Kate is a typical little girl, in that she LOVES the Disney princesses. We had them too when I was young, but now they're everywhere. We were walking through Walmart the other day, and you can find Disney princess toothbrushes, clocks, bikes, and even Ravioli. Kate will point to these in wonder and I'll say, "Yes, they make these because they know little girls like you will ask their Mommies to buy them." I don't mind princess chairs or sweatshirts or books, but I'm not paying twice as much for canned ravioli because the label has princesses on it!
Since I was a girl, they've added the Middle Eastern Princess Jasmine, the mermaid Ariel, and the historical Indian princess Pocahontas (my favorite part of studying Virginia history in 4th grade). There's also Mulan, who isn't actually a princess, but a really cool Chinese warrior. And Barbie, who isn't a princess either, but is adored by little girls just as much. Kate loves them all! I think it's a positive thing that the princesses are of different ethnicities these days. And there are many attributes to admire about them: Pocahontas can canoe and survive in the wilderness, Belle loves to read, and Snow White loves to sing. They all do brave things, and are kind to their friends.
But on the other hand, of course, they are all conventionally beautiful, and super skinny. Hmmm...sounds like a lot of Hollywood celebrities. There was a display I saw the other day at Briercrest showing that if Barbie was a real woman, she would not be able to walk! Most of the Disney princesses become royalty by marrying princes, although some were born princesses. Before deciding to marry, there's little exploration of each other's character, values, or faith. I know, these are children's stories, but it reminds me a lot of the reality show "The Bachelor"! Today Kate wants to be Cinderella, tomorrow will she want to be Britney Spears? I think it's sad that so many women hate their bodies or feel depressed at falling short of whatever they perceive as the ideal. It's just as sad if a woman who does meet that ideal thinks that her worth comes from her beauty. I want to encourage Kate that it's good to look your best, but that it's not necessary (or desirable!) to be as skinny as a Disney princess! Beauty comes in many diverse forms, and a woman's physical attributes are just one part of her overall beauty. She gets a kick out of the Bible verse I recently taught her: Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. (Proverbs 11:22). I'll point out that if Sleeping Beauty was not a kind person, it wouldn't matter that she's beautiful.
I'm also careful about the words I use. I've been trying to avoid sugar, and when she asked me why, I talked about my "eating plan" rather than use the word "diet." Of course, then she told me she too has an eating plan and it involves lots of cookies! If she sees me on my scale, I'll say I want to see how healthy I am. I talk about the benefits of exercise--stronger bones, more flexible muscles, a healthier heart. I really never want her to have an eating disorder of any kind. I believe that if a woman is active and eats nutritious food, she is likely to end up at the weight that's right for her.
I've been happy to see how much Kate is intrigued by the women of the Bible as well. There's Queen Esther--I just picked up a CD at a secondhand sale about her story. We've been enjoying the animated movie "The Prince of Egypt" which has the amazing Miriam and the brave Zipporah. I hope to find more books and videos about the women of the Bible.
Right now, the Disney princesses seem like innocent fun. But on the other hand, I wonder if it's the beginning of a lifelong female experience of trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal. What do you think?
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