I love this article about Princess culture and patriotism from the El Paso Times by Kate Feuille. It starts with the author mulling over her abandoned application for the Daughters of the American Revolution after spying a t-shirt on a girl that said, ""Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." Turns out the quote is from a speech Franklin Delano Roosevelt made before the DAR in 1938 (though the First Lady resigned her membership from the group a year later when it refused to allow Marian Anderson, who is African American, to sing at Constitution Hall). Feuille goes on to write that she was struck not only by the t-shirt but by how odd it was to see it at all:
I've grown so used to seeing girls in head-to-toe glitter that seeing one bearing a political message startled me. I have been fuming over the princess-ization of our daughters ever since the arrival of 14 princess-themed birthday invitations in one week.
In America, we don't have princesses, I lecture, when my daughter asked to decorate her bedroom in Disney. Your ancestors came to this country to escape the oppression of divine right, primogeniture, and other accidents of birth.
At Ella's kindergarten graduation the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. It befuddled me that the girl who replied "cat" got uproarious laughter while the "princess" response was met with abject approval.
When I'm calmer, I can take the time to tell Ella what we have in America in lieu of the princess. We have heroines like Sacajawea,
and Margaret Corbin, who defended Fort Washington alongside her husband and became the first woman to receive a military pension, and Francita Alavez, "The Angel of Goliad," whose actions saved many lives during the Texas Revolution. Not to mention the countless women, whose names are lost to all but their own kin, who quilted and cooked and doctored their families in harsh conditions across the country. Women whose skills ensured the survival of settlements that have grown into the shining cities we have today.
I understand that the princess story is appealing to the little girl in all of us. I got up early and watched Kate Middleton walk down the aisle and into the history books, too. ("She's wearing flats under that dress," I whispered to my daughter. "Real princesses don't wear slutty shoes.")
So it doesn't really matter what you put on the walls or if your daughter is carrying a "Sleeping Beauty" lunchbox to school. What matters is what we tell them about America, about women, about their history, and their future.
At our house we complement Grimm's Fairy Tales with "Little House on the Prairie" and Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series, based on the author's childhood in the turn-of-the-century Midwest. I show my daughter fading photographs of her great-great-grandmothers and tell her stories about the one who stitched the fraying quilt on her bed.
I tell my daughter, this is America. We don't do princesses.
Enjoy your holiday.