In praise of princesses

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Warning, warning, warning: personal opinion ahead!

A recent piece in Slate by David Auerbach made me very angry:

When my 4-year-old told me the other day that she was “ready for princesses,” part of me died. Not just because the day had finally arrived when that virulent meme had infected her, but also because of how utterly powerless I was to contain it. Let me be clear: These weren’t progressive princesses … This kind of princess forced my programmer wife and me to do what we swore we’d never do to our child, which is deny our daughter a book….

Just what we need: another sanctimonious parent teaching another girl that her own feelings are worthless, that femininity is incompatible with ambition, and girls are inferior to boys.

To understand what I mean, imagine a parent uttering the following:

When my 4-year-old told me the other day that he was “ready for firetrucks,” part of me died. Not just because the day had finally arrived when that virulent meme had infected him, but also because of how utterly powerless I was to contain it. Let me be clear: These weren’t progressive fire prevention technologists; they weren’t white collar professionals who invent flame retardant fabrics or teach materials engineering at MIT. These are blue collar firemen, lacking a college education, and downwardly mobile compared to my programmer wife and me, and that forced us to do what we swore we’d never do to our child, which is deny our son a book.

When you picked yourself off the floor where you’d fallen from laughing so hard, you’d probably point out a few facts of life to me: 1. a four year old’s interest in firemen does not mean that he will become a fireman as an adult (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It does not mean that he is imbibing the message that a college education is not needed to get a good job. It does not mean that he is learning to value physical strength over intellectual achievement.

It means nothing. Lots of little boys are fascinated with firemen, claim to want to be firemen when they grow up, and it never amounts to anything, because 4 year olds grow and change, learn a great deal more about the world and themselves, and generally leave childhood ambitions behind.

What’s the difference between the little boy who loves firemen and the little girl who loves princesses? The little boy’s preferences are masculine and that’s A-ok; the little girl’s preferences are feminine and that’s disappointing and must be stopped. Perhaps even more importantly, the little boy’s preferences are seen as authentic, but the little girl can’t be trusted to know her own little four year old mind. His desires are trustworthy; hers are the product of a “virulent meme.”

Why do so many progressives insist that women and girls are disproportionately afflicted with false consciousness? Why are they teaching women and girls not to trust their own desires, to suppress their wishes and to reject their femininity as incompatible with approved accomplishments like being a programmer (nothing against programmers; my eldest son and my daughter-in-law are both programmers)?

I have news for progressive parents: There’s nothing wrong with princesses. There’s nothing wrong with dresses. There’s nothing wrong with pink. It’s an age appropriate phase for 4 year old girls. If you hadn’t noticed, they’re different from 4 year old boys, NOT inferior, different, and those differences should be respected, NOT dismissed as the product of indoctrination, or, worse, inferior to the preferences of 4 year old boys.

Why is that most 4 year old sons of programmers who yearn to be firemen don’t end up as firemen? Because they imbibe the values of their parents that higher education is admired by their parents and considered necessary for a fullfilling life and a renumerative career. The fireman ambition was just a phase, not a trajectory.

The same thing applies to 4 year old girls and princesses. They too imbibe the values of their parents about education, about the respect that should be accorded to women, about the relative roles of husband and wife within their family, about their parents’ views on the limits or lack of limits on a girl’s ambition. The princess ambition is just a phase, not a trajectory.

The prospects facing women in industrialized countries are better than they have been in the past, but are still limited by less pay for equal work, gender discrimation and harrassment, lack of access to reproductive control options and other systemic failures. None of it is in any way related to 4 year old girls who love princesses.

We should be teaching our daughters that femininity is perfectly compatible with ambition and achievement. Banning princesses teaches the opposite, that femininity should be a source of shame, that they can’t trust their own feelings, and that making daddy and mommy look good to their progressive peers is more important than following your dreams wherever they may take you.

  • Dee

    As a child, my parents always emphasized the importance of me being a smart, grounded girl.
    As a person who suffered from low self esteem and lack of self confidence, despite the fact that my grades at school were always great, I wish they would tell me every now and then that I was a pretty, cute, attractive girl and they’d encourage the interaction with my peers and development of new friendships. In fact I always felt very lonely and invisible.

    At times I felt that hiding behind my boy overalls, my short hair and my clumsy manners was the easy way out.

