Sunday, March 25, 2012

Princesses and Barbies

I have a strong belief about princesses and Barbies. I don't know why I feel the need to share this belief with all of you, but I do. 

This isn't a deep, life-changing belief, but it's something I'm committed to. Ever since the Lord brought a little girl into our family I have a strong conviction:

We don't do princesses. Or Barbies.

I'm not sure I can clearly articulate why it is that I feel strongly about this, but I'll try. 

Here's what I mean when I say we don't do princesses or Barbies: we don't currently watch princess movies in our home (nor will we consume them on a regular basis in the future) and I have no plans to bring Barbie dolls into my house. 

That said, and to be completely honest and transparent, I played with Barbies growing up and Little Mermaid was one of my favorite movies (Ariel was a mermaid but her father was a King so that definitely makes her a princess).

I'm not saying Lauren won't ever see Little Mermaid or a princess movie, but here's what I do know: I do not want my daughter being inundated with media messages about her body, her relationships or her need for a man in order to be happy. I believe that low self esteem, eating disorders, and finding value and worth in a man result from the media messages being communicated to women and girls every day. 

I know that many would argue against this, stating that it's just fun for girls to be entertained and dream about being a princess....but there are many underlying messages we need to be aware of.

Although I was exposed to these things as a young girl, I need to point out that the type and quantity of media from the 70s and 80s is very different than it is today. The messages kids are absorbing today--whether that's through entertainment, advertisements or merchandising-- makes me a concerned mama.

I have told family members not to buy princess-themed toys or clothing and they have respected that. I love imagination and creativity and we dress up in our home.....but our dress up characters are not beauty queens and princesses. Lauren does have a few princess PJs that have been donated to us and she wears them. She doesn't know their names or the movies they represent and I am thankful for that. 

There is so much I could unpack here, but I guess what I really want to say is that there is a battle going on daily for the mind's of my children. And American media tries its hardest to send messages about what my children should think, feel and believe--about themselves and about others. We only watch PBS for a number of reasons, and one of them is because it limits their exposure to commercials

The media sends messages through television, movies, commercials, magazines, and images everywhere. Tall, thin and beautiful = happiness. Dependency on a male = security.

For the most part, I have not struggled with my self image in my life and for that I am very grateful. I am independent and confident and I pray that Lauren will be as well. 

I pray often that my children would find their identity in Christ and Christ alone. I pray that for Samuel because he is adopted and because of the questions he may have some day surrounding his adoption. I pray that for Lauren because she is a female and our society preaches that identity is found in fashion, beauty and wealth. 

My hope is that parents who do choose to let their children watch princess movies talk about these movies with their children as well as provide educational material for them to watch to balance out the messages being presented. Letting children watch them for entertainment purposes while helping them understand the messages the movies may be sending is a crucial  step.

Do I think an occasional princess movie is harmful and damaging? Probably not. But I think the consumerism involved with princess movies and the immersion in these messages beginning at a young age is then followed by playing with Barbies and then shopping at Justice....and that's just not a place I want to go.

Maybe I'm a mom filled with irrational fears, but I've decided we're steering clear of Belle, Snow White, Jasmine, Cinderella and the like.

All this to say, I do think the number one influencer in a child's life is his or her parents. It is my role and responsibility to teach my daughter that her identity is to be found in Christ. I can affirm her intelligence, looks, abilities, strengths, and character. I can speak words of life into her. 

But what she believes about herself and who God created her to be, and what information she retains, will be so much greater if I can lessen the messages our media is sending to her daily.

If you are interested, check out Little girls or little women? The Disney princess effect


WoRds/WoNDer said...

thanks for sharing, stacy. i couldn't agree more! not to mention that every princess until recently has been white. what does THAT say about our standards for beauty?

Amber said...

wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing

Anna C said...

I'm totally with you! I'm currently reading one of the books cited in that article, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" and it confirms everything I already didn't like about the whole princess phenomenon. When people call Ayla a princess, I tell them she is an empress (don't even know if that's how you spell it). That way she still gets to be royal and a leader, but she's more powerful and responsible!