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Moms Talk - Princess Culture: How Does It Affect Our Daughters?

What's the impact of raising your daughter to think she is a princess? Harmless make-believe or a real problem?

Dressing up in gowns and tiaras and playing make-believe seems about as innocent and harmless as child's play can be, but is there a downside to encouraging little girls to idolize princesses? 

In her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, whose written about issues that affect girls for several years as a New York Times critic, examines the challenges of raising a daughter in a princess-obsessed culture. She talks about the mixed messages young girls are grappling with as they are taught to excel in school, be independent and yet are constantly reminded that true happily ever after only comes from finding prince charming and looking as pretty as a princess. Orenstein said that due to mass marketing, today's young girls are saturated with these messages and role models more so than ever. 

She asks whether this is the best influence for young girls? Is it hurting their chances of succeeding in the future, setting them up for disappointment, or sculpting them into spoiled, self-centered divas? Is it teaching them to compromise themselves for the sake of finding their prince? (She points out that The Little Mermaid gave up her voice for a man.)

Whether your child is a toddler, a teen or all grown up, you most likely went through or are still experiencing a time when life was filled with fairytales and Disney princess swag, so we ask everyone to weigh in on today's Moms Talk. (Yes, dads you can voice your opinion too!) 

So what do you believe about all this talk about make-believe? Is it healthy for girls to idolize princesses this way? What has your experience been like raising your own daughter(s)? How do you teach her to dream bigger than acquiring frilly dresses and winning over a man?  

Moms Talk is a new feature on Malverne-West Hempstead Patch that invites local parents to discuss issues that matter to them.

You'll see members of our Moms Council, an advisory group comprised of smart and engaged moms from the neighborhood, responding to these questions below in the comments section and we invite you and your circle of friends to join in the discussion.

Together you're helping to build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Malverne and West Hempstead.

Wondering who are these local moms we tapped for our Council? Meet the members:

  • Janet Grech - A Malverne mom with children enrolled at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
  • Laura Murray- A Lynbrook mom who grew up in Malverne and is the current president of the Mothers of Malverne. She has two young children not in school yet.
  • Gina Genti - A Malverne mom with two boys in elementary school.
  • Andrea Shinsato- A West Hempstead mom with a 2-year-old and one child enrolled in Chestnut Street School.
  • Theresa Walz- A West Hempstead mom whose children attend Cornwell Avenue School and West Hempstead Middle School.
  • Loraine Magaraci- A West Hempstead mom with kids enrolled in West Hempstead Middle School and High School.
  • Audrey Diaz Robles- A new mom to a 6-month-old baby.
  • Dawn Wladyka- A Malverne mom with two students attending Our Lady of Lourdes School and one enrolled in Grace Lutheran PreSchool.
  • Eileen Lynch O'Hara - A Malverne mother with three children enrolled at Saint Anne's School in Garden City and one child at the Brother Fox Latin School at Kellenberg Memorial High School.
  • Maria Salcedo-Hafker - A Malverne mom who sends her children to Maurice W. Downing School and Davison Avenue School.
  • Lori Lang- A Malverne native and mother of four whose children attend St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead.
  • Jennifer Johnson- A West Hempstead mom with one child attending Cornwell Avenue School and another in day care.

Moms Talk will also be the place for you to pose your questions about parenting topics and local issues that affect families. Where can we get information on local flu shot clinics for children? How do we talk to our children about peer pressure, bullying and protecting themselves online? How can we help our children's schools weather their budget cutbacks?