    Behaving like a cute girly girl would mean attracting other people’s attention or admiration; so this would entail the unnecessary hassle of making my parents worry that my mind was focusing on boys and not my studies. Suppressing my feminity was a big part of my adolescent years and part of the reason I resented those years so much. Why can’t parents celebrate not only a girl’s brains, but their social needs too… Feeling attractive should never be something one should be made to feel uncomfortable of guilty about.

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  • Chaps

    The thing is, we’re not raising our kids in a vacuum. Women are valed for their appearance less for their achievements, and when they’re valued for achievements, it’s at a 30% deficit. Pic don’t have research in front of me, but on all sorts of metrics, girls are likely to feel worse about themselves DUE to appearance… Perhaps because the bar was set unrealistically ‘high’ by very white, very blonde princesses. Sure, allowing your girl to play princess doesn’t necessitate low self worth, but jeez, an entire industry, an entire culture reinforcing a message in a million different ways can have an impact. And parents may not be entirely effective at balancing that message.
    My three year old likes princesses and I’m not 100% censuring that, but I am limiting her exposure pretty heavily because princesses are no more organic and harmless than toy guns or too much screen time or eating a diet of entirely fried foods. My job is actually to make these decisions and balance my kids exposure to the values in our world with the values of her family.

    Why is this a ‘progressive’ thing?

    • Stacy48918

      So you believe that your children should only be allowed to make decision YOU approve of?

      That’s what this post is about – letting your children, boys AND girls, choose their own interests, even if it’s something YOU don’t approve of. Doesn’t mean you can’t expose them to ALL possible options, but if when you do your daughter still chooses princesses and your son still chooses trucks, why do you discourage that choice? Would you limit your son’s exposure to trucks the same way you limit your daughter’s exposure to princesses?

      • Chaps

        I would limit my boy’s exposure to toy guns, swords, or any ‘tough guy’ play because I believe raising boys to be humans who believe their role is to me ‘tough’ limits them rather allows them to explore their whole selves. I don’t associate trucks with boys, but don’t find them to be limiting. Any ‘girl’ toy that limits my daughter’s role is a problem.
        That said, we have a toy kitchen, dolls, strollers etc, because parenting and cooking are gender less in my household (my husband is a SAH parent, I work from home 80%), and I don’t think she’s been exposed to strong gendered roles in parenting(she’s 3). The princess meme doesn’t provide a strong role model for either gender and prizes beauty rather than work/accomplishment and it exists in a larger cultural landscape that possibly feeds into unhealthy attitudes among girls and women.
        So the question for me is Why would I encourage it?
        If your answer is that my daughter is choosing it, so I shouldn’t dissuade her, I guess I think two things: 1) she will choose many harmful things that I will push back on (hotdogs for dinner Every Day!) and 2) her choice wasn’t made organically, she didn’t come up with the idea outside of a larger culture that will ultimately value her less than her brother. I don’t plan to reinforce that at all.
        If you are, say a Christian, do you limit your kids (not teens, little kids) exposure to things that you think are truly anti Christian? How is that different? We live our values at home in the choices

        • Trixie

          Dude, she’s 3.
          If you had a boy, you could limit guns and swords, but most (not all!) little boys will pretty instinctively pick up a stick and try to start whacking stuff with it. I found it was easier and safer to toss him a few foam swords.

          • Elizabeth A

            Know what I love about toy guns? They enable a physically active game with no physical contact. So much safer than pretend wrestling.

            We have a lot of conversations about guns, and insist on certain safety rules even with nerf weaponry.

        • Stacy48918

          When I was a Christian, yes I did limit my children’s exposure to the outside world. And that was WRONG.

          Eating hotdogs every day has negative health effects. Prancing around in a tutu and princess crown at 3 didn’t prevent me from being high school valedictorian, magna cum laude from college, and a doctor of veterinary medicine.

          You are still forcing her to make non-organic decisions – YOUR decisions. Let HER make HER decisions. If I present both options and let my children know that they’re ALWAYS free to make their OWN choices, I wholeheartedly believe they will turn out A-OK.

          • Chaps

            I don’t necessarily think that a tutu will prevent her from being a valedictorian or a vet, or a doctor or an architect or an engineer. Especially when, while prancing around in said tutu, she’s playing with the many building toys, reading the books, and going to the excellent preschool we’ve chosen.
            I do worry that a heavy focus on her appearance will effect her self esteem, feed into poor decision-making, undermine her self worth. There seems to be some evidence in the social science field that this can happen to girls as they become women, and anecdotally, I know many smart, accomplished girls who felt devalued when they were older, and many of them were too focused and rewarded on their appearance. Can I blame a tutu? Of course not. Do I believe the princess cultural meme is part of a larger problem that rewards little girls for the superficial? Yes, I do. With that believe (that I realize it not shared by all

          • Stacy48918

            I guess the point is that, the only focus I see on your daughter’s appearance at the moment…is yours.

