“Enough of the princesses,” I admonish my little ones, gesticulating with one hand and flicking off the television with the other.
As I go about tut-tutting, picking the various princesses in plastic off the floor, and shutting them tight behind the closet, I lament how Disney continues to exploit the “princess fetish” among little girls world over. In a house of two daughters, needless to say, our home is brimming with tiaras of all sizes, dolls in all shades of pink, make-up sets, kitchen sets, glittery shoes and what not. Our collection of princesses hair bands and hair pins remains constant, because of years of losing and buying them. Alas! Even the cutlery is painted with the demure faces of princesses.
Despite my attempts at making their playtime more gender neutral, I must admit, the princesses have an indomitable presence in the house. Even the more “boyish” pursuits, such as football, bicycle, car and badminton sets, bear a stamp of “frozen princesses”. At this point in time, it looks like a Ph.D. in Disney princesses would’ve been a far more appropriate title for my thesis.
I am mostly trying to strike a balance between indulging my little ones with princesses and giving them a lecture on feminism. Princesses don’t do a real job, they don’t rescue themselves, they don’t get a real education. “But mama, they ride horses into the sunset, throw down their lush golden hair from the top of a tower, create snow even in deserts!” How does one argue with that?
Hence, like a good millennial mother, I turn to Google for answers. The reliable old algorithm rakes up quite a few answers and perspectives. I deduce the following from it. This “princess culture” is a global endemic. However, it’s not all dark and gory. On the bright side, the princess tales always inadvertently have a young girl with a difficult life, who thinks for herself and tries to overcome the hardships that life throws at her. The majestic castles, the shining knight, the glorious white stallion, are all but embellishments to the story of the princess! Therefore, the trick lies in letting the children watch and read a range of books and movies, and infer important life lessons themselves. Much like the princesses, who navigate magical spells, evil witches in the garb of innocent women, thinly veiled household responsibilities in the form of domestic drudgery and so on quite by themselves. It even promotes role play and thus a better understanding of relationships, instils confidence, sparks creativity.
Feeling better about all the “pink” strewn over the house, I settle myself into watching my current favourite show on TV, The Crown, a drama which chronicles the life and times of Queen Elizabeth. Look at the irony of it all! The princess culture followed me right into my thirties! How does one justify that?
Maybe, there is something empowering about the journey the woman with The Crown has made — how from being just a pretty face with a sparkly tiara, she can metamorphose into a woman who plays a key diplomatic role in global affairs, about how she can charter an off-beaten path and reach out to the underprivileged, downtrodden women and children around the world with her wand, and how, if the curtsies and tiaras become burdensome, she will forgo them, for she will still remain the princess of her story.