Letters from Home

Disney Princesses Have Ruined the Color Pink

Being politically motivated and standing up for my beliefs had an interesting side effect of making it difficult to choose a straw for my iced tea this morning.

At my favorite locally owned coffeehouse, I purchased organic tea in a recyclable cup. Being the artful sort, I paused as I reached toward the cup of colorful straws, deciding which color would best go with the shade of my peach-tea.

I froze.

The aesthetics of my heart wanted the pink straw. But in my mind, visions of Sleeping Beauty Aurora, helpless in eternal slumber, popped up. My brain stopped me.

The pink straw was the correct straw, aesthetically. But apparently my disdain for the prevailing social meaning of PINK was trying to override what the heart wanted.

For a moment, I became on of those crazy mumblers (fully acceptable at locally owned coffeehouses, natch) and heard myself say:

“Well, I just going to take the pink because none of the girls are here to force me to choose it.”

The little girls will do that. They have been force-fed the Disney pink — and all that it implies — since they were big enough to prop up in front of a DVD/TV combo.

The Princess Bride Price

The cost of princess-ifying our girls is heavy. As writer Kristy Quist notes, “It’s an identity based on image alone…Pint-sized princesses are adorable, and at best, this is fun, imaginative play. At its worst, it distorts a natural appetite for beauty and becomes an exercise in narcissism and materialism.”

Millions upon millions of girls worship the beauty, the gowns, the singing voices of the Disney Princesses. The machine that is Disney have created a factory of Dasmels in Distress — some who read, some who perhaps even carry a sword, but all who are, in the end, just pretty, anorexic and waiting to be rescued.

The psychology of that is real. We might as well be saying: what you say doesn’t matter, but the sheen of your hair and the size of your waist does.

Encouraging them to be “princesses” tells them you believe it too, that GIRLS ARE INVISIBLE TO THE WORLD. Girls don’t matter. Girls are objects. Girls expire at 40.

What I want to say is this: If you even look a little bit, you can’t help but be sick, sad, and terrified for the future of girls.

Sigh. All this, for want of a  pink straw to match my peach tea.

“Maybe if I act like that (do like this), that guy will call me back
Porno Paparazzi girl, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl
Baby if I act like that (Oh, Oh-Oh, Do you think?), flipping my blond hair back (Do you think?)
Push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl (Yeah, yeah)”

‘Stupid Girl’ by PINK

24 thoughts on “Disney Princesses Have Ruined the Color Pink

  1. You’re so preaching to the choir here, girl.( http://grundlepod.blogspot.com/2007/08/dea-ex-machina.htm ) I grew up in the 1950s, the quintessential big square peg that would not fit into the neat little round hole that was the only option I was offered, despite 15 years of serious hammering. Disney’s Princesses are nothing but the Marilyn Monroes and Jayne Mansfields of the 19580’s crash dieted to loose 50 pounds, liposuctioned, given a heavy dose of Doris Day, and a G rated fashion makeover. The Jesuits (who brought us the Inquisition and the ever popular witch hunts) have a saying, “Give me the boy until the age of 7 and I will give you the man.” Disney’s merchandizing machine has taken that saying to heart. By the time our little girls are 7 years old, they have been thoroughly brainwashed by Disney’s recycled 1950’s mores and morality. It’s one thing to teach boys to believe that patriarchy is “God’s way” and that women are naturally inferior, second class beings who need to be kept tightly under their male relatives control (for their own good!), that a woman’s place is either flat on her back or in the kitchen, and that they should be beautiful, brainless, subservient, disenfranchised, and silent — if they know what’s good for’em. But as you have pointed out, Disney takes it one step further by getting our little girls to believe it about themselfs. That, to me, is unconscionable.

    What I want to know is, if we’ve come such a long way, baby, why are you still calling me “baby?”