          • Chaps

            Nice. Way to attack me in what I thought was a fairly civil discussion.
            Look I’m a sociologist not a vet, so I suppose my focus on social influences is to be expected. But I’ll bring my cats to you when I need advice.

          • Stacy48918

            It wasn’t meant as an attack, simply an observation. Your daughter is *3* and you’re basing her lifelong self-worth on whether she wants to wear a princess dress today.

            YOUR reply definitely was a personal attack though.

            Since you brought up the Christian thing, I have an apt comparison in my household now. I am going through a divorce, my husband is a Christian nutjob (no, really). I don’t like when my son asks to watch Veggie Tales, but if he wants to I don’t deny him. What I do do is offer OTHER sources of entertainment as well. He’ll figure it out on his own eventually. I recognize that the little choices he makes at 5 years old will not define him for his lifetime.

          • Dr Kitty

            My kiddo came up with a cheer.

            “What’s better than being beautiful?
            Being good!
            What’s better than being pretty?
            Being smart!
            What’s better than being popular?
            Being nice!”

            She’s perfectly capable of performing it in a princess dress while sporting a black eye from rough housing with her cousins.

          • Chaps

            Having problems with the ipad on this site…
            With that believe, I have some latitude as a parent to decide what, and to what degree, influences we have in our home. I don’t think being invested in protecting her mental health is any less important than her physical health (with above hot dog comparison).
            And yes, she’s 3. Things will change and I will be flexible, and so will she. So we’ll see.
            But my main concern with this argument is the idea that when a child makes a choice is somehow is a natural manifestation of her character or self moreso than another shoe of the overriding g culture we live in. But when a parent makes a choice for the kid, it’s a negative, punishing, denial of childhood. I’m new to the parenting gig, but it seems to me it’s kind of my job to make some choices on her behalf, especially if I’m looking out for her long-term best interest…

  • Francesca Violi

    I agree that femininity is perfectly compatible with ambition etc. Nevertheless, I think the firemen truck example is not completely fair: in fact boys get to be told by advertising, games, books, pop culture etc.. that they can be firemen, but also scientists, superheroes, policemen, aircraft pilots, explorers, architects, engineers, computer coders, sportsmen and whatever. Instead girls are sold much more limited identities, mostly revolving aroun the ideas of princessitude that is prettiness, make up, fashion, leisure, house decorating, etc. Let’s say boys are shown they can have the red of firemen trucks, but also virtually any other colour, whereas girs can choose between princess pink and purple. Of course I don’t think the solution is banning pink, or shaming a girl for linking pink: the solution is offfering all other colours for girls to choose to and saying boys they can choose pink as well. As resources are limited, I myself would prefer to buy my daughter a book which goes more on the direction to provide her with a broader horizon and not reinforcing the stereotypes she is already bombed with on tv, at school etc.

    • Wren

      I do get what you are saying, but as a mother of a 9 year old boy and a 7 year old girl I don’t think it’s quite that way. If anything, sometimes it seems like my son’s life choices and likes are more prescribed than my daughter’s. Girls can be tomboys, but boys don’t have the option of being, for lack of another term, “girlish”. My girl happens to be very “girly”, loving pink and dresses and princesses. However, she still plays football (soccer) on an otherwise all-boy team and plays with boys at school almost as much as she plays with girls. She falls somewhere in the middle of the girls she knows as far as “girliness”. My son is very typical boy, loving football, Legos and Minecraft. While his sister is free to say she loves all of those too (and she does) the social consequences of him declaring a love for or even an interest in “girl” things are fairly severe. He even asked me to pretend he hated “Frozen” in front of his friends recently, despite the fact he knows every song by heart and chose an Olaf toy on a recent trip to Disneyworld.

