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My Rainbow-Glitter-Princess-Loving Daughters Are Not the Problem

Photograph by Twenty20

I have enough tutus and princess costumes in my house to outfit every kid on my street. For some reason, people find this surprising: "I can't believe YOU let your girls dress like princesses.”

Damn right I do.

Because they enjoy dressing up like princesses.

“But you’re a feminist” is the shocked response I hear most often.

Yep, I am. For the record, so is my husband. I fail to find this problematic. I do, however, take issue with this type of judgmental banter.

A recent mom.me post, “If You're Doing These 20 Things, You're Part Of the Problem,” listed several ways parents may reinforce oppressive gender roles, such as painting a girl’s room pink or allowing her to become princess obsessed.

But the problem is not that my girls have ballerina decorations in their rooms (they both do). It's the little boy who would like the ballerina room or the little girl who wants the NFL bedspread and is told "Oh no, that's a girl thing or a boy thing".

There are many ways to shatter oppressive stereotypes of femininity and masculinity without culling pink from your life and being judgmental of others—princess-crazed seven-year olds included. Even something as problematic as princess obsession can be used as a tool to promote gender equality and inclusivity.

Yes, these stories may contain themes at odds with the feminist ideals I wish to teach my daughters. The key, for me at least, has been to identify moments when the princess culture contradicts my beliefs and use these instances as an opportunity to discuss empowerment and equality.

Ariel wants to leave her entire family and risk her life to get married at 16. Why might that be a bad idea?

You want to put on your mermaid swimsuit and splash in the kiddie pool? You go, girl.

I take no issue with glittery dresses. If slipping on some tulle and clicking around in plastic heels makes them happy, I say go for it. I want to avoid a hyper-focus on appearance, but in the context of imaginary play, why not dress up like a beloved character?

Yes, my oldest daughter’s room looks like a shrine to "Frozen" and ballerinas. She also loves her microscope and playing with tools. My youngest daughter is obsessed with shoes. She also scales climbing walls and digs in the dirt for all the creepy crawlies she can wrap in her tiny hands.

Overall, I’m less concerned with what’s on my daughter’s clothing than in her mind.

If I had a son (which I don’t), I’d slap a tutu on him just as fast as I teach my girls the different names of screwdrivers, if that’s what he wanted. I don’t force tool time or tulle time, but I don’t discourage either.

For the record, I do encourage playing house. No matter your gender, sex or sexual orientation, we all need to contain the squalor and feed ourselves. (Unless you really are a princess—tiara wearing or otherwise.) My girls love their play kitchen and miniature brooms not because they’re girls, but because they’re kids who enjoy recreating the world they observe.

And it is in the world they observe, and not in the make believe of fairytales or cartoons—or even the images that adore their lunchboxes—that we as parents have the most impact. In our house, Mommy may do most of the laundry, but Daddy usually cleans the toilets (OK, always). We divide household chores, switching tasks from time to time so there isn’t a “Mommy job” or a “Daddy job.”

It’s providing gentle corrections when we hear “Blue is a boy color.” I may let my girls flounce around in whatever costume they want, but if anyone ever says something is a “boy thing” or a “girl thing” in my hearing, I will correct them. This applies to adults as well. I don’t care if you’re 9 or 90—I will say something.

I agree that kids’ clothes and toys, in general, could be less gendered, but there’s nothing keeping me from crossing into the boys’ section for the robot t-shirt my daughter wants or for a dad crossing into the girls’ section to buy a glittery top for his son.

Overall, I’m less concerned with what’s on my daughter’s clothing than in her mind.

I suppose I fail to see how wearing an Elsa t-shirt will exclude her from becoming president or finding a cure for cancer. However, I’m pretty sure discouraging her from “girly” things simply because they are traditionally “girly” could very easily impact the way she sees herself.

So, no, my rainbow-glitter-princess-loving daughters are not the problem. And if you tell them otherwise, prepare to be corrected by the strong young women we raised them to be—tiaras and all.

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