  2. This has been a fascinating conversation, or read in my case. There were so many things I wanted to comment on or add too but I can’t really remember now :-0
    One important point I want to get out: if you think Disney princess culture is bad check out what rock stars and celebrities (and parents) are doing to children! This video is not for the weak of heart as it shows a little girl and boy bumping and grinding doggie style and more. At least in this version, only two kids are doing it. On Tosh.0 recently he played a similar video in which a BUNCH of kids were dancing nasty just like this. http://kidkameleon.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/omg-little-kids-dancing-nasty-in-a-video-where-are-the-parents-2/

  3. Hi Elizabeth!

    I think I’m going to come at this from a different angle than you might expect. Pink isn’t a problem for me. In fact, I kind of love pink. And I don’t have a problem with princesses, either…

    I think there’s power in our femininity – and not just from our sexuality. I think there’s an inherent strength in embracing what’s been stereotyped while redefining everything the stereotype stands for. (@lori, love the paper bag princess!)

    My reaction to all things pink might come from having just barely been conscious of the 80s and later having enjoyed the Disney princess movies before the current commercial onslaught occurred…

    How I feel about pink & the general concept of “princess,” doesn’t change for a minute, however, the nausea I feel when I see a baseball glove covered in Disney Princesses. That’s just not right.

    1. Tara, I feel just the same way you do. It’s my point that we can’t give our girls that same experience of Snow White that we had. I came up in a time when having A GLOVE was a great thing. Now the pressures to have brands and project a type of image are enormous.

      This is really an internal reflection on my love for pink. I love it, but I was noticing my reaction when I suddenly wanted something pink. It went beyond the aesthetic and became a politically and socially motivated choice.

      Similar to your reaction to the princess glove! (-:

  4. There is a T-shirt by the makers of Mario Brothers Nintendo games with a blond princess on it that says, “I rescue myself”
    When doing comparative racial studies I found that fewer African American girls have low social self esteem and anorexia as compared to white girls.

  5. Have you read The Paper Bag Princess? My Elizabeth asked for a royal birthday party this year and I got a copy of this book for each family on the guest list. The princess in the story (whose name is Elizabeth) learns that her prince is not at all the guy for her if all he wants is someone who looks pretty all the time. She actually rescues him from a dragon that she has out-smarted, too! It was the only way I could, in good conscience, have a ‘princess party’ for my daughter. Bring on the pink!

    1. Lori, I just read Lisa’s comment, and reading this, my immediate reaction is still “eewwww, princess!” even though in my mind I know I need to allow space for the girls to love that sort of thing. Thanks for the recommendation. Incidentally, I also despise the movie “Cars” for the same reason, on the boys side of the argument. I think I just prefer irony, and these kinds of films ignore that. Our kids are smart enough to understand it, so why not encourage it? Like the use of the Barbie and Ken characters in Toy Story 3?

      1. I had the same reaction when Elizabeth asked for a princess party and we steered her toward a “royal” party, full of castle characters instead. She’s all about pink and purple and sparkly everything these days. But, on the flip side, most of her best friends are boys and they all like to dig in the mud and hunt for bugs together.

        We’re not a typical household, as we don’t have cable or satellite, so my kids have little to no exposure to commercials and Disney shows. Instead, it’s good old PBS for them. I think their perception of princesses is a little different than most other kids their ages. For example, they have red and blue ren. faire princess costumes instead of Disney princess costumes.

        I also love irony and look for new twists on ‘classic’ fairy tales and avoid the Disney ones. My kids are not into the Barbie thing, either. Although I played with them as a kid and was a complete tomboy anyway, I still spent five years starving myself to the point of passing out at school. Not the image or life choice I want for my daughters.

  6. If we let them think that being a princess means only those things, then yes, we are setting them up to fall down. If we give princess in moderation and equally provide other ideas and activities AND discuss how being a strong person and a princess can co-exist, then pink is a color that many little girls love, the end. If we make too much of a big deal about it then it becomes a big deal.

    1. My yoga teacher said that too. Her mom espoused my feelings and in the end, she kind of rebelled and wanted all the princess stuff BECAUSE her mom wouldn’t let her have any. But that doesn’t preclude continually talking about why “princesses” are not ideal role models. Pink is lovely, obviously. I’m talking about what it has come to represent.