      • Francesca Violi

        Yes, I see your point: it’s ok for girls to watch the Pixar movie Up, which has only male charachters in it, but if a boys likes Frozen… Male is universal (though if a girls likes action, she is called a tom-boy), female is for females only. Yet I think this is a face of the same problem, that is, the assumption, (now more heavily than ever exploited for marketing purposes) that there are activities and interests natural to boys and others, natural to girls: the latter ended up being a pink ghetto of princesses, beauty, fashion, shopping, pets, cupcakes. You just look at the Lego Friends series: a small ghetto separated by the huge Lego world inhabited by 99% male knights, builders, train engineers, policemen, firemen, astronauts, ninjas… Yes, I think it is natural that a child looks for a character of his/her own gender to identify with, but when a girl looks for one, today, she finds really few choices – princess, fashionista, fairy, popstar..? So perhaps many of tem do like princesses sincerely, but also because they don’t have so many choices, is what I say.

        • Wren

          I’m not a huge Barbie fan, but that doll has held dozens of jobs. It’s difficult to find a professional field she hasn’t been involved in, and while wearing pink. I do agree that there are way too many pink/purple toys out there for girls, but if you look at wardrobe choices it’s girls who have nearly every colour while boys are largely restricted to blue, browns and greens, with the occasional red and orange thrown in.
          Female scientists or knights may be rare, but my son wants to be a teacher (this week) and I cannot think of a single toy we have owned or seen with a male teacher figure. There is a female in the Ninjago series by Lego, and most superhero groups have at least one. The token female thing doesn’t thrill me, but it is there.
          As for princesses, yes it is stereotypically female but I think fire fighters are the wrong comparison. the princess thing is better compared to superheroes, at least for the vast majority of girls who will never be and never really expect to be princesses. Those girls are playing Cinderella, not Kate Middleton. No one worries that little boys playing Spiderman and Iron Man will face any negative effects later in life.

          • Francesca Violi

            Let me make it clear, I don’t think playing princess will damage a girl, as playing superghero will not damage a boy. I just wander: did the girl have the same variety of choices to pick from that the boy had? I don’t know in the USA, but as for Italy, as a mother of 2 boys and a girl, after years of exposure to toys, kids channels, advertising, clothes, websites, videogames, movies and their merchandising, books, and even school books, I kind of doubt it.

          • Wren

            I haven’t lived in the US since well before I had children, but here in the UK I guess it all depends on how you choose to view it. Disney, for example, provides many more choices for girls, especially if you exclude the fairly recently acquired Marvel characters. Without those, boys over the age of about 6 barely exist. If one chooses to lump all the various princesses and fairies into a single category, then they don’t have much for girls either, but the stores are overwhelmingly stocked with girl items over boy items.

            I don’t deny that Lego really should increase their female figures or that personally I dislike the Lego Friends sets and I certainly don’t deny that men and women are still not treated equally. I just fail to see princesses as either a cause for the inequity or as limiting girls choices in some way.

          • ” but if you look at wardrobe choices it’s girls who have nearly every colour”

            You haven’t set foot in a store in decades, yeah? Because nearly every time I have occasion to be in a clothing-type store, the girls’ clothes are awash in pinks and purples and white.

            Boys’ clothes run the whole spectrum of colours!

          • Mishimoo

            I wish the mainstream clothing store boys clothes had more prints and more leggings. The girls section at Target (over here, at least) is pretty good colourwise, but I tend to raid the boy’s section for practical shirts. Also, it would be nice to be able to find shorts in my kids sizes that have mid-thigh length legs on them, instead of them either being cut like slightly-oversized undies (girls section) or knee-length (boys section).

          • FormerPhysicist

            I hate to say it, but last summer Walmart had girls’ shorts in good selection in 3 lengths. I think it was 5″, 7″ and 10″. Short, mid-thigh, and almost knee.

          • Mishimoo

            Oh, that’s awesome! We don’t have Walmart here, but I finally found some nice shorts at Costco.

            (Also, I am so glad that Costco expanded to Australia, it is such an awesome store.)

          • Wren

            I have a 7 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, both of whom are growing out of clothes faster than I can buy new ones. I wish I hadn’t set foot in a store for decades, or at least a couple of months.

            Our school ran a rainbow day, where kids were supposed to dress in as many colours as possible. The girls won for every class. My daughter has plenty of pink and purple, by choice, but also every other colour I can think of in her wardrobe. My son, not so much. His favourite colour is purple, but the number of purple choices for boys is limited.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “sometimes it seems like my son’s life choices and likes are more prescribed than my daughter’s.”

        …but…

        “she still plays football (soccer) on an otherwise all-boy team”

        When girls continue in situations where they are the only one on otherwise all-male teams (whether sports teams, engineering teams, or political teams) we know that it is actually the girls’ choices that are more prescribed.

