Over the past week, there’s a good chance you might have come across a few articles about Disney’s Princess Week, which will be coming to an end as you read this. At first, I thought, what a fun idea, my daughter would have loved this, but the more the concept of this girl-centric occasion rolled around in my mind, the more I started to realize that a similarly structured presentation aimed at our princes would have been something my son would have loved, too. The only problem is, there isn’t one. I started to consider that the divide between our little Princesses and Princes is beginning to widen.
This will be a sticky subject, but I am hoping for the best that our little community can keep it together when thinking this one through.
What am I talking about? Well, let’s start from the beginning. I grew up at the height of the girl-power movement, an age when we were all told that with equality and fairness, we could all be anything we wanted to be, regardless of our gender or socio-economic standing. Your future was dependent on you and your hard work (true or not, that was the line). Fast-forward to my early working years when I hit that proverbial glass ceiling. Despite what they told us as children, it was still alive and well in some settings; though never was it driven by my male peers; it was something they actively worked against alongside my female friends, joining us in the push for equality. It was an unspoken argument not between each other but with an older generation that didn’t understand what we wanted to achieve.
As my children have grown, I have made a special effort to prepare them for an equal world. Both my son and daughter know that their gender does not dictate their place in society, not for themselves nor each other. But while the world seems to rally around our girls, emotionally lifting them up to the highest heights to make up for lost time, I can’t help but wonder if it is coming at the cost of our sons and the value of their own self-worth.
I’ve noticed over the years that Disney, in particular, has a habit of celebrating young girls and their potential — a sentiment that I will never disagree with — but without acknowledging our young boys. I am struggling to see equality. Now, I know many arguments can be inserted here, and to be honest, I’m not really looking for any of them. This article is just a simple observation from one Mum (yep, in Aussie, we are Mums) wondering what lesson we are teaching our children when we celebrate one gender over the other. Isn’t this actually the opposite of the message we are trying to promote in equality and fairness amongst kids who don’t know differently yet anyway? It feels to me like what our grandparents were faced with in reverse.
I wish we could see a parallel World Prince Week celebrating our young gentleman being raised to support and help grow an equal society. Something that showcases the brilliant minds of both women and men of the future, fueled by mutual respect that we as parents fostered in them. The struggle is indeed real for some women as we move forward in working for equality, but that can’t be achieved by holding back a younger generation of boys that had no hand in this imbalance in the first place. Should our young boys have to pay for such injustice of the past anymore than our girls have to endure it? The answer is, of course not, on both accounts. So, why are we celebrating the uplifting of young ladies and not equally fostering the same for their male siblings?
I want to see these bright, educated, respectful boys being recognized alongside their female counterparts. I want our children to grow up seeing that their future is together, respecting each other as individuals, not categorized by gender, even when under the guise of celebration. You might be thinking this is an over-reaction, and perhaps it is, but it has been coming for some time now. You might recall my mentioning the lack of options for dress-ups for boys in the parks on a few occasions. A few years ago on a trip to Disneyland, my daughter had her pick of any number of costumes to buy from the park; my son was only offered one. A Star Wars Stormtrooper, a concept my (then) young boy had never even heard of. This shift in balance started some time ago.
I’m all for raising young women as the next cohort of successful females entering the adult world, and I love some of the female-centric celebrations that Disney has developed. I just don’t want those exciting festivities to be withheld from our boys who have never had any hand in sexism or the wrongs of society we are trying to right. If we wouldn’t dare promote a week of commemoration that was only for boys, why exclude them from the latter? Let’s see Royalty Week that spotlights all the incredible, positive traits of our heroic princesses alongside their beloved and respectful, handsome equals. Or, Family Week, shining some light on those family characters that work together to achieve their goals, like the Incredibles or the family seen in Toy Story, working with the theory that everyone has their own individual strengths to contribute.
To put it bluntly, between Princess Week and Dream Big Princess, I’m kind of over it. Our children will only see what we show them, making the idea of leading by example more prevalent than ever. Let’s give that special attention to all of our kids instead of this intense focus on the girls’ marketing.
One thing I do want to say about Princess Week, for those of you that didn’t watch the videos on the Disney Princess YouTube channel, I am absolutely in love with the sign language interpreters on the sides; one, two, and sometimes three people signing for each person speaking in the scene. What an incredibly inclusive move that should be commended and appreciated no matter the context of this article.
Before commenting, please consider that I share this with you with an open heart, free from judgment. Just one side of an observation that I welcome your thoughts on. To reiterate for those in the back, I love the concept of Princess Week; with the videos and effort that went into it, the result is fabulous, just not sold on the overall idea being limited to only our Princesses.