  7. I’ve long thought that there are sub-species within our own. I don’t relate to the vain, shallow and decorative woman. My femininity of strength, intelligence, nurturing, curiosity, and good humor bears little resemblance to the hair flipping, “pink” wearing, nail-salon, glamour magazine woman. But we do those women a disservice by not looking beyond their glossy made-up surface, and the world does US a disservice by ignoring, misunderstanding or mis-seeing us. I prefer the Viking warrior competent model of femininity. It takes a much more confident and intelligent man to appreciate this, but I wouldn’t want to waste my time with a shallow man who measured me by my hair length or bust size. It does take all kinds to make the world go ’round.
    We have Title 9, showing girls that their play is as important as any other. We have women serving in the armed forces. We have a President who values women and their contributions and has made appointments to the Supreme Court. We have women clergy.
    I’m not going to whine or feel inferior to the “pretty girls”. There is pressure to conform, but not every girl gives in to it. If they choose that path, it’s who they are inside. But if I want pink, I’ll take pink. It’s always a choice. It doesn’t have to define you.

    1. Lisa, obviously you know I agree mostly. But what are we SELLING these girls if we let the social culture of “pink” prevail? The conversations have to arise otherwise the effects spread and they equal longterm inequalities and the diminishment of women overall (hence no healthcare coverage in the U.S. because “mothering” is not considered a real job” for example).

      1. Pink girls frequently come from pink parents , but a girl’s inner personality and preferences aren’t solely the reflection of their upbringing. There are girly girls whose parents encouraged broader interests. There are tomboys whose parents encouraged frilly femininity. We need to respect the differences and choices of the girls themselves. To overcome blind following of advertisement driven social trends, we should allow girls to be who they are inside and encourage them to be confident decision makers. As far as inequality and the subjugation of women goes, teaching young women (regardless of their frilliness or lack thereof) to speak up for themselves and not back down from what they want or believe in will go further than quashing a girls desire for pink and what it’s come to mean. Conversation in homes, schools and in the media would help girls see their choices, but they inevitably need to make those choices themselves. Men should never make those decisions for us though.

        Pink is also used to assert power over weak willed men. It’s used to intimidate women with weaker self esteem. It can be used to excuse one’s self from responsibility, abdicating decision making to others. Pink is complicated. But it’s a pretty color, and we shouldn’t automatically imbue it with evil intent.

        As far as the media and social culture goes, if no one is buying it they couldn’t sell it. We can’t expect everyone to feel the same way, even if we think the world would be better if they did. (Somewhere a “pink” woman is wishing we’d just stop getting our Victoria’s Secrets in a bunch. They don’t want to be cool like us.)

  8. Pink has been used to symbolize weakness for as long as I can remember. No boy would EVER choose pink for his favorite color or he was considered a queer. U of Iowa’s Carver Hawkeye Arena even painted the opposing team locker room pink to demoralize their opponents.

    1. The gay culture has embraced the color pink, too. So if you like pink you are either a “princess” (object waiting to be rescued) or a “queen”?

      1. Unfortunately, that seems to be the general mentality. Of course, the general public is mostly ignorant and will believe just about anything.

        I was just thinking the best use of “pink” in advertising is probably the Susan G. Komen foundation’s pink ribbon. It symbolizes a group of people who you might say were “waiting to be rescued”, but instead chose to fight for their lives. My mother-in-law actually had the pink ribbon tattooed on her leg to show her support for the cause.

  9. You make an excellent point. It has long been the way of society to force feed certain notions into our minds without considering the real ramifications of it and I say BRAVO. Whatever it takes to make more women want to look much prettier to my eyes is pretty much a win win situation. With the added benefits of stunting the girl’s self esteem and confidence it’s almost impossible not to get behind. I say “Good Show” Disney!! So where’s my beer?

    1. Clint, send me your snail mail and I’ll send you your beer. Oh an don’t be concerned if it smells a bit like fertilizer. It’s a REALLY NICE new microbrew I found called “The Bomb.”

    1. Great site Jess… I’ve not seen that before. They are on Facebook and recently got Sainsbury (they are British based) to re-label dress up clothes as unisex.

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