This morning, I was in the traffic behind a car with a rear window filled with Hello Kitty toys, teddy bears and dolls. Everything within, including the driver and her small passenger, was covered in pink, and a sugary pink decal proclaimed “Little Princess on Board”. Eeurgh, I thought. Now there’s someone doing her bit to set feminism back fifty years. And then I thought... maybe not.
Yes, like many of you, I’ve learned to hate the tide of pink cutesiness that seems destined to overwhelm our daughters. “Come,” the Marketing Monster drawls seductively, “Dress your little darling in this frothy rose creation. Won’t she look adorable?” And then, slightly more threateningly, “You won’t have a choice, because I decree you CAN’T BUY girls’ clothes in any other colour!”
I don’t have daughters, but I can see how it would drive you demented. Many of my friends, independent, cultured, creative women, are helpless in the irresistible tide of pink princessiness. Because it doesn’t matter what you say, what gorgeous alternatives you eventually manage to find in red or blue or purple, when she gets to nursery and her friends have bubblegum pink trainers that light up, you will lose the battle. And when her fourth birthday rolls around, she will beg and plead and weep for a Snow White, or Cinderella or Ariel outfit, and you will be forced to endure a Disney Princess party. With a castle cake. And a wand that lights up. Sorry.
Yes, we can rage and scream and argue. We can point out that the modern equivalent of a Disney princess waiting in a tower to be rescued is a WAG, and that we want more for our daughters than that. Or we can choose to look at it another way, and beat the Marketing Monster at his own game.
Firstly, it’s not the fault of the colour pink. It’s not my favourite hue either, but a colour does not a gender enslave. In fact, in Victorian times, boys were dressed in pink as it was considered a more regal colour, and girls were dressed in blue, to look more demure. It’s a modern advertising construct, not an irretrievable and tragic life choice. Pink will not make your daughter silly, won’t make her want to stay home baking with her plastic cookware or nursing dolls, and won’t make her shun an education. It’s just a colour, so get over it. Let her wear it if she wants to. I guarantee she won’t be seen dead in it when she’s 15 and going through her Death Metal/Emily Dickinson phase.
Secondly, let’s talk about being a princess. I think we’ve all got caught up in the negative implications of princessdom: the idea that princesses are pretty, passive creatures waiting for a prince on a white horse. That they’re spoiled and need looking after. What we forget is that a Princess is a young woman preparing to become a queen. And I’m thinking Cleopatra. Elizabeth I. Boudica.
Put aside your misgivings about hereditary monarchy, modern royals or male primogeniture. If our daughters aren’t just Disney-style princesses, they can be any kind of princess they like. They can claim all the best bits of being royal. After all, a princess is the heir to a great birthright.
So here’s my charter for modern princesses, for both little and grown up girls.
One monkey, one typewriter, seldom Hamlet.