While we have studiously avoided as much as possible the Disnefycation of womanhood in our household, it still sneaks its way in through the cracks in our armor. If we are at a friend’s house, Rowan gravitates towards the costume trunks, the fairytale pumpkins, the tiaras. He has dubbed me Princess Snow White, himself Princess Cinderella, and Isaac Princess Rosebud. Rachel, crafty crafty Rachel, has managed to get away with the nickname Alice in Wonderland, even though Alice is technically not a Princess. “Oh, Princess Rosebud,” Rowan will say to Isaac, “do you want to build a fort? Do you need your blanket?” And it’s all very sweet. In a saccharine sort of way.
I mean, on the one hand, I am all for gender atypical play. And so, part of me feels that when Rowan and Isaac gleefully don tutus and run around waving magic wands, I should encourage them.
On the other hand, I mean, princesses. Come on. Disney princesses. If my sons are going to run around waving anything that represents my take on ideal womanhood, it would likely be a sign saying, “Pro-child, pro-choice!” or “When can I vote on your marriage?”
So this little cartoon — combining as it does princesses and critique — made me happy.
Happy, but not hopeful. At least, not in the immediate term. Rowan, thus far, is impervious to societal critique, has an absolutely deaf ear for our earnest political explanations. Take Santa Claus, for example: no matter how many times we explain that jolly old St. Nick is simply a nice story that other people tell their children about the holiday, that nobody — repeat, nobody — is going to come down our chimney and leave presents for him, he’s like that dog in that Gary Larson cartoon who hears only her name, only in this case, substitute “presents” for “Ginger.”
Similarly, we keep having talks with him about the fact that we won’t shop at a certain retailer (whose name rhymes with smashmortion, I mean Gallmart) because it treats its workers badly, particularly its female workers. It makes lots and lots of money and yet won’t pay them very much or give them benefits. Rowan listens to all this, and then says, “But can’t we buy Bakugans there? Even if they’re not nice to womens? They have the big case of Bakugans. Please?”
When Rowan asks me if I want to play princesses, then, it’s always a bit of a quandary. Sure, I’ll play princesses, but can we be princesses building a house? Princesses reading books or, I don’t know, going on a peace march?
“It’s just that princesses are only important to some people because they’re pretty,” I’ll try to explain to him. “And women are important for lots of reasons: because they’re smart, and creative, and have ideas and make things and change the world.”
“But Princess Snow White,” he says to me, twining his fingers through my hair, “you’re pretty.”
Leaving me about as speechless as Ariel, the little mermaid.