn't figure into their fantasies. I concur with you that ! Disney is evil (in terms of gender & race), so I try to mitigate its influence. My daughter often asks me to tell her princess stories, and I make up tales about girls like her who have great adventures. There's also a fabulus book my daughter loves, DO PRINCESSES WEAR HIKING BOOTS? The book is based on a series of questions between mother and daughter. If your daughter is into dolls, Groovy Girls are great and very un- princess, un-Barbie like. Perhaps you might find a kids bio of a real-life princess--contemporary or historical--who you think might be an interesting counter-balance to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, et al. Ultimately, I have found that my daughter, while still into the princess thing, is less so, or at least she has transformed the fascination into something that more reflects her imagination that the problematic renderings of the Disney Co. ANON

First of all, take heart that this, too, shall pass. In a year or two, your daughter will have moved on to some other passing fad and her ''princess'' days will be a distant memory. In the meantime, there are a few Disney female stars that show women as strong and determined. Mulan, for instance, saves China. Pocahontas saves John Smith. Our daughters loved ''Tataro,'' which is Japanese, I think (they have it at Blockbuster) which has strong female characters. Also keep an eye out for Harriet the Spy (a girl who loves to write and pretends she is a spy) and Pippi Longstockings. Also, there are some great books you can read--The Paperbag Princess is about a princess who saves a prince. It is very cute (she dumps him in the end because he wants her to come back and rescue him in a fancy dress!). My princess-loving daughter is now eight years old, wears only jeans and t-shirts, plays soccer, and wants to be a rock star. Once a princess is not ALWAYS a princess. Relax. The Queen Bee

I would also like to hear more discussion and feedback on this. I see my young daughter starting in with this. All the kids wear their princess costumes to birthday parties, etc. She wants to wear a ''pretty dress'' every day. She is a cute child, but I don't want her to come to bank on that as her only asset. I teach health and biology at a private school and I think this may tie in with self esteem and body image issues I am working on with my students. I know many of us obsessed over our bodies as teens and some of us still do to greater or lesser extents. However, I am worried about the number of intelligent young women I know are purging regularly, cutting themselves, taking diet pills, and other harmful behaviors. I am looking for a woman or women for a panel to do an assembly, discussion for our ! young women on how to be the smart, lovely, self reliant women I know they can be. Berkeley mom

Please relax and trust the inherent intelligence of your child. Unless you make this an important issue, your child will grow beyond it. It may just be the way you write about the issue of ''Princesses'', but I think your intensity in this matter will backfire, where a more subtle and trusting approach would not. Your husband may have to tone things down too. Kids are wiser than most adults give them credit for (at least up to a certain age...) In my experience children really are often interested in things that make their mommies cringe.... and they get over it unless we make a big deal about it. I'm more concerned with the idea that her friend was allowed to hurt her feelings without any adult intervening or offering correction. I'd remain neutral on the princesses, and reinforce to her that being excluded by someone because of what she ''is'' or ''isn't'' is not nice, ever. Heather J

My daughter is also three. While the princess obsession has not yet become full-blown, I see it slowly creeping in because it is impossible to avoid unless you live on a dessert island. I understand your concerns about the passivity of princesses, and I also worry about the ''privileged, better than thou'' aspect as well. Since it's impossible to completely avoid, my strategy is and will be to coopt th! e message as best I can. I encourage strong females like Dora (Dora the Explorer), and you have now inspired me to seek out an alternative feminist version of Cinderella to read to my daughter. The peer group will win in the end, however, which is why is it essential to develop a group of like-minded peers (a sort of subculture) to help encourage alternative values. I'd be happy to discuss this with you further. --Terri

I think you are fighting against human nature. My little girl went through a short-lived princess stage around 2 1/2, even though she hadn't (until then) been exposed to any princesses. I think the dresses and the jewelry are just too attractive to them, and that Disney is just cashing in on this. Fortunately she's over it (for now), but we decided to go along with it, knowing that it'd just be a phase. One thing you might want to do is expose her to ''princess dora''. anon

