It’s difficult to explain feminism to a seven-year old, mostly because she’s never known a time when women couldn’t do pretty much whatever they wanted to do.
As I read somewhere* around the time Elena Kagan was sworn in, women are finally moving past the era of firsts. The most remarkable thing about the appointment of a female Supreme Court Justice is that it wasn’t remarkable. Justice Kagan took her lumps ‘twixt appointment and oath, but not for her gender.**
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But there’s one area in which my kids hold remarkably . . . traditional views: princesses.
Princesses sit on thrones all day and wear jewelry and nail polish. Princesses wear fancy clothes and go to balls. They wear glass slippers and shoes my three-year old calls ‘heel-highs.’ They have tea parties all day long.
They might fight dragons and save the day, too, but at the end of it, they go back to their off-shoulder gowns and have, or so I’m told, private fashion shows and elegant dinners. Because that’s who princesses are—fundamentally pink.
But Jane Yolen (yes, that Jane Yolen^^), Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Anne-Sophie Lanquetin may have the solution.
These princesses play sports. They farm. They build things. They secure their crowns on top of their bike helmets with tape. They wear hand-me downs. They hip-hop in overalls, with and without princes. They get the job done.
From the first lines, my kids were captured:
Not all princesses dress in pink.
Some play in bright red socks that stink,
blue team jerseys that don’t quite fit,
accessorized with a baseball mitt,
and a sparkly crown.
“And princesses can be tomboys,” I said. “Princesses can be anyone they want to be.”
“Can they wear pink, too?” asked my three-year old.
“Yes, and sparkly crowns” I said. “But it isn’t required. Princesses don’t have to be or act any certain way, just because they’re princesses.” Wisely, I shut up here—my kids can sense lectures like they sense fear and weakening parental objections.
“Hmmm . . .” said my seven-year old. “Read it again.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
*If you know who wrote this, let me know, please.
**Though she was castigated by some for her weight, because the all-knowing BMI is apparently a better measure of intelligence than attending Harvard Law School, teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, being a Congressional advisor, becoming the first female dean of Harvard, and being Solicitor General. I think this says a lot more about the IQ of some people than of anything else. Sheesh.
***”Was the paper bag pink, Mommy?” asked my three-year old.
^I tell this one out of memory, since my Dad has the only copy I’ve ever seen: Cinder Erma got herself to the royal ball, etc., but then found that she had nothing in common with the prince and was absolutely bored with being a princess. So she left, opened a shop, and eventually married the man who owned the bookstore next door.
^^If you don’t know why she’s that Jane Yolen, you’ve got some catching up to do.