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KatGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 13-Aug-15 15:22:36

Why do girls want to be princesses?

Yasmeen Ismail challenges gender stereotypes we often see in products marketed to children - what is deemed an acceptable way for girls to behave, and what girls should like to spend their time doing.

Yasmeen Ismail

Challenging gender stereotypes

Posted on: Thu 13-Aug-15 15:22:36


Lead photo

'Boy colours' and 'girl colours' - do they really exist?

When I was little I had a secondhand BMX bike. I was happy that I knew how to ride it without stabilisers (my sister taught me), and I relished in my independence. The boy down the road teased me for riding a "Boy’s bike." I remember puzzling over what exactly made it for boys. I was riding it, surely that was okay?

True to form I knocked at the front door of his house and told on him. I told his mother that her son was being mean and called my bike a 'boy’s bike'. She conceded and told me that as punishment he wouldn’t get his Kinder Surprise "this week". I suddenly had more pressing injustices to worry about... "He gets a Kinder Surprise every week!"

When my sister was little she had short hair and glasses. She wore dungarees and she was teased for being 'like a boy'. She begged our mother to let her grow her hair long, but (for reasons unknown) she wasn’t allowed. She put up with the cruelty of the other children, but it was hard on her. She is a Computer Scientist and has four children herself now. She is a wonderful mother.

Her two eldest are my niece and nephew. My nephew seems to think the sky is the limit when it comes to imagining his future. He would like to be a scientist, an explorer or an engineer. It changes daily, and he knows that he can do anything.

Why are we telling them that they are different and that their reading material has to be segregated?

My niece would like to be a princess. I don't mind that she wants to be a princess. It sounds great; A castle, jewels, adoration, dresses, carriages and horses. I don't mind that she wants to wear pink, and I don't mind that she wants sparkles on everything. The worry that I have is that the only reason she wants to be a princess and in pink might be because that is the main option that is presented to her.

This might not be true, but when I walk around and see aspiring princesses everywhere, I start to wonder where it's all come from. If I look to the bookstores, I can't move for books 'for girls' and books 'for boys'. Why are we telling them that they are different and that their reading material has to be segregated?

And the funny thing is, is that many "boys" books proffer achievable careers in such things as construction, engineering, and medicine, whilst there is an overwhelming amount of books for girls very focused on being a princess. But being a princess, you can only be born or marry into that.

So what is the message? Marry well? And what does that say about my niece? She can focus on dressing, acting and looking a certain way in order to meet her future prince (because, believe me, she hasn't been born into royalty). It would seem to me that her quest started when she received her first princess book. I love my niece. I am fiercely protective of her, but I need books to help me give her more options; to tell her that she is young and that the world is her oyster, and that she can do anything she wants. I don't want her to limit herself. I don't want her to say, "I don't want to be an engineer because that's for boys."

I want her to be happy and I don't want her to feel that she can't do everything she wants to do. I have full confidence that she will be fine in the future. Her parents are wonderful and will care for her and help her to be strong and smart and ambitious. I have no doubt that she will be happy, but I can't say the same for every little girl. If she chooses to be a princess then so be it, as long as that's HER choice.

Yasmeen Ismail's picture book I’m a Girl is out now and available from Amazon. Post your thoughts on the thread to win one of 10 copies.

By Yasmeen Ismail

Twitter: @YasmeenMay

Luckygirl Thu 13-Aug-15 15:28:17

Fairy tales have no political or anti-feminist message - they are just part of our heritage, and good escapist fun. They deal in archetypes and in good triumphing over evil.

I am sure that your niece will receive the message loud and clear that she can aspire to whatever future she wishes, be that a career or motherhood, or a bit of both. The chances of her saying that she cannot be an engineer are so small as not to be worth considering. Schools have changed a lot since this blogger was there. Let the wee lass be in her fantasy land - heaven knows life's harsh realities will afflict her soon enough.

I do not think I will be trying to win her book!

annodomini Thu 13-Aug-15 16:36:49

The 'pink princess' phase doesn't last for ever. Do you ever see a girl over about 7 wearing princess gear? My DGD, who is now almost 13, went through this stage, though the princess dress didn't stop her climbing trees. She is now a Scout, having dismissed the Guides because they do 'girlie' things. She reads widely, all sorts of teen fiction - and the works of Agatha Christie.
So don't worry about your 'pink princess' niece. One day, you will turn round and find a completely different image, probably in jeans, teeshirt and trainers - the tiara replaced by a baseball cap!

Luckygirl Thu 13-Aug-15 16:53:59

I have 3 DDs and only one of them went through the pink princess stage; one thought she was a horse and went "neighing" round the garden, another thought she was a dog and demanded food in a bowl on the floor and barked endlessly. On the whole I think I preferred the pink princess phase - less embarrassing really. smile

gillybob Thu 13-Aug-15 17:06:21

Both of my DGD's have been and would still like to be "horses". Luckygirl grin

whenim64 Thu 13-Aug-15 17:12:08

My DGD, 3, loves pink and dressing as a princess but also tries on her dad's high viz jacket and hard hat and likes to be a pirate, complete with telescope and eye patch. On Sunday, she went out wearing a wedding dress and tiara to go shopping in John Lewis. It's a phase! grin

Luckygirl Thu 13-Aug-15 17:23:22

But if you can get a book out of it and find someone to publish it and make some money.....well why not! grin

rosesarered Thu 13-Aug-15 18:08:22

The bling, the pink and purple ness, the long blonde hair, adulation from all and sundry?