Have a topic or question you'd like to bring before the Moms Council and fellow Patch readers? E-mail Tara.Conry@Patch.com

Lori Hunt-Lang March 09, 2011 at 08:11 PM
I was always a girl who liked to play sports, but also liked to play with Barbies. I was not into princesses growing up, so maybe that is why I didn't push it too much with my daughter who just turned 6. I find same issues apply to Barbie as well as princesses - women waiting for a man to come save them in general. The way I have handled it, if she seemed to like 1 particular Princess, over the years, I bought her items for that Princess but not in excess. She loved Aurora - or Sleeping Beauty from like 2 to 5. I think when we let kids obsess about any toy or toy line that is where the real problem lies. With that being said, I have found myself offering or trying to distract from Cinderella & Belle and pushing the Pocahantas or Little Mermaid because I find them to be less old-fashioned with their overall themes and stronger, more independent "princesses". My daughter has grown out of that stage, maybe because I was never into it and maybe because I consciously didn't give in to buying too much of it. Sometimes a movie is just a movie, but sometimes when a child watches it over and over and over, it is harder to separate fantasy from reality. I believe finding strong, independent Disney types is more beneficial for our young girls than many of the older Disney types.
Maria March 09, 2011 at 08:51 PM
I have two boys so right now this is a little foreign to me. I grew up with all male cousins and friends so I was more of a tomboy. Every once in a while I would get lost in my fantasy world where I was a princess with perfectly groomed nails and hair! I feel that just as boys like to play cowboys and indians, I think that a little girl wanting to put on lipstick and her mom's heels and play princess for a day is all part of growing up and the less fuss we make over it, the more likely they are to outgrow the "damsel in distress" issue. Yes- I agree with Lori, Barbies are really not the best choice of dolls for little girls, but even I once in a while find myself fascinated by them and their accessories lol! I feel that if I had a little girl, I would set the example for my daughter- I would show her that you can be a "girly girl" and still throw a football like you mean business! The main thing, is to empower young girls to be independent thinkers! I was fortunate enough to always march to my own beat. There are some lessons in life that have to be lived and not taught, - in the teens, we worry about every little comment or hair out of place, in our 20s we are looking around us at the rest of the girls, in our 30s we worry about getting older and having children, in our 40s - well we finally get it and learn to love ourselves with all of our imperfections and faults! Guess how old I am?LIFE IS GOOD!
janet grech March 09, 2011 at 09:19 PM
When my daughter was much younger she was into the "Princesses", themed-room and all. She had each and every Princess costume, including the high heeled shoes to go with. The whole "Princess" household quickly vanished when a baby brother was brought home several years later. I am relieved to say, it was all just a stage. She is now 8, and has developed into an independent thinker and person who stands for what she thinks is right. I don't feel she took the whole thing too far, I just feel she had an age appropriate crush on the Princesses. She is now into Hannah Montana, as is most of her friends. Again, I am not too worried about her turning into the next Miley Cyrus. (Can you guess what her room theme is now?) She enjoys the show and music, but she doesn't take it too far. I feel that as long as you teach them appropriate behavior and keep your eye on them throughout, you really don't have to worry that much. Kids need to hear from their parents that Princesses, Hannah Montana, and the next fad character, are just that, characters.
Andrea Shinsato March 10, 2011 at 12:02 AM
My daughter is 5 years old. I feel like she is at that prime "princess" stage. She loves Disney's Belle and people actually tell her she looks like Belle. I call her 'princess' from time to time and a boy in her class just bought her a crown headband for no reason other than he thinks she looks like a princess (according to the boy's mother)! That being said, I believe if these connotations are explained in a positive way, it doesn't have to negatively impact the girls' self-esteem. I always explain to Emma that real princesses clean their rooms, play nicely with others and remember their manners. Since she responds to the comparison, I run with it. She also is involved in sports and she has both boys and girls as friends. So I don't have a problem with my little princess (yet). I do believe that if raising a 'princess' means raising a self-indulgent young lady, then it is a problem to feed into the fairy tale. But if you can incorporate independence, intelligence and kindness into the role of pretty dresses, than go for it!!!!!
Laura Murray March 10, 2011 at 03:26 AM
