Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rubbing out romance

Wouldn't you just hate to have a mother like this?
There's a princess in my house. I know she's a princess, because she wears a purple fun-fur-and-silver-glitter tiara, changes her clothes five times a day, and issues regular commands in an imperious voice.

She's 31/2. I ask her what, exactly, a princess is. She says it's a girl who wears pretty dresses and a crown and can fly.

"I'm beautiful, aren't I, Mommy?" she asks when she dons one of her many dress-up dresses, most obtained for $3 at a thrift store.

Her favourite colours are purple, pink and yellow.

I am slowly but surely trying to instil my feminist values into her -- to absolutely no effect.
Oh, don't worry. St. Ignatius Loyola said "Give me a child until he is 7, and I will give you the man", so even though you're working on indoctrinating a girl, that expert would tell you you've still got half the term left to make the grade.

Sometimes we have breakthroughs.

I was reading Snow White one day when we came to the point where the prince sees Snow White in the glass case and instantly falls in love with her.

"Why?" she asked. "Why did he fall in love with her?"

I was stumped. "I guess it's because she's pretty," I said. "But maybe he won't like her so much when she wakes up. She's kind of boring."
So don't try to be pretty, kid. Only ugly women are interesting. God forbid that at this tender age, a girl could have her mind clouded by thoughts of "love at first sight" or "it was meant to be" or any of the other formulas we use to try to convey something mysterious and otherworldly.

"These stories teach girls from a very young age that the prime purpose of life is to attract and keep a mate, not to find a career or a way of life that brings them any interests beyond consumerism."
Interesting that she equates "consumerism" with the mere act of love and marriage, and NOT with "finding a career", which, with its invariably mercantile side, is explicitly linked to a consumer society. Who gets the salary, the wife and mother or the career woman? And what is a salary but money? And what is money for but buying things?

I don't know why the writer picks on the Disney princesses; Ariel and Belle were deliberately created to be unconventional heroines, and they're hardly the passive plants complained of in more traditional fairy tales. Belle is literate and Ariel is daring; both of them are resourceful and adventurous. I'm not really much of an apologist for Disney, but it's just ridiculous not to notice that they've changed the pattern for their fairytale heroines from the days of Snow White.

I'm so glad my mother didn't hang over me like a vulture when I was reading. I pretty much was left on my own to read anything I liked. The only time she interfered was when I was about 12 and got hold of a copy of 'The Godfather' (out of HER room, mind you!) She must have thought that was a bit strong for a kid (probably the sex scenes) and it quietly vanished from my room before I finished it. I didn't make a fuss; it was her book, after all, and I wasn't enjoying it much anyway. But I don't ever recall her horning in on my Sherlock Holmes or Bobbsey Twins stories to deliver lectures on how inferior their world was because it didn't match up with her ideals. It would have rather defeated the point of reading altogether to keep insisting that every page be graded for political correctness.


Blogger Kasia said...

Yeesh...and I thought I had it bad with my little Kiddy Communist Manifesto, Fanshen the Magic Bear. At least Politically Correct Fairy Tales wasn't published 'til I was in high school...

3:38 pm  

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