Princesses, Tutus and All Things ‘Girly’

Last week adweek highlighted a new ad campaign from a Catholic school in Kentucky entitled “You’re not a princess”.  Amy referred to the ads in her post on Tuesday.

When you look at the ads in their entirety they encourage girls to overcome obstacles, prepare for the real world and say there is more to life than beauty. Great messages! Unfortunately, for some these ads have become an open door for them to release significant pent-up hostility towards Disney (who knew?) and all things girly.

On Jezebel.com Erin Ryan wrote, “Metastasized princess culture is responsible for all manner of social ills” look up the word metastasized and you will see it is most often used when referring to cancer. Right after this the author implies that princess culture is responsible for land mines. WHAT?

One mom wrote a blog entitled “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Girls Grow Up to be Princesses”. She uplifts building blocks and magnatiles while speaking about pink, tutus, and baby dolls as if they are some necessary evil we all have to grit our teeth and bare. At the end she writes:

“And, if your little girl absolutely must have a princess book consider The Paper Bag Princess, in which a pint-sized princess trades in her gown for much simpler attire to outsmart a dragon, save the prince and live happily ever after on her own”.

The overlying message in all this seems to be: A girl who likes pink, dresses and dreams of being a princess will grow up to be weak and a failure. She must cast off these foolish things and become a real woman!

Two things I have in response to this:

First of all, girls liking princesses will not have quite the dramatic effect these moms are suggesting. Moms have long been making pleas to stop dressing girls in princess costumes for Halloween, but what little girl wants to dress up as Jane Goodall? It’s in the same way, that little boys want to be cowboys and not Bill Gates. I once heard a kid say he wanted to grow up to be a fire truck (yes a fire truck not a fireman). Most kids change their minds about future career paths dozens of times, heck, adults change their career paths dozens of times.

Secondly, why is being a princess not an acceptable career choice/role model? Last May, shortly after Disney remade the look for the female character in Brave and caused a huge uproar, one mom decided to ask some girls in her life: What makes a princess? The girls named qualities such as kind, nice, royal, a friend, and brave. These don’t seem like such bad qualities to me!

In our efforts to empower girls let us not move to the opposite extreme. Let us not advocate for feminine equality by vilifying traditional femininity. The above comments uplift women heroes who wear business suits, sit in a board room or office with all men, don’t wear makeup, pink or glitter, and remain single their whole life to prove they don’t need a man. That picture of a woman is awesome and if a woman wants to go that way I support her. I also support the women who like wearing dresses, makeup and glitter. Women who want to get married and be mothers and who consider motherhood their top priority. Those women are no less female role models than the ones on Wall Street. Education should empower girls to be whichever kind of woman they want to be.

Sources:

Herbert, C. (2013, May 29). Glamorized Disney princesses may not be affecting girls the way parents believe. Desert News. Retrieved from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865580816/In-defense-of-Disney-Glamorized-princesses-may-not-be-affecting-girls-the-way-parents-believe.html?pg=all

Ryan, E. (2013, Nov. 12). Schools ‘you are not a princess’ campaign give girls much-needed real talk. Jezebel. Retrieved from http://jezebel.com/schools-you-are-not-a-princess-ads-give-girls-much-n-1463037459

Smith, J. (2013, Nov. 13). Mamas, don’t let your girls grow up to be princesses. Huffington Post The Blog. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-davis-smith/mamas-dont-let-your-girls-grow-up-to-be-princesses_b_4268738.html

The Importance of Empowerment

A hot topic surrounding girl’s education and one that has been touched on in this blog before is empowering girls. Stories about the Doodle4Google depicting women empowerment in India and the encouraging word of Miss North Carolina touting girls’ empowerment float around the web and social media.

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While these individual acts are noteworthy, an article about empowering girls was released  this week that is even more so.  The article opens with these words that I could not help but copying:

There is a Chinese proverb that says if your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years educate children.

These eloquent words were spoken by a 15 year old university student Maud Chifamba. I could not have said it so nice had I tried.

The article goes on to talk about Zimbabwe’s progress in closing the gender gap by 2015 to reach the Millennium Development Goals, a topic Dave covered a few weeks ago in his article, “’The Economist’ Discovers Gender Inequality in Education.” The Zimbabwe government realizes that it is far from reaching its goal so it created an empowerment policy, which addresses the challenges many girls within Zimbabwe face, such as education, economic empowerment, protection, leadership, and development.

While most article I’ve read focus on the importance of primary or pre-primary education, this one focuses on tertiary education, an area that I find too often ignored.  And though I find myself agreeing with the article, one statement that Childline ambassador Thamsanqa Moyo makes about foreign music and film’s influence.  She says, “It is unfortunate that most youths have access to bad foreign music and films they download from the internet which makes them develop a negative culture.” She goes on to say that the government should promote local music, which is something I can agree with, is it fair to blame the outside culture for the problems within a culture.  Does the hip-hop music make them develop a negative culture? I think not, and while many of the lyrics disgust me, I would not go so far as to say that they are the agents of this negative culture surrounding women.  Society itself is to blame in most cases.

Later in the article, a child writer and poet describes what needs to change within Zimbabwe’s culture, not what they are importing from abroad.  Women need to be viewed as adults who are able to take care of themselves, not as children who need to be subjected by male dominance.  The environment that girls grow up in needs to change.  Girls need to be given the same opportunities as men and be seen as capable human beings who are valued in society for their possible contributions.  It is the climate of society within Zimbabwe, which obviously can relate to the misogynistic lyrics of many hip-hop songs, that needs to change.

I would like to end my last post with some pictures that were published by an all girls school in Kentucky entitled “You are not a Princess” to empower their girls.  Though they take a much different approach, one that many countries is not ready for, they are right on point in a sense that they say that girls need to be the agent of their own change and empowerment.  In a world full of Disney Princesses, the posters read:

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r-YOURE-NOT-A-PRINCESS-large570

The fact that these are being published by a school makes them all the better.  More schools need to embrace a progressive view such as this in our fight to empower women.

Sources used:

Bwanya, M. (2013, November 15). AllAfrica. allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: Empowering Girls At All Costs (Page 1 of 3). Retrieved November 15, 2013, from http://allafrica.com/stories/201311150350.

Cullers, R. (2013). Intriguing Ads Tell Young Girls: ‘You’re Not a Princess’ and ‘Life’s Not a Fairytale’ | Adweek. AdWeek. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/intriguing-ads-tell-young-girls-youre-not-princess-and-lifes-not-fairytale-153788

Fisher, H. (2013, November 14). Miss North Carolina offers message of empowerment to girls at North Rowan Middle. Salisbury Post. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from http://www.salisburypost.com/article/20131

Kanal, N. (2013, November 14). Pune girl’s women empowerment doodle on Google India today. Tech2. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from http://tech2.in.com/news/web-services/pune-girls-women-empowerment-doodle-on-google-india-today/920474