Even as a child, I was never inclined to believe in Fairy Tales. I always found the characters rather unbelievable and the so-called heroines a bit pathetic. I do like some of the newer ‘Fairy Tales’, such as Brave and The Secret Life of Arriety, where the heroines actually believe in something other than a handsome prince to come to their rescue. These characters believed in their own strengths and weaknesses, fought for what they thought was right for them, and stood up against implied feminine protocols.
As a child, I was not dissimilar to those characters. I fortunately wasn’t raised to be a ‘princess’; though there was an implied expectation of what was the stereotyped decorum. Regardless of that expectation, I ran with the best of the boys in the neighbourhood; got dirty, climbed walls and fences, got into fights; typically with boys, and wore my scrapes and scratched as a badge of honour when I wasn’t hiding them from my father. These kinds of antics for a girl were typically frowned upon and we were dubbed ‘Tom Boys’, which I think is wrong. Why couldn’t we simply be accepted for our diverse interest in things that weren’t stereotypical or gender-specific?! Conversely to my running with the boys, I tidied up well and quite enjoyed wearing skirts and dresses.
As the mother of a daughter, I did not impose colour or gender-specific things upon her, nor did I treat her like a princess. Yes, she was her mother and fathers pride and joy and her grandmother dubbed her Princess, but she wasn’t treated with kid gloves, kept ultra clean and graced with pink, sparkles, and lace. Yes, we read her some of the Fairy Tales, but they were never allowed to be imbedded as her mode of living and life expectation. We allowed her the freedom to pick and choose her activities, toys, and other childhood ventures.
Cultural and social exposure played a very active role in Lil Lady’s development. She was taken to various types of places and raised with an awareness of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ so she could appreciate what she herself had. She took her first road trip at five days old, her first in-country flight at five months old, and her first international flight at 20 months. Throughout each other these ventures, I was met with a mixed bag of praise and criticism. Some thought it was good that I was exposing her early to life; while others thought I should “wait until she’s older” or “she’s a little princess and shouldn’t be this or that”. Yea, whatever! She was my daughter and I’d do as I pleased as long as neither of us was put in harms way.
Like the constant emphasis in fairy Tales, I’d often hear how beautiful my daughter was as if that’s all she was. I acknowledged that they knew nothing else about her and as soon as she was in school and proved her academic prowess, I was sure to let people know that in addition to her looks, she was an Honour Roll student. I never wanted her to be seen or known solely for her looks. I always taught her that Pretty Smart was leagues better than Pretty Dumb as she’d much more than her looks to get her through life. Granted, looks can and will get you a step up, but without content of character, common sense, and a good skill set, what would she have to fall back on? This is the premise in which so many girls are raised and it needs to be changed. Girls can very much be Princesses; however, they need to taught and learn there is more to them and for them than looks and the handsome Prince coming to their rescue.
This teaching can lead to emotionally weak women who live life through rose coloured glasses where their romantic outlook on relationships and life puts them in a deficit because they think life conforms to the lie they’ve bought into. Fairy tales have led to divorce, emotional, physical and mental abuse, and in some ways, created a breed of women who will either blame everyone else but themselves for the demise of relationships of their lack of love; or they raise daughters with inflated senses of self, entitlement, or the same voice as their mothers because the mother has not fixed what was broken in herself before raising her daughter. Cycles of dysfunction only break when one gets to the root of their issue and stops believing the fantasy sold to them.
I’m pleased that there are some societal changes are occurring to better empower our daughters and I pray that the influences I have on my future stepdaughter and my goddaughter will broaden their life outlook and allow them to be more than “pretty in pink”. I also hope they’ll be more like Merida from Brave and Arriety and not allow society and their peers to dictate what they should do because “they’re girls”.
Lastly, I’d like to add that I co-authored a monologue for a student I was mentoring with the same title as this post where she used it to speak of her lack of relationship with her father. It served as a great healing tool for her. 🙂 Let’s be careful of the seeds we plant for our children; especially our daughters to grow upon.
Yea, I said it!