I, too, am blown away by the Disney princess marketing scheme, but I'm choosing to go with the flow...I have 5 yr old and 3 yr old daughters, and as soon as the older one turned 3, everything was about pink, sparkle, and princesses. She's obsessed--like your daughter, she greets her best friend at preschool with ''Which princess are you today?'' However, sometimes lately, the answer has been ''Kim Possible'' (another Disney character--a strong female). I guess I'm saying not to worry; this is a stage they'll outgrow. I never thought we'd move on from Teletubbies, but they're long gone now. This too, will pass. And my daughter sees these princesses as smart, strong women with minds of their own, even if there is a prince involved. I think these little girls are just! really into the sparkly pink and purple thing--it seems to be almost genetic, as my daughter never watched TV with commercials and didn't start any school until 4 1/2, but somehow still got into the princess thing at 3. I wouldn't worry; just address issues as they arise; my 5 year old was watching a race the other day, and said, ''I want the girl with white skin to win'', out of nowhere. We immediately had a discussion about skin color...what matters is who she is on the she a good person, etc. Her best friend is half Asian and half Hispanic, but somehow kids pick up warped ideals; it's our job to pick up on them, talk about them, explain why they're wrong, but not too much information, too soon. Wait til your daughter asks questions or makes comments; I think if we try to preach political-correctness too soon, too young, they don't get it. Good for you for watching out for these issues, but I think most little girls just like princesses. Mom of 2 little princesses

OK, I could have written your posting verbatim (well, almost) as I am experiencing the same in my house. My daughter is almost five and is becoming obsessed with princesses, mainly Disney, through her friends at preschool as well as books and toys they have there. It's hard because I really feel like I am in the minority with my feelings about this. The feedback I get from most of my other mom friends is ''oh, this is just a phase all little girls go through'', but I'm convinced it is more than that. I believe the phase part, but the hardcore marketing and licensing machine that is Disney is much more prevalent and powerful now than when we were kids. I am concerned about the messages about what it means to be female, but also the creepy consumerism that is conveyed through all of this. By the way, it! appears that anyone female and pretty from a successful Disney movie is a princess with the exception of Pocahontas as Mulan (leaving Jasmine as the only princess-of-color to be found in the massive amount of licensed products available.) What we have done at our house is basically banned all licensed products from coming into our home (this is the rule for Barbie as well although I have slacked a little with some Hello Kitty stuff). She knows she can play with these things at preschool or friends' houses. She asks me a lot why I don't like princesses, and I tell her that they are ok, but I just don't like the way that they make girls think they need to look pretty and wear fancy clothes. I tell her that I like girls that are smart and can do lots of things for themselves and are nice to other people. I'm sure you know this drill, but I can say that it is gradually sinking in.

Also, there are starting to be more options available for princesses besides Disney. Rockridge Kids has some good alternative toys, books, and things. Also, I have a CD from a local puppet show character, Princess Moxie (Google it) that is funny to listen to and is definitely more positive message. I have found that letting my daughter do some princess-oriented playing and dress- up helps to alleviate ther desire to focus just on the Disney stuff. Good Luck! Elizabeth

Thank you for posting this question. I too am interested in the reponses. I would like to say, however, that I have noticed my 4 year old's interest in playing princess has waned some. She is still fascinated with all things Disney Princess but it seems more like a materialistic ''I want that'' thing which I try not to give into. The few Disney things she has she does not even play with much anymore. As for the notion of princesses being ''saved'' - I have not heard that from my daughter but I do hope someone else can recommend some alternative stories. My suggestion, however, is to try and teach your daughter empowerment lessons in a non-princess setting. When she grows out of her princess phase, which she will, the empowerment lessons wont go out of vogue with the crowns! Jennifer

You're not alone in your concern about this. What you describe is my worst nightmare! But at the same time, I can't imagine that a 3-year old is coming up with this without some prompting. Older siblings? Their parents? I'd be thinking about asking other parents and the daycare providers if they have any ideas. As a comparison, my nearly 3-year old daughter hardly knows who the princesses are, despite several trips to Disneyland. We try pretty hard to let her do what interests her, so it's not that we're hiding it from her, unlike my parents who give her princess stuff periodically. She tends to have more interest in Mickey Mouse and Dora.