Alea Thu 13-Aug-15 18:48:03

My darling 3 year old DGS solemnly announced "When I gwow up I'm going to be a PWINCESS" . We had had hopes of a rugby player or a cricketer, but hey, who's complaining! grin

Marmark1 Thu 13-Aug-15 19:00:36

Yes,let them be children,little princess's if they want,it will soon pass.They are not all like it,My two goddaughters are proper tomboys.
My nephew who's 51 now,happily married with 2 children,used to play with a dolly when he was very small.In fact he told his teacher he had a baby sister.He didn't of course.But he soon grew out of it.

Lilygran Thu 13-Aug-15 19:30:08

They don't want to be princesses as such. They want to be the hero. And the bling, as roses says. All our DGS liked pink and spangles then they went to school and discovered it was girly. They like to be angels as well. Tinsel haloes and wings. Why not?

rosesarered Thu 13-Aug-15 19:37:32

When our two DD's were young, they were cast as angels in a Christmas play and very adorable. They looked angelic too, the wings and glittery haloes.Unfortunately, on the opening night, they had a disagreement offstage , and entered onto the stage pushing and shoving each other, to the titters of the assembled Mums and Dads.

Purpledaffodil Thu 13-Aug-15 19:41:25

Look at the racks of boys' clothes and girls' clothes in most retailers. The former tend towards sludge and camouflage, whereas the latter are sparkling and fun. No wonder boys want to be princesses!

FarNorth Thu 13-Aug-15 21:31:02

The young boys' clothes I've seen lately have lots of logos and pictures relating to adventure, sport, vehicles, lots of interesting things. The young girls' clothes have lots of pink, flowers, hearts, logos about love, smiles etc.
I buy both for my tiny DGD but how many girls get stuck with all the cutesy stuff?

(Just look at teenagers and young women these days and you'll see plenty of wannabe princesses.)

Spidergran5 Fri 14-Aug-15 07:43:01

I think it's a bit more than that. Sure they grow out of wanting to be princesses, but they still have lowered - if not drastically different - aspirations to boys. Why is it not many girls do science, maths, computing qualifications? My friend's DGD takes a toy pram out when they go to the shops. Her mother isn't the least bit happy about that.

gillybob Fri 14-Aug-15 08:06:16

Mind you I guess when you see pictures of the real thing (Kate) she does seem to have the life of Riley. She won't ever have to do a days work in her life (unless posing for photographs counts as work) she lives in a sprawling country pile, dresses in designer outfits etc.

So maybe young girls of today look at her and think to themselves "if only......."

My 2 DGD's much prefer her husbands cousin (Zara) whom they hero worship and are so envy of her horses.

trisher Fri 14-Aug-15 09:29:29

My almost 3 year old DGD has just been photographed in a princess dress (her favourite outfit) standing next to her favourite local attraction- the digger in nearby roadworks. Her favourite toys are her trains. Princess yes, but one ready for action!

Luckygirl Fri 14-Aug-15 10:11:43

What is the problem with taking a toy pram out to the shops? confused.

First of all she is a child, and is doing what children do - copy what the adults around them do. She will have sem adults of both sexes pusinh prams. Secondly, for all you know she might become an astronaut. Thirdly, would it be so dreadful if she "just" became a mother? - women's lib is all about choice and that may finish up as her choice.

annodomini Fri 14-Aug-15 10:17:54

On her third birthday, GD2 came with me to the paper shop on her new bike - with her favourite 'doggie' in the basket. She did have a doll which was invariably nude and which she 'breastfed' when her mum fed GS. Do princesses breastfeed?

gillybob Fri 14-Aug-15 10:21:38

They would have an awful lot of "dress" to hoik up if they did anno grin

Especially if they were (as most little girls see princesses) the Disney kind.

PPP Fri 14-Aug-15 10:54:14

My four year old grandson want to be a princess when he grows up!!

Faraway43 Fri 14-Aug-15 11:36:16

My 8 year old Grandson looks good in pink the colour really suits him, girls wear blue so what's the problem.

annodomini Fri 14-Aug-15 11:36:19

And why not? If he puts his mind to it, he can be anything he wants to be grin

rosesarered Fri 14-Aug-15 11:48:12

If only people in general could relax about colours, sparkle and gender specific toys, it really doesn't matter and isn't going to influence the child in any way as they grow up.Let them play with what they like.I mean the real world btw not anyone on here.

grandMattie Fri 14-Aug-15 12:05:17

3 year old DG want to be a dentist, she is fascinated by fillings! confused and 5 year old wants to be a "cafe lady". No princesses there.

I wanted to be a princess and probably marry Prince Charles, but wasn't allowed to wear pink, becuase my father hated pink. I became a scientist, so dreams change with age.