Is it okay to dress my daughter up as a princess?

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I am a Feminist.

Pure and simple. Always have been and always will be. From as long as I had the ability to understand what the hell that was, I knew I was one.

For those of you who are still unsure on what being a feminist actually is, it is nothing more complex than this:

I BELIEVE MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL.

Yes, there are numerous variations of feminism – there are different sub-categories of feminism which have been adapted to suit the different sub-categories of women that exist (i.e. black feminism for black women as an even further marginalised group who have their own specific cultural needs). BUT the basic principle across all feminism is that women are no less than men, and should not be treated as less than men.

I have obviously adapted MY version of feminism for me – there are certain ideas that I subscribe to, such as being against gender stereotyping, and there are ideas that I don’t subscribe to, such as the radical feminists’ view that men are scum (though there are many men, and probably as many women, who are scum, but it’s not a gender thing).

Gender stereotyping, for those of you that don’t know or think I’m a bit “PC gone mad”, is basically that boys and girls from BIRTH should not be told or encouraged to act a certain way, dress a certain way or play with certain toys because of the genitals that are between their legs. Why is that important to me? Because somehow, even as a child, being a girl is still seen as being less.

Think about it… I bet you’ve all heard these phrases tons of times that normalise certain behaviours depending on whether it’s a boy or a girl that is the one behaving that way:

  • “Boys will be boys” – often used as an excuse for them being little shits, reinforcing the idea that boys and men are, characteristically because of their genitals, little shits.
  • “Man up”/”Grow some balls” etc. – implying that men are stronger emotionally. On a side note, this one is actually quite damaging for men’s mental health – no wonder suicide is the biggest killer of young men when from SUCH A YOUNG AGE we tell them that because they are men, they are not allowed to display feelings.
  • “She’s bossy” – when have you ever called a man bossy? Trick question, you don’t – a man is assertive, not bossy. Same behaviour, completely different word association, tone and meaning based on what bits are between their legs.
  • “She’s a bit of a tomboy” – god forbid a girl “acts like a boy”… Getting messy, being boisterous, loud, active, loving the outdoors – these are all qualities we associate with boys, and if a girl exhibits them, she’s not a girl anymore, she’s gained this new “tomboy” identity, whatever the hell that is.

So why does this bother me so much?

Well, it always has – I hated being called a tomboy when I was little. I was a girl, who liked playing football. When I found out I was having a girl, I didn’t immediately go and start buying tons and tons of pink stuff. Yes, I bought some, if I liked it, but ultimately I tried to find bright or neutral coloured clothes, and I found one particular range of unisex clothing I absolutely adore. Little Bird by Jools, stocked by Mothercare, if you’re interested.

I point blank refused to buy Olivia a baby and a pram, until one day at baby group she toddled over to find one on her own and enjoyed playing with them, so we got her one for home. I did not want to have that as an option for her to play with at home before she’d even shown an interest with it simply because she’s a girl. Similarly, I refuse to buy her toy hoovers, irons, kitchens etc., because these are ALL targeted at girls! Come on people, we are a progressive society, why should my daughter be restricted to playing with these toys which basically just reinforce the idea that only girls can do the cooking or the cleaning? IT’S 2019 FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, PUT SOME BOYS ON THE BOXES AND USE LESS PINK. Also I want her to have higher aspirations in life than spending all day doing the bleeding ironing.

Equally, if I’d had a boy, I wouldn’t have stocked my house full of action men. If he’d wanted a toy baby and pram, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia. If he’d wanted a football for the garden, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia.

So why oh why have I bought my daughter so many princess dresses, you ask? (SERIOUSLY she has like 20 of them!)

Well, because she wants them. At the age of 2 going on 12, she has decided that she LOVES dressing up, in particular, dressing up as a princess from any and all of her favourite Disney movies. She can be Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Elsa, Anna, Cinderella, Merida… Whoever she wants to be!

You may have seen Kiera Knightley talking about how she doesn’t want her daughter watching certain princess movies, and I’m minded to agree. I hate her watching Snow White (mostly because it’s boring, not gonna lie), but also, she watches Mulan and Brave and Tangled as much as she watches the others, and those are hella FEMINIST (way to go, Disney!)

The point is – I will never teach her to aspire to marry a prince, but by dressing up as whoever she wants to be, whoever her idols are at this phase in her life, I’m teaching her that she can be whatever she wants to be.

She loves dinosaurs equally as much as she loves princesses. Her favourite book is about a penguin who learns to swim by taking a brave leap of faith into a huge, scary ocean. Her second favourite book is about a witch and wizard becoming a dragon and a dinosaur and having a battle of who can have the best costume to a fancy dress party. Why would I stifle that imagination?

So, yes, I’m a feminist, and my daughter will grow up a feminist, knowing she can be whatever she wants to be, whether that’s a princess, a dinosaur, the Prime Minister, or a nurse.

What are your views on gender stereotyping? Do you try to actively avoid it in your home as well?

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