My daughter is only 20 months, so we have not entered the Princess stage (yet). I would prefer that my children not become obsessed with any one toy or character. So far both my daughter and my son (3 years old today) are interested in a wide variety of toys and only stay focused on one "favorite" for a few days. I hope to keep the princesses as simply characters in books and movies and not have them become personas that my daughter wants to emulate. Hopefully if I don't make a big deal out of the princesses than my daughter won't either. My favorite animated movies are Toy Story, Cars, and The Lion King, so hopefully both my children will see that there are more to animated movies than a princess and her prince charming. In general I think that the whole Disney princess thing is just a clever, but ultimately harmless, marketing ploy. I don't think that little girls are going to grow up to be "damsels in distress" waiting for their prince charming just because they dressed up as Cinderella or Belle when they were little.
Loraine Magaraci March 10, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Hey, hey, hey people!! What is wrong with Barbie? She is not sold with Ken, he is a mere accessory. She is a dentist, a doctor, a vet, a cowgirl while also enjoying a game of soccer and tennis. She owns her very own town house and also has a ski challet, that she either drives her corvette to or her motor home!! WOW!! I should of turned out so good. So dont judge her by her tight butt and perky boobs, she has accomplished a lot! Now with that said, LOL!! Our daughters do not turn out to be princesses because they play dress up when they are young. That is just a game for them. Or because they love Disney. They only turn out to be princesses when we raise them that way. I can say this because I know first hand, after all I do live with the one and only Princess Ashley!! I know this is true because she has a pillow on her bed saying so. LOL!! Being she is my only daughter, I might of possibly over indulged her a little. Trying to make sure she had everything I did not. I often think maybe I spoiled her a little too much. But she is 14 now, and is no longer wearing her tiarra, but still has some of the princess traits. But that is ok with me, (sometimes), because she is much stronger than me, she is a good and loyal friend, and will dffinately be a strong and independent woman. She also knows that she can always come to me with any problem big or small, because I have always been there for her. And trust me, the problems do get harder as they get older.
Loraine Magaraci March 10, 2011 at 02:35 PM
So, let them be princesses while they are little. They are only little once. But also help them grow into independent and strong women, it is possible for them to be both. Always be there, and keep the lines of communication open, and if that tiarra stays on too long just help them take it off!! Now if you want to talk about crazy dolls... how about the Bratt dolls? You have to amputate them at the knees just to change their shoes!!! LOL!!!
Theresa Walz March 10, 2011 at 04:40 PM
My 9 year old daughter is past the princess stage for the most part. She loved dressing up and playing princess and collecting some of the dolls and playing with them. She also loved to read the stories. There is nothing wrong girls doing this. the princesses are all good role models. There is nothing wrong with believing in fairy tales and happy endings, as long they know about reality. As long as parents are showing their "princesses" how to be strong independant women that is all that matters.
Dawn Wladyka March 11, 2011 at 05:31 AM
My two daughters are both princess fans, and it doesn't bother me at all. They have multiple costumes which I am happy to but them b/c so much creative play comes from dress up. From time to time I am disturbed by an occasional plot point (wasn't thrilled that Belle fell in love with her captor, for example, though I did enjoy the Beast's redemption), but don't feel they are worth getting bent out of shape over. Disney World has always been a special destination for us, and my older daughter and I especially love it. I've allowed her to get their Princess makeovers a few times, and even indulged in one myself on my 35th Bday at Disney. B/c I have so money fond memories associated with them, and b/c I see how happy my daughters are when they are enjoying the fantasy, I find it impossible to be down on them. I just feel there are far more dangerous interests and hobbies than Princesses. And, as time has gone on, we see the emergence of stronger princesses. For example, in "Tangled", the princess saves the prince's life. Times are changing for princesses.
Denise December 10, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Why is it not okay to allow our daughters to dream? You know I think this world is a pretty confusing place. We don't believe in gay marriage but we don't want our daughters to want to hold out for prince charming.. Well, you can't have both. Truly, there is nothing wrong with little girls wanting to be a princess. Being a princess means success, beauty and having people do things for you. Being treated like royalty.. HOW HORRIBLE FOR A LITTLE GIRL!! Come on... Dreams are what drive us to be successful. Can we dream to be a teacher, a doctor or president? Why not a princess???

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