        • Wren

          Or it means that fewer girls in her year at our school choose to play football (in part because a very popular dance class runs at the same time as football training). Her brother’s team has 2 girls (of the 9 kids on the team) and often plays teams with more girls. 3 of their regular opponents have more girls than boys. However, the next year the girls split into their own league.
          My daughter has chosen to remain on an otherwise all male team because they are well established in the league with lots of matches. Both her school and a local team have recently established girls training sessions for her age range, largely to enable those girls who have little experience to move into teams with kids who have played from 4 or 5.

        • Wren

          In addition to football, my daughter takes both a dance and a gymnastics class that are all girls. If my son chose to join those, he would be the only boy. Does that make boys’ choices more prescribed? For that matter, her Brownie group is all girls, but his Cub Scout pack does include girls.

          • Francesca Violi

            Both boys’ and girls’ choices get limited by sheer genderization of interests and activities. I have the same problem with my kids! My daughter takes ballet class, open to both boys and girls but it’s only girls who enroled. I offered to my younger son to go too, but he wouldn’t give it a try: maybe it is just not his thing, but I know it is also because he would be the only boy, and everytime we go to pick his sister he sees only girls in pink tutus, so despite what I can tell him he already learned to consider ballet a girls thing. On the other hand, my older son is playing rugby, and my daughter would like to try that too, but she would be the only girl in her age-group team… I’m sure the kids do genuinely enjoy their ballet/rugby, but I think the choice was also based on cultural bias that mud and physical contact is fitted for boys and graceful elegant movements for girls.

  • Emily

    Heck Yes! I get a lot of flack from my family for letting our little girl play with dolls and pink stuff. She likes pink stuff. She likes dolls. They give me grief for calling her ‘princess’ and every time I say she is ‘pretty’ they chime in ‘and how SMART!’ and then I get chided for calling her pretty and attaching her self-worth to her appearance. Lol. 1) that’s not what I’m doing. 2) attaching her self-worth to her intellect can be just as damaging. If her self worth comes from anyplace other than her intrinsic worth as a human being she risks feeling unworthy of love if she fails a test or gets zits or something. I am rambling. Anyways. There are bigger things to worry about in parenting than whether or not your child is playing with (the horror!) girl toys.

  • Zornorph

    I’m coming to this late, but lots of ‘progressive’ parents would be just as horrified if their son was into Firemen as well, simply because they ‘reject gender stereotypes’ and would probably buy the poor boy a Barbie doll instead.

    • Wren

      I tried that approach. My kids ended up pretty gender stereotypical despite my attempts, though both know boys and girls can do pretty much all the same things except that boys find it easier to pee in the snow.

  • Cody

    I’m usually agree with a lot of what Dr. Amy says, but not all; however, I agree with this completely. It really bothers me that many people have decided that whatever we associate with being traditionally feminine is somehow inferior to the traditionally masculine.

    it’s okay for a generation of 4 year old boys to go everywhere dressed like spiderman, but donning a tiara or the colour pink is lesser? My mother and father were dead set against anything feminine when I was growing up and I don’t feel like I’m any less, or more messed up than my barbie toting peers.

    I also think that making such a big deal out of this issue is going to drive your child straight towards princess gear. If you don’t like the princess stuff, then the worst thing you do is ban it from your house. The focus should be on having a well rounded girl, who can wear a princess dress while she plays with her microscope. I believe the same is true for boys, let them dress up in a princess dress and play with dolls. Why are we teaching kids that girls have inferior interests?

  • JoannaDW

    It kind of reminds me of the push against “beautiful.” We shouldn’t tell little girls they are beautiful because then they’ll see themselves only as beautiful and nothing else, judge themselves and others for not being beautiful, etc. plus it is an insult to those girls that aren’t beautiful (who says?) and we don’t want to leave them out. Well, let’s take that to it’s natural conclusion And never compliment girls on anything ever. Don’t call them smart because then they’ll only see themselves as smart, judge themselves and other when they’re not smart, etc. and we wouldn’t want to insult little girls with mental retardation, would we? That actually was a major problem in my youth-being too I was smart and needed to be smart all the time. I had mental disabilities and developmental delays that went undiagnosed for years and when I got to middle and high school and couldn’t keep up with the demands to be smart anymore…the s*** hit the fan in a big way, resulting in behavioral problems and nearly dropping out of school completely.

