Princess/feminist

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Summer, 2000. My friend Lisa and I were shopping for clothes for the baby girls we were waiting to adopt. Lisa was looking at frilly pastel dresses. I was examining overalls in bright primary colors. Later, over lunch, Lisa asked, ‘Are you going to raise your daughter to be a princess?’ ‘No way,’ I said. ‘I’m a feminist.’

We painted the baby’s room yellow and blue with a moon-and-stars theme.

Summer, 2007. “Princess,” I yell. “Will you please come and put away your bride dress?”

Princess books with a feminist message:

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Princesses Are Not Quitters by Kate Lum

The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke

Too Many Princes by Valerie Sekula

Happily Ever After by Anna Quindlen

Yes, I call my younger daughter “Princess.” She disdains any article of clothing that is not pink (unless it’s a bridal gown, white of course). I buy her pink dresses-and yes, I’m still a feminist. It took having two young daughters to discover that the two are not necessarily a contradiction.

Though The Princess has come out of her shell, she is still a little shy. She’s eager to please. She is a softer child than her older sister. So I was pleasantly surprised by a recent conversation at the dinner table.

“Matthew said that pink is ONLY for girls and blue and green are ONLY for boys,” Carly said, quoting one of the boys at her kindergarten table who, she tells us, is often in trouble for talking too much.

“I see,” I said neutrally. I could tell by her emphasis on the word “only” that she did not agree with her classmate. This is good, I thought. And then I had to ask the question: “Did you say anything?” I was expecting she hadn’t. I was just happy that she had recognized he was wrong.

“I told him, no! My sister’s favorite color is blue.” Carly beamed.

“Well, now it’s red, actually,” butted in Cassie.

Carly rolled her eyes and continued, undeterred. “And I told him boys can like pink!”

My girls are “girly girls” who enjoy dressing up, and they also love to play outside and get dirty. Cassie is a real jock and they both take dance. They are at the ages where they are just starting to try on different interests and test their wings.

Carly is totally enthralled with all things Princess. I remember my alarm when Cassie went through that stage-the six months when she wore a tiara from the time she got up until the time she went to bed. It was then that I discovered princess books with feminist messages. I was pleased when, of all the Disney Princesses (shudder), she fell in love with Belle. Belle, I told her, was a good role model because she disdained the arrogant, handsome prince who didn’t respect Belle’s love of books and reading, and fell in love with the ugly beast, instead, after he gave her a library full of books.

If there ever was a 6-year-old feminist, it is Cassie. She wants to know why more women aren’t in government and has a strong character, body, will and personality. She is outspoken. It is great to witness her strength. And her sister seems to be following in her footsteps.

I am one of the parents who like to tell people how much I am learning from my kids. Unfortunately, I seem to be a slower learner. They are much better at debunking stereotypes than I am. Neither one of them sees any reason you can’t wear a tiara while you are climbing a tree. On the other hand, I was embarrassed when, last fall, I ended up wearing a pale pink sweater and jacket to work at the Women’s Press. Someone had given it to me and it had been shoved to the end of the closet, until the day when I had nothing else to wear and, in desperation, threw it on. I slunk into my office. Kept my coat on longer than usual, not wanting to display my pink-ness. When I finally threw my coat over the chair, I got many compliments on the outfit. Apparently, pink is my color.