Thursday, 1 March 2012

You Probably Shan't Go To The Ball, But What Does That Matter?

I heard today that some mothers want to ban their children from reading such stories as Cinderella. Though I can see wherer they're coming from - poor down-trodden Cinders does all the housework but in end is unrealistically rewarded with man, money blah blah... - to me, banning ancient stories is madness.

It's fair to say that I think the whole 'Disney Princess' bullshit that my daughter so loves is wrong, in many ways. Disney has a lot to answer for. The shallow ideals of the stories, all the tat merchandise that is bought, making her think she is beautiful because she looks like any one of these characters. I'm all for her learning through roleplay & makebelieve but where do I draw the line? Yeah, I do wish I could stop it sometimes & I do my best to limit it. She is beautiful as she is, a pretty little girl in her little girl dresses. Children are innocent & they should remain so for as long as possible, in my opinion. Of course I'm not saying you should not educate your children in the ways of the world, but you must allow them the freedom to enjoy their childhood for as long as they need & for as long as is appropriate. Isn't that what we all want for out children? But is controlling what they are exposed to allowing them full enjoyment of childhood? I suppose that would entirely depend on what society lobs their way.

I detest the way in which our society encourages adults & children alike to buy into all this bullshit & think that being as grown up & beautiful & unrealistically successful is what they should strive for. For Christmas this year, at the tender age of three my daughter received presents of make up. I was appauled. But why should I be? I wear make up, I conform to society's expectations of me & I feel bad when I go out in public with bad skin & no face on. It is a fact of society & though I would like to change it, I cannot & so I do conform to an extent. This is not to say that I am a pacifist, far from it, but all this comes from somewhere. We want to look good in order to find a mate & reproduce, like many other creatures on this planet & this is our way of doing it & we have to accept this to a degree, however I do believe that there is way too much pressure on women & increasingly on men too to look unnaturally good & to live their lives in a certain, plastic way. Pressure to mutilate our bodies in order to please others. This is a step too far & I am afraid that it stems from an exposure to media from an early age. There is nothing I can do to stop the pressure that will inevitably be put onto my girls, but I can limit how they are exposed to it - we never owned a TV until we moved in with my OH, but even so, the girls hardly watch it. Maybe once a week, if that. They hardly want to either, but that is not to say they don't enjoy what they do watch. Sometimes I feel as though I should control what others buy the girls too but unfortunately I cannot, without being a dickhead about it - & what kind if example would that set? There is a fine line.

What I can do is provide them with the knowledge, love & example they need to become strong individuals in the future. This is what I strive to do anyway. I will paint Eldest's fingernails occasionally, if I am doing mine - its fun & she enjoys showing off - & I will be teaching her how to cook & do the laundry (hell, the sooner she learns the sooner it saves me a job!) but equally I'll be teaching her how to put up a shelf & change a washer in a tap (notably these are things that I can do but my OH can't. Just saying...) & all these things I would do regardless of the sex of my children.

The point that I am trying to make in a very round about way is that banning our children from these things is all very well, but where is the faith in our own skills as parents? Where is the faith in our children's intelligence? Faith that they will grow up & work out, as we have, that life isn't like a fairytale? Just because life is not so, it doesn't mean we can't enjoy whimsical tales of princesses, ogres, & kingdoms far, far away. The most important thing we can do for our precious ones is to allow them their enjoyment, giving them as much stimulation in all aspects of life & play for now & equip them with the skills, information & example they need to make their own decisions about the big bad world. Surely?

As I type, my eldest is playing at soft play, wearing a builders hat. That's my girl!

As for banning Cinders, well the unimaginative, westernised Disney bollocks...

...I couldn't give a toss about to be entriely honest, but I grew up with this beautiful version. One of the many childhood books & illustrations that fired my creative passions:

Now that, my friends, is what a handsome prince should really look like.

All in all, I think as long as we do our jobs correctly as parents, girls & boys can enjoy a wealth of traditional & contemporary stories. There is no harm in that.


  1. I'd like to add, that the thing I don't like about Disney versions of things in particular, as well as what is now our tendancy as a society to do is to turn these stories from the fantastical into the semi-acheivable, through illustration & storytelling. We would not think of saying something like Braer Rabbit should not be read to children because rabbits cannot actually talk, or use scissors for that matter, but we often forget that in reality these fairytales are a fantasy, metaphorical, & I think that is what the version of the book that I grew up with conveys through the illustrations.

  2. That's a beautiful picture. What I really dislike is that Disney has stolen princess play and made it about being pretty instead of being powerful and in charge - don't you think? Love this post :)

    Did you see this cartoon on fb at all?!/photo.php?fbid=318587728184611&set=pu.103316736378379&type=1&theater - it really chimed with how I felt about the pink princess thing. All the best!

    1. That's exactly my beef with it too. Stories like Cinderella do have a moral - in the case of Cinders, her kindness results in outer beauty, despite her rags & in the end she prevails over those evil step-sisters - but it's all lost by focussing on the wrong aspects. I'll take a look at the cartoon now :)


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