    Just like being smart, being beautiful or handsome is a good thing as long as kids have the chance to be other things, and to be those things on their own terms. Also, being pretty, smart, a princess or a fireman doesn’t have to be stereotypical or destructive. There are lots of positive, healthy and creative ways to envision all these things and you can explore them with your child instead of telling them they aren’t, or are not allowed to be, certain things.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I disagree with you on this one. I do think there should be a push to stop talking about girls’ appearances. Boys get talked to about all sorts of things, but when people make small talk with girls and women it revolves around appearance either directly or indirectly (by talking about the appearance of her clothes). I went to my kid’s music concert last night and as the kids exited the stage and came into the auditorium after the performance, all the little girls got told “You look so pretty with your hair up so fancy” and “what cute boots”. The boys got told “Awesome concert” , “That bass is so cool” etc.

      • JoannaDW

        Like I said, as long as girls have the opportunity to be other things, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful, especially if you make the effort to challenge conventional notions of beauty and explore non conventional ones. Obviously, that is not happening in your situation, but the fault does not lie with beauty or it’s expression or appreciation, it lies with people doing it wrong. And also, like I said, that same danger exists with all types of compliments, not just with those that center on the perceived beauty of women and girls. I just think it’s much ado about nothing.

        • JoannaDW

          Anyway, going back to the original topic, girls of all ages have a right to pursue their interests. The best a parent could do is take the opportunity to challenge destructive messages and replace them with positive ones. Talk about destructive beauty norms, the idea that women need to be saved by men, etc. but also talk about the positives, like princesses and queens that have held positions of power. Introduce princesses that are fat, of other races, with disabilities, but don’t tell them that they can’t admire Snow White or be the typical princess. Let them explore and find out for themselves.

        • fiftyfifty1

          ” I just think it’s much ado about nothing. ”
          I disagree. It’s more than just an isolated problem that “lies with people doing it wrong”. It’s an entire societal expectation and norm that girls receive constant feedback about their appearance while boys don’t.
          A couple of years ago I joined an eating disorders treatment team part time in addition to straight family medicine. When I was hired they told me that one part of their culture was that they didn’t make comments on appearance…not even saying “I like your outfit” or “cute boots”…not even with each other. At first I thought it was a bit weird and it made me a little uncomfortable. I realized how often I used a comment about appearance as an icebreaker. It’s just a “normal” part of talking to a girl/woman in our culture. But I rolled with it and eventually came to appreciate it. I’ve expanded it into my regular practice and now into real life. In the past I might see a 3 yo girl for a well visit and comment on her pretty shoes. But I never did this with boys, I asked about hobbies or favorite food or any variety of things. Now that I’m aware of it it really is shocking how we constantly police girls’ appearances with our “friendly comments” and how we encourage real accomplishment in our boys by enquiring about their studies/sports/hobbies/preferences.

    • Who?

      I struggle with praising personal attributes over which a child-or anyone-has no control. Beautiful is one (and yes, I know all our children are beautiful), smart is another. And as JDW points out, that can be pressure all on its own.

      Being hard working, putting in a good effort-whether at maths or hairbrushing-are much more praiseworthy than smart. Looking beautiful because you have put in the effort to dress nicely, brush the hair or whatever, great.

      All of which makes me sound like a scrooge but it’s worth thinking about.

  • Ardea

    And here, thank you. My youngest daughter likes pink things and sparkly things and pretty things and notices them on other women. “I like your earrings. I like your shoes.” Where she gets it, I don’t know. My older daughter is more of a tomboy and so am I. She can like pink all she wants. My husband on the other hand has really rigid notions about pink leftover from childhood (in the 1970s). His younger sister was/is like my youngest daughter. Unfortunately he and his older brother spent their whole life making fun of her to the point that in the wisdom of my older years, it is something I see as a fault in him. I want my almost-four year old to appreciate what she wants to appreciate, and be herself.

  • Eskimo

    Silly story: my 4 y/o son who is obsessed with Star Wars, cars and superheroes, pulled me aside the other day to tell me he had a secret but I couldn’t laugh.

    His secret: “I kinda like Frozen. But don’t. Tell anyone.”

    Aw buddy. He’s so cute.

