Princess Power does not equal Girl Power. Actually, it seems to be Girl Power's Doppelgänger.
I know that little girls like princesses. All things princess. Or more exactly, all things Disney princess. But I have only ever seen it in small doses during playdates. This past weekend everything changed. I witnessed a Princess Party in which "Cinderella" was the guest of honor. This alone was sad because I thought the five-year-old birthday girl should have been the guest of honor at her own party. But she was out-shined by the tall demure blondie in a blue hoop skirt.
While I found Cinderella's show mildly amusing, I mostly felt disheartened by the commercialism. Instead of being uplifted by the spirit of dress-up and make-believe, I was disgusted by the commercialism. And I was annoyed at her overall message of love and helplessness and marriage. She started her show by asking the birthday girl if she was married (reinforcing that if you're not, then you're nothing--even at five).
At one point, Cinderella engaged the enthusiastic group of girls (my two boys were glued to the window watching tee-ball practice outside) in a game involving a red heart-shaped balloon. I imagine she asked for help blowing it up because it would have been unladylike to blow it up herself. While music played, the game was to pretend that the heart balloon was your very own lovesick heart beating--thump, thump, thump--before passing it to the next girl. If the music stopped while you held the heart, then you won a princess ring. I was actually surprised that their gowns weren't shredded back to rags as they clamored for that balloon (each girl showed up to the party in her very own replica of Cinderella's dress).
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for love and marriage. And yes, when I was a little girl, we had princesses. We had Cinderella and Snow White and Smurfette. But we also had Princess Leia. She was bad-ass and her main objective was kicking intergalactic butt, not getting married. And she was far from helpless.
I cannot help but wonder what this kind of reinforcement of helplessness and dependency does to little girls. Women already have a tough time being unmarried in today's society. I know that this is all supposed to be in the name of pretend and make-believe, but we need more princesses who can blow up their own balloons, drive their own coaches, ask guys to dance, and who are not always agreeable for the sake of keeping things status quo.