Empowering Our Girls: A Princess Can Wear Pants, Too!

My daughter, the only girl of three kids, is a “pretty pretty princess” to a T. She won’t let me trim her hair because she’s Rapunzel and needs hair that is 12 feet long. My daughter is also Elsa and won’t wear a jacket because the cold never bothered her anyway. Pants are objectionable because she’s never seen a Disney princess parading about in anything other than the prettiest gown around.

Every morning has become a battle of wills, neither of us willing to give in. I ask her to please wear a pair of leggings and give the few dresses in her closet a break. In turn, she cries and refuses because she simply wants to look like a princess. For the record, I adore that she has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them. The trouble for me is that little girls believe that only dresses are appropriate for living up to this absurd ideal of being a delicate princess.

I can remember watching the princess movies of my childhood and wondering how these young women could want to run around in gowns and wait for some prince they hardly knew to come save them. These movies are still some of my absolute favorites, but I can’t help wondering how the ideas they present about femininity not only affected me, but are continuing to shape our girls today.  

Raising My Modern Day Mini Feminist

I’m a woman who likes my hair, nails, and makeup done each and every day before I leave the house. I believe sweatpants shouldn’t be worn in public and you should present your best self no matter where you’re headed. I’m also somebody who believes that ripped jeans, tattoos, and being a gigantic sports fan doesn’t lessen my femininity. Putting my best foot forward doesn’t mean giving in to traditional gender roles and restricting myself to only “feminine” clothing.

When I turn on children’s movies, women are still being portrayed as helpless captives or sidekicks to the male lead. So when my daughter sees these representations of female archetypes in the shows geared to grab her attention, she is naturally inclined to follow suit. It would be all too easy to simply blame the entertainment industry and throw up my hands feeling defeated.  I’ve asked myself often how I can present my daughter with powerful ideas of what it really is to be a strong, brave, and independent female without tearing down her imaginative childhood fantasies.

The contradiction is that these shows and movies also present some wonderful representations of what it is to be a caring friend and loving family member. They sprinkle in tidbits of courage and doing the right thing even when it is not the easy choice. I want to teach her that she should stand up for what she believes in. And to love herself and her body whether she’s wearing a princess gown or a pair of jeans. Being feminine is more than putting on a dress every day; it is a balance between unfathomable strength and emotional vulnerability, and it comes from within.

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