My husband calls me an extreme feminist, he does so because he comes from a very conservative family but when it comes to raising our daughter there are many things we agree on. We do not call our daughter a princess and we try to not let princess movies become an obsession.
I read an article years ago, years before I became a mother, about Disney Princesses and how they can have an effect on little girls.
The exact article I read then I was not able to find but this article from Fortune speaks of a study done by Brigham Young University. The study researches boys and girls that have watched princess movies, like the well-known Disney movies such as Cinderella, Snow White, etc.
They found that girls that watch princess media are more likely to follow stereotypically female roles.
The study was conducted by Sarah Coyne and she states ““We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can’t do some things. They’re not as confident that they can do well in math and science. They don’t like getting dirty, so they’re less likely to try and experiment with things.”
The effects also have a strong effect on their body image and self-esteem.
The extreme effects this can cause is an actual, diagnosable psychological disorder called Princess Syndrome.
What is Princess Syndrome?
An article from Psychology Today states:
“A girl who suffers from PS lives life as a fairy-tale: focusing only on the pretty things, putting herself as the center of the universe, and obsessing about her looks (even if she’s only headed to the playground). While this can be fun and whimsical when a girl is a toddler, it can also set the tone for how she develops into a young woman, influencing her self-esteem, her dependence on others, how she takes care of herself and how empowered she feels in her life.”
So how do we avoid this princess syndrome while raising our daughters?
Teach her to Speak Up, encourage assertiveness.
Bossy is still a negative attribute put on girls for simply being assertive. Encourage your daughter to speak her mind, encourage her to stand up for herself and to not be afraid to talk about how she feels.
Encourage her to play sports if she wants to.
This can mean also encouraging her by example. It’s okay if, you do not like sports, but be active, exercise, let her join in and encourage her to join team sports.
Mix up her toys, movies, activities, etc.
Encourage girls to play with typically “boy” toys. Teach girls that they can play with whatever toys they want as well as boys can do the same. You do not have to discourage “girl” toys, like dolls, kitchens, princesses, but mix it up. Try to make sure they are well rounded in their activities, toys, movies, etc.
Redefine what a princess is.
Show your daughter strong, confident, and outspoken princesses. Have them watch Moana, Brave, Mulan, Princess and the Frog, and Pocahontas. Point out the differences in these princesses. Talk to them about how they are outspoken, strong, independent, and how those are wonderful qualities for girls to have.
Let your daughter choose for herself and give her gender neutral choices
When girls are given gifts regularly that are all “girly” they tend not to know the difference. Give your daughter choices and be okay with their choice despite any gender stereotypes. I’ve seen this on Facebook many times and it is the epitome of what I’m saying. It’s okay if your daughter loves pink, when truly given a choice between all the colors, but if they are only given shades of pink to choose from then we are steering their decision.
Display a lot of enthusiasm about your daughters choices no matter their gender stereotypes
Praise your daughter’s love for dinosaurs, their love for baseball, their love for cars. Help them realize it’s okay to love those things.
Praise your daughter for what she does and who she is, not just how she looks
Find other ways to praise/compliment your daughter that have nothing to do with looks. This can include…
- You’re such a good listener.
- I love how passionate you are about _______.
- You’re intelligent.
- You’re so funny.
- I love your dreams. (Compliment her ambition)
- You’re so brave.
- You’re so kind.
Do not comment on your own body in front of your daughter.
Like anything, parenting comes a lot from leading by example. One very important way this is important for your daughter is when teaching body positivity. Do not put down your own looks or body in front of your daughter. Show your daughter you love your body.
Fathers, don’t comment on women’s appearances, weight, or other physical characteristics around your daughters either.
Leading by example also goes for fathers. Dads do not comment on other women’s appearance, weight, or other physical characteristics around your daughter. If they see it’s an interest, especially when spoken about negatively, by their father they’ll understand that same negativity from other men.
Discuss the differences between TV and reality. Discuss gender stereotypes in toys, commercials, stores, shows, movies, etc.
I’ve always been firm in my beliefs about not censoring too much with my children. I will not get upset when they learn bad words, or about sex, or about aggression from friends, movies, tv, etc. Why? Because all of those instances cannot be completely protected against. We cannot hold our children away from society to protect them, actually doing so is more harmful, however, what we can do is discuss with them what they’ve seen. Teach them that women in movies are often passive but that doesn’t mean they have to be in real life. Explain to them the differences between movies, tv, and reality. Talk to them about everything that comes up and do not let them simply learn from outside sources.
How do you try to stay gender neutral with your child?
Great Gender Neutral Toys: