I wasn’t a girly-girl growing up. Frilly dresses and pretty shoes weren’t really my thing. So much so that I remember fighting with my mother about wearing mary-janes and the uniform dress when I started school. The boys’ uniform options seemed much more comfortable and practical to me.
As I got older things stayed the same. At highschool dances I wore jeans and Doc Martens while other girls were wearing dresses and strappy sandals. To this very day I’m very much a wash and wear kind of gal. Most days I go make-up free and don’t own many dresses or heels.
Needless to say, when I found out I was expecting a little girl, I assumed she would follow in my tomboyish footsteps. Especially since she also had two older brothers.
Granted, I decorated the nursery with a touch of pink and she had a few pretty outfits (mostly gifted) but apart from that I maintained my practical approach to attire with jumpsuits and shorts for all that crawling, climbing and rolling little people tend to do.
However, as my daughter became old enough, her preference for pretty things quickly became apparent. Handed-down dresses and gifted tutus became everyday favourites while the comfortable, sensible shorts I purchased got passed over. In shops she was drawn to bows, tiaras and handbags, not to mention all the sequins.
At first I resisted this “princessification” of my daughter. I bought her items in navy or black to steer away from head-to-toe pink (it is also far more practical for hiding paint and food stains!!)
However, I came to the realisation that my daughter isn’t me. To start with, she’s far smarter, sassier and stronger-willed than I ever was as a child.
It was then I started to question why I was so against her being a girly-girl.
Of course, I was undoubtedly influenced by the negative talk about the princess culture. Social commentators, psychologists and even researchers tell us that being obsessed with princesses (particularly ones of Disney ilk) is bad news for girls. These experts say that the gender stereotypes portrayed in princess culture can limit girls in regards to their emotional and social development.
There is definitely no denying that some of the messages conveyed in fairy tales, the media, and fashion aimed at young girls, can be downright damaging. And when it comes to clothes and toy options for girls these days it is very much a pink sparkle-athon with limited alternatives.
But for me, these are not enough reasons to squash my daughter’s love of all things pretty and princessy.
My job as her parent is to teach her that all that glitters is not gold.
My job as her parent is to give her choices. To teach her to be a critical thinker. To help build her self esteem, to teach her respect for herself and others. To show her that you can be kind and strong.
Above all, my job is to teach her that that she can, and should, be her own hero.
And if she wants to do that wearing a tiara and a tutu, more power to her.