Below is a commentary from Pat Hughes, a featured speaker with the Illinois Opportunity Project.
I’ve always wanted my kids to grow up slowly. My daughter Katherine seems more than willing to comply. She’s 10 ½ and still plays with dolls. Our basement is filled with dolls, and they occupy as much of her time as school and sports and sleep will allow. They act as set pieces from her imagination. Play actors for her dreams.I think it’s great. I want her to squeeze out every ounce of her childhood. She can grow up later. Besides, what’s the hurry? She’ll get there eventually, and when she does, there will be no turning back.Sometimes, even still, I’ll overhear her playing when she doesn’t think anyone can hear. But just for a minute. I don’t want to intrude. Just long enough to reflect on how good life can be. Both hers and mine.
When she started, she loved the original Disney princesses. Her favorite was Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes, after playing for awhile, she would lie on the couch in full gown and tiara pretending to be asleep. I would come kiss her. Then, she would quickly flutter her eyelids, fake “where am I” confusion, and finally offer a big, mostly toothless, smile.
But time beckons. Eventually she took an interest in the more modern princesses and began to aspire to their virtues. Armor she would need to enter an adult world replete with heartache, loss, and unmet expectations. She wanted to be smart like Belle, curious like Ariel, and fierce like Mulan. Soon those qualities began emerging in her and my role, a victim of necessity, diminished.
And that’s why I’ve always loved the princesses. Taken together, they’ve helped teach my daughter not just how to slay dragons when they inevitably cross her path, but to nurture others and allow herself to be loved.
There are those who feel, feminists of both genders especially, that the princesses have little value. All of them to some extent, but especially the original ones, promote a misogynistic ideal focused on beauty, submissiveness and patriarchal gender roles. Progress requires rejecting them in total. A girl can, should and must be her own Prince Charming.
Left to these people, my daughter’s days in the basement would be deconstructed and then devalued, replaced by cynicism at the service of someone else’s misguided political agenda. An agenda based only on pseudo-intellectualism and gender fealty. An agenda devoid of the faith that leads us to the inescapable reality of the human condition.
A reality so universal and so obvious, that even a little girl who plays with dolls knows it to be true: the poison is strong and real…and so we all need to be saved. By kindness, by friendship, by God. By a kiss – from someone who loves us – just in the nick of time. Those of us who don’t think so, most of all.