I used to believe handing a girl a Barbie doll, princess costume or anything über-girly was like lobbing a grenade into her ego. I thought toys from the pink aisle siphoned the integrity out of girls, creating boy hungry wimps obsessed with shoes, fad diets and Gwyneth Paltrow movies.
Everyone knows the pink aisle is getting raunchier and bitchier by the minute with tarted up dolls and Halloween costumes, mani/pedi kits and shopping games featuring fake credit cards. And when they want to set aside their gooey princess fantasies, girls can revel in complete whoredom imitating stars like Rihanna, who make such smutty videos you need an STD test after watching them.
This week, the “save our girls” alarm was sounded once again with the release of Peggy Orenstein’s new book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Orenstein wrote the book as a “quest to determine whether princess mania is merely a passing phase or a more sinister marketing plot”* after seeing how girl culture captivated her own daughter.
I have yet to read the book though I’m positive it’s juicy. Nonetheless, I find myself questioning whether I still believe Cinderella and all her weak-kneed counterparts are in fact eating our girls alive.
Princesses with their fluffy tutus and pointy crowns never did much for me as a kid. The castle would’ve been swell but I was happy to skip the whiny princess persona along with her flavorless prince companion. If anything, I wanted to be a Pink Lady from Grease gyrating against my bad boy “knight” Danny Zuko.
However, I did grow up with a collection of Barbie dolls but they all eventually ended up with shaved heads. In an apparent push for authenticity, I also drew nipples and pubes on their barren, plastic bodies. And because I didn’t have any Ken dolls, I made the girl dolls kiss each other whenever I wanted to create romantic scenes. Thus, I inadvertently designed Lesbian Punker Chick Barbie.
When your mom’s a former flower child who barely wears makeup let alone shaves, it’s near impossible to become a shallow twit whose life revolves around boys. So I had the Barbies, the dollhouses, the kitchen sets and plastic shopping carts. But I also had truckloads of books which my mother read to me and tons of artsy toys like paints, molding clay and even a wood burning set. Considering the burn scars on my fingers and legs, I’d say the Barbies were the least harmful of my toys.
All I’m saying is if my mom had allowed me to eat a steady diet of sugar, my teeth would’ve fallen out. But because she threw some apples and leafy greens in there, I ended up fine. I even started choosing the healthier stuff myself.
I hope to have a daughter one day. And I won’t be surprised if she starts walking around in a tiara and loses some of her feistiness once she discovers boys. It seems as inevitable as a son asking Santa for a fire truck and throwing rocks at birds. Helping a little kid navigate the culture to become a decent adult is probably a lot like teaching someone to drive. You sit in the passenger seat, give advice and encouragement, point out Mac trucks barreling toward them and comfort them if they crash. But you stay in the car.
Besides, these things fade. Girls get over wanting to be a princess, a fairy or Justin Bieber’s wife. I imagine if you love the bejesus out of them, they’ll have the confidence to come out of the phase with an identity.
If my daughter should one day come to me saying, “Behold, I am the Princess Malibu Barbie,” I shall not despair. Instead, I’ll tell her, “why be the princess when you can be queen? Why wait around for your pumpkin to turn into a carriage? Queens pick their king. Queens rule the land.”
If she’s anything like me, she’ll know where to find her own sense of majesty. And know she deserves nothing less.
[Photo from MegCabot.com]