As for the race issue, our daughter is mixed race, so I think that it's important for her to see characters who look like her, but I'm also very concerned about her valuing her gender just as much, knowing that girls can be strong, smart, independent, etc. Also, she's in a very diverse daycare, so maybe it's a different cultural mix with less emphasis on princesses? Lori

Talk about not seeing this coming, my 4 year old son has had a disney princess obsession since he was 2. I don't know how it all started, none of his girl-friends are this obsessed but he's been wearing a dress and playing princess consistantly every day for 2 years. I have thought that I would not have been this indulgent if he were a girl, but there are separate issues at hand when your burly boy wants to be a princess. I empower him as best I can, he's now enlisted his younger ! brother as 'the prince' but as it stands right now I'm just waiting for this phase to pass. mother of a jane-boy

You have my sympathies! This is why I dislike the Disney archetype allure. Have you read The Paper Bag Princess? I believe it is likely to have been written in response to just such a conundrum-- (Munsch 1980)--highlights that princesses can in fact be the heroes and save others, and think for themselves. We have the polar equivalent present in our home, in that heroes can be well rounded people, and be allowed to do yoga and dance, and thankfully after many logical conversations, we have renaissance heroes. However several of the most vehement of my 4 year old son's friends are adamantly against heroes, bionicles and the like,doing anything vaguely mild mannered. I find it a bit maddening, but I think it's just a really strong case of gender identification that we're dealing with in this issue. We try to demonstrate via our behavior that colors, interests and behaviors are universal and up for grabs. I think it will help someday. Parentally commiserating

Salon did an article about this phenomenon, written by a father: I'm a mom of a 6 yo boy and a 4 yo girl who is heavily into princesses and dress-up and all that jazz. She is such a girly-girl! My mom, my MIL, and myself are amazed. We have no idea where she came from because all of us were tomboys. So whatever. I think we parents put too much pressure on girls to not be so girly, especially in Berkeley. It's just not PC to be into princesses, it seems. Boo-hoo. Newsflash: It's part of a girl's developing identity. It's a phase. By all means, limit the Disney-ification of the thing. Read princess stories from other cultures. Read funny stories like _The Paper Bag Princess_ or _The Dragon Princess_. Play Princess Kitty Fairy Mermaid Tea Party. Have FUN with it! We parents have so much emotional baggage that we take all the fun out of doing goofy kid things. This phase probably will not last long and then you'll be freaking out about something else. Oh, and take lots of pictures! mother of a princess

I would try the picture book ''The Paper Bag Princess'' and see if she might take that princess as a role model. The book is about a very brave, funny, nontraditional princess who won't ! take any guff from the prince and gets rid of the dragon on her own. The last time I was in Pendragon Books on College they had a copy there. Good luck! JTC

Do you really think that in the long run that the Disney princesses will be a bigger influence on your daughter than you are? You will be able to set a good role model for her her whole childhood--long after she has completely forgotten about the Disney Princesses. If it helps at all, my 4.5 year old is already much less interested in the Princesses than she used to be. And her self- esteem and her ideas of what women can accomplish have not suffered a bit. I'd say, don't make such a big deal of it. She'll grow out of it. -another neo-feminist

I disallowed any Disney Princess movies in our house and the fascination receded by the time my daughter was 6. mm

I totally understand where you're coming from. People look at my daughter and then at me and just laugh. I am so not a girly girl. The only thing I can tell you is that they do outgrow it. My daughter is now almost 6 and isn't nearly as into the Disney Princess thing anymore. Also, I would advise pushing against it too hard because that will make her very defensive and cling to it harder. I just tried to introduce other books and play items when I could. I also have told her that I don't really play princess. I say that it is fine if she wants to do that with her friends, but I prefer reading this book or playing that game with her. She responds pretty well to that. My thought was that I can't really force her to be someone she's not, I can only present a good role model and offer plenty of other good choices.

My son's Pokemon obsession almost did me in in much the same way. But he outgrew it, too. In fact, most girls I know that were into dress up and princess stuff have totally outgrown it. This includes my nieces and friends with older kids. Some of them have gone on to be well educated, activists. So, this isn't going to define her for the rest of her life. I understand the fear that she is defining herself as a weak person who must be saved, but again, you have a lot of power as her main female role model. She's going to get more out of that than out of a Disney Princess. The thing about the friend who said she wasn't a princess is bothersome, but really the cliche is true: Kids can be cruel. If you just substitued another quality for princess, it might have had the same effect. Basically, the mean girl was telling your daughter: You're not fit to be one of us. That is the issue you should adress with her, not the princess aspect. Another Veteran of the Princess Wars