  • Eskimo

    I. Love. You!!!!!

  • Isramommy

    Right on. I read the Slate article and was frankly pissed off by it. I felt sorry for the author’s daughter, but also annoyed by the fact that the author was denigrating something that my own daughter and many other little girls genuinely like and are interested in. I think my daughter’s feelings are just as worthy as those of my bus-and-truck obsessed son. There’s nothing wrong with being a girl, and anyway the more modern princesses are lot more active than their 1950’s predecessors.

  • HolyWowBatman

    My four year old daughter skipped right over princesses and has her sights set on being a queen because, in her estimation, they are in charge and beautiful. I have to admit I like her style. 🙂

    • Ardea

      I think Olivia took that tack in one of the Olivia books, too.

  • My objection to the Princess phenomenon is that princesses — their entire role is to be pretty and snag a prince. No adventures. No rescuing princes (or princesses) of their own. Just sit there, be pretty, maybe give your prospective suitors an impossible task to win your hand, at least until Prince Charming or some random dude manages to solve the puzzle or do the impossible, get married, and then live happily ever after.

    Alternately, she’s there just as a living MacGuffin — something for the Big Bad to curse or steal or otherwise mess with so Prince Charming has something to do — and the story is, of course, really all about Charming’s adventures in rescuing the Princess and getting married (whether she wants to or not), and living happily ever after.

    It’s okay to enjoy Princess-themed entertainment, but I worry that children end up internalizing a lot of the gender-bias and restrictions presented in children’s literature.

    I’d love to see more books, shows, movies, and games — especially games — with female-identifying protagonists and chock-full of women who get out there and do stuff!

    • me

      Have you watched any of the more recent Disney princess movies? Yeah, most of them have ridiculous body proportions and are perhaps “too” pretty and I can see objecting to unrealistic standards wrt body image. BUT Mulan? She was just a living MacGuffin? Pocahontas? Heck, even in Frozen, Anna saves Elsa. Kristoff didn’t save the day; the “act of true love” that broke the spell was between the two sisters. Okay there is still room for improvement, but I find these movies my three girls are watching to be MUCH improved over what I grew up on. It is getting better.

      • Mulan is the exception that proves the rule.

        • Wren

          Actually, she isn’t. Check out Sofia the First, a new Disney princess aimed at the preschool set. Elsa and Anna do not fit the sit and wait for rescue mould. In Brave Merida chooses not to have a man and saves the day herself (after causing the problems). Even Rapunzel, who in old tales literally just sat and waited, doesn’t do that in Tangled. There are plenty of other Disney princesses who do more than Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950) and Aurora (1959).
          My daughter’s current favourite, along with most little girls, is Elsa. Elsa does not sit and wait for a man to rescue her.

    • GuestDoc

      Sort of agree, but consider: Kate
      Middleton (university grad, field hockey player, and sassy do-gooder),
      Mulan (a great warrior whose story predates Disney by centuries), resourceful Princess Nausicaa of Homer’s Odyssey, and, of
      course, the princesses of so many fantasy books that so many of us read as
      teenagers (from Eddings to Anthony to Herbert), and of course, save-the-day Eowyn from Tolkein. Girls have wanted to be princesses for a lot longer than Disney started painting beautiful passive (soon-to-be) princesses as a insipid waifs.

      • Kinda proving my point, there. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, notable precisely because they break the mold, but for the most part, princesses are portrayed as insipid waifs with no value beyond being pretty and available for marriage.

  • AmyP

    Yes, yes, yes!

    I have a 12-year-old daughter now and while she went right through the preschool 100%-pink-clothes-and-sparkly-fairy-wings stage like so many other girls, she’s on the other side of that right now and she is so done with it.

    Loving pink and princesses does not mean your daughter is going to grow up to be a showgirl or to dress like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. It’s usually just a stage. Let them enjoy it.

    • Sue

      Great point. I was one of two daughters who were dressed up in pink and frills for special occasions, but neither of us are excessively ”girlie” or submissive in adulthood.

    • sdsures

      My childhood bedroom was pink. Very pink.

  • CanDoc

    I. Love. This. (x100000.)
    Thank you.

  • sdsures

    Have you read the story of the dad who made his little girl Princess Darth Vader costume? http://offbeatfamilies.com/2011/09/darth-vader-princess-costume

    • Mishimoo

      I love that costume! One of my dear friends is going to wear something like it when we go to a convention together, and my husband is going to dress as Princess Batman. It will be awesome!

      • sdsures

        Who are you going as?

        • Mishimoo

          I’m not sure yet, because it’s going to be in September next year. I was running around as a Little Sister of the Immaculate Chainsaