When I had my first daughter, I decided that I would never buy her Disney Princess merchandise. No movies or cheap plastic crap perpetuating the ideas that 1. When life blows, only a man can make things better by resuscitating you from a coma (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty); 2. It's OK to run away from your parents if they don't like your boyfriend (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin); and 3. Inter-species sex is appropriate and encouraged (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast).
I didn't have princess toys as a kid. I had a brother -- no sisters -- and was raised with Lego Space Station, Matchbox cars and Star Wars figurines. So my daughter and I spent a lovely couple of years playing with trucks, books, instruments and blocks. Then she turned two. Every single gift she received at her birthday party was Disney Princess folderol. I watched with dismay as she received crowns, magic wands, dolls and rash-inducing synthetic nightgowns.
Then she opened her last gift. It was a huge, clear Disney Princess plastic teapot. Inside the teapot was an entire pink and purple tea set. I snatched it out of her hands.
"A tea set!" I shrieked, "And it's so pretty! Ooh, look at it!" Each plate had a different Disney Princess on it. They stared up at me out of their plastic teapot home. It's impossible to resist us, their biologically-impossible gigantic eyeballs told me. I gazed longingly at the cups and spoons. Who knew pink and purple could come in so many magnificent shades?
"Tea parties!" I cried, clapping my hands. "We can have tea parties! With these pretty, pretty princesses! And your baby sister can join us! You have a sister to play with!"
Later that evening, I blamed my behavior on a formaldehyde-induced high from all the imported plastic she received for her birthday. I needed to stick to my guns and get rid of the tea set. But I didn't want to get rid of it! Ariel and I had set up a standing lunch date! Maybe a little bit of Disney Princess stuff wouldn't be so bad. I'd just tell her how ridiculous the stories were.
So I told her how Snow White was a complete moron and that no woman would ever break into a house belonging to a passel of men just so she could have the pleasure of cleaning it.
"Was Sleeping Beauty a moron for touching the spindle?" my daughter asked.
"Good question," I said, "Sleeping Beauty was in a trance. She didn't have full possession of her faculties, so we may have to excuse her on this one."
"What about Cinderella?" she asked.
"She was weak. She should never have let her stepmother boss her around," I said, "She could have run away and become a maid and at least got paid. Remember, you can always go get a job. You don't have to wait for a man to save you. This princess business is bogus."
Never mind that my daughters were fully decked out in Belle dresses, shoes and crowns while we had this conversation. And I may or may not have been wearing Ariel's wedding veil and holding a scepter. But I was making a point! My daughters would be independent women.
Five years later, my middle daughter asked me how old she was going to be when she got married. "You choose when you want to get married," I told her, "And you don't even have to marry at all."
"I do need to get married," she told me, "Or else I'll have to go live at the Abbey."
"Yeah. You know. With Sister Margaretta."
"Are you talking about The Sound of Music?"
"Yeah. The one with the beer-drinking puppets."
"You won't live at an Abbey if you don't get married!" I told her.
"Tell that to the Reverend Mother," she answered sadly.
I hurried upstairs to my oldest daughter's room, "Do you think you need to get married?" I asked her.
"Yes," she answered.
"Because I don't want to be a nun!"
Damn you, Sound of Music. All this time, I held Disney responsible for making girls feel like life is incomplete without some heroic man. And it was really Maria von Trapp, with her nunny temptress ways and singing goats, who was to blame.