My first reaction was to tell you to buy the book ''The paperbag princess.'' You'll love it and there is a strong message there at the end for your daughter. Following that, get her ''Cinderella Bigfoot.'' What a bit of humor in words and illustrations can do ! to demystify the Disney princess cult. My second reaction is to tell you to relax. I grew up on Barbies and I'm doing fine. Don't focus on the symptoms (the cult), focus on the root. The root is to teach your daughter self-reliance, independence and competence on a daily basis within her own world of responsibilities and experimentation. These are skills that affect her self-esteem in a positive way and eliminate the need to be saved by a man. When it comes to media and kids - stay informed about what they are into, keep your own emotions about it in check, and discuss it with them early on (valuable lessons in marketing and image to be learned here). The idea is to stimulate analytic thinking not to talk the cult down (the parent immediately loses). This, of course, means that you are watching the movies, the commercials and the TV with her and know what's in the magazines she reads. I firmly believe that older kids r! equire more parental time/effort, not less. The Disney princess cult, the Bratz dolls, the Britney Spears will come and go - just view them all as learning opportunities (What do you think about...? Why do you think she does...? Which character in the TV show does this commercial relate to...?) without lecturing/correcting. Not as easy as it sounds, as it involves the parents to self-reflect and grow a bit further first. Anonymous

Oh my gosh! Those Disney princesses are totally out of control- a marketing avalanche geared at 3 year olds- YUCK! And they're a feminist parents' nightmare! It's appalling to see advertisements bombarding toddlers, who soak up everything like sponges. Maybe you already do this, but I would suggest that you keep your own house free from all Disney princess crap- videos, books, shoes and gowns with Disney logos, etc...! p; Your daughter will probably play with these at friends' houses, but you don't have to give in and buy them yourself. You have a choice! She may get upset, but you can live through it, and you won't regret it. Otherwise, your whole house can be overtaken by this overhyped, overpriced pink plastic garbage! You could still get her dresses, but avoiding the totally helpless Disney characters (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella-barf!) would definitely be a plus.

Maybe you could find some books about actual princesses? When she is older, there is a series called ''Royal Diaries'' which are fictional diaries by real queens and princesses which give a historical context to each of their lives, and show a lot of diversity in experiences- powerful and smart women.

Meanwhile, encourage her own growing independence as much as possible- let her know she is a strong, capable person. Encourage her to do things for herself- make her own breakfast, wash her own hair, climb play structures... This will take trust and patience, especially if these things seem beyond her current capabilities- but it's so worth it to see them develop pride in their own accomplishments. BTW, my girls went through a big dresses only phase around age 4, but moved past it, so i wouldn't get too hung up on that. The important thing is developing a positive strong self. no Disney fan

I second all the advice about not making a big deal about it and letting it pass, but I would even go further and encourage you to try to see this issue in a different light and to actually EMBRACE the whole princess thing. Look at it from your daughter's perspective: what is being a princess about? It is about being special and important (and beautiful). But it is not exclusive: we can all be princesses (unlike king or queen, of which there is only one in a kingdom). (BTW, don't put your own judgements on it. Maybe she likes Belle the least because she is the one whose parents are not actually king and queen.) Also, as a feminist who grew up in Berkeley it was surprising to me that my daughter would be so girly and so into the pink and the sparkles, but I realized that if I oppose that stuff I am actually sending an anti-feminist message that ''girl things'' are bad, or at least not as good as ''boy things.'' My objection to Disney's version of these princesses is that their bodies are so unrealistic, but fortunately for us so far this does not seem to have affected my 5 year old's view of her own body. She is also really into Barbie (which I too don't know how she had heard about by age 3, when she chose a ''Princess Barbie'' theme for her birthday) but she doesn't play with them nearly as much as I feared. And I think the appeal of Barbie is that she is beautiful and she can do anything, be anything. Check out the video ''Barbie Nutcracker''. It is actually pretty good (Barbie saves the prince!) I also want to recommend the organization ''The Body Positive'' (, especially for the mom looking for speakers and assemblies. And finally, I really think that the answer to the body image thing is to encourage girls to play SPORTS! Let them be sparkly princesses, but let them also have experiences that show them what their bodies can do. mom of sparkly princess soccer star