Every morning for quite some time now my daughter leaps from her toddler bed declaring, “I want to dress like a ballerina today!” I’m still a little hazy on what constitutes dressing like a ballerina. Almost always it means stockings and some sort of skirt or dress. But often leggings (ballet pants, to use her term) will do.
We live, breathe and yes, even eat ballerina.
“Is this a ballerina breakfast?” she asks regarding her Puffins with a certain scrutiny.
Of course, Sweet-ums. Eat up.
And then I raise my coffee mug in silent celebration for we are embarking on a new day where ballerinas rule the roost and The Princesses are nowhere to be seen.
Call me the wicked witch. Or an evil (step-)mother, I don’t care. I’m just not comfortable with The Princesses. You know the ones I mean. That smug sorority whose sweetheart-encircled visages grace everything from backpacks to t-shirts to sneakers, stickers and even toilet seats. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter has seen them. How could she miss them? When she does, she says, “Oh look Mommy, there’s Barbie!” She seems mildly interested, and I know the gentlest push in that direction would send her careening over the edge and I’ll be serving Cinderella breakfasts from here to kindergarten.
And it is their very omnipresence that irks me. Disney figured out quickly how profitable this princess thing could be, and I simply don’t want my daughter drinking the punch for their benefit. And I do believe Disney has its bottom line in mind more than my child’s best interests when it makes its decision to send off another purchase order to China for more princess-emblazoned junk.
And what am I really denying her? I think Peggy Ornestein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture,” put it best when she wrote in a NYTimes.com column that we are living in “…a marketing and childhood culture that encourages girls in an unprecedented way from an unprecedentedly young age to define themselves through appearance and play-sexiness, that defines femininity through materialism and narcissism.” Go forth, buy and be pretty.
So we are a Disney Princess-free household. And I must say, at first, the ballerina thing sort of surprised me. Not that she cottoned to ballerinas. More the tenor of her passion. I mean it runs deep. And it’s this glimpse into her psyche that tells me how primed she is for the type of marketing Disney does. I used to solely blame Disney for both lighting and fanning the flames of the princess obsession. But as it turns out a lot of preschool girls already like to play with fire, especially if it’s pretty and pink and sparkly.
And Disney has capitalized on this susceptibility—on preschoolers’ part as well as their parents desire to satisfy them—to the tune of a $4 billion dollar a year business. So, in the end, I don’t feel like I’m denying my daughter anything except the opportunity to be an easy target for one of the world’s most finely honed marketing machines.
So for the time being it’s all ballerina all the time here. And I like that ballerinas are real (yes, I know princesses are real too and that even a commoner can become one). Furthermore, dance is a creative act, and it takes hard work and commitment to become a dancer. And I do realize that her focus isn’t on all that so much as it is on the frill and froth and fantasy of ballerinas. But I can sign her up for dance class. And we can watch excerpts from classic ballets on YouTube. There’s so much more to work with than plastic tiaras. And should the princess obsession take hold, despite my best efforts, I plan on sitting her in front of a documentary about the Windsors. That ought to take care of that.