I suppose it's my fault. All those trips to Disneyland, my favorite Southern California place, to spend the day and wish upon a star at night. All those movies we've gone to, dressed up like miniature fangirls. All those times I pretended I was Snow White as a 5-year-old back in the day. Now as a mother of two, my daughters are obsessed with being rescued (like princesses)—and I'm shocked.
The red flag of 1950s female mentality went up a few weeks ago when we were all having lunch together at home. My girls, both 5 or under, were jabbering to each other about Rapunzel or Aurora or Elsa, when I heard my older daughter then say something along the lines of, "Boys are supposed to rescue girls ... that's how it is."
I quickly started paying closer attention. Things just got interesting.
"Why do you say that?" I questioned, doing my best to not show fear or panic in my voice.
"Because it's true," my 5-year-old replied. Then she started giggling like she knew she'd hit a nerve of some sort.
"But what about how Elsa saved her sister, or Rapunzel saved Flynn, or Ariel saved Eric from that burning shipwreck?" I pressed.
"No ... the boys rescued the them!" she insisted back.
Are we fooling ourselves thinking that all these assertive and capable contemporary princesses are actually shifting the way our daughters perceive women?
We continued on and on for several minutes, me reminding her of all the empowered, modern tales of princesses being strong and capable and smart (hello, Elsa is the most fabulous architect and contractor I've ever seen with that ice palace of hers!), and my daughter insisting that the princes are always the ones who are rescuing. My younger daughter just kept laughing, as though she knew she'd hit a nerve with the subject matter, too.
This ... after all my talking about how girls have superpowers? After all my interjections during movie-watching about how Anna saved herself and her sister singlehandedly? After all those times I suggested watching Brave instead of Snow White?
Another one bites the big red poison apple.
"So, does Daddy rescue me all the time?"
"Uh huh. Yes." She smiled big. (No, my husband does not rescue me ... unless I'm at my wits end and desperately ask him to give the girls a bath because I've had it. OK fine, there's an occasional rescue.)
I became frustrated.
There I was at lunch, arguing with a kid with peanut butter smeared on her face, laying out every single girl-power scenario—that they are all very familiar with. Yet the facts weren't getting through. I started wondering: Is this "rescue-thing" an ingrained perception that we can't ditch altogether? Are we fooling ourselves thinking that all these assertive and capable contemporary princesses are actually shifting the way our daughters perceive women? Is a princess just a princess waiting to be rescued by some dude, regardless if she shoots a bow and arrow that can shame even the best archers in all the land? Are our young daughters even capable of realizing the difference between princesses of now and princesses of the past?
Maybe I just started showing my girls these princess classics (that I absolutely adore) before they were ready, before they could really think about the implications. (Are 2-year-olds supposed to even watch movies? My bad.) Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe they're pulling my chain because they really do know better and they know the subject got to me.
Or maybe they're on to something. Maybe we all need to be rescued from time to time—by a "boy"—to keep our life moving in a positive direction. Rescue me from laundry! From dishes! From loud noise all the time! Maybe my young daughters are picking up on that?
In that case, I'm down. Quick, someone tell Prince Charming there's a fresh load in the dryer that needs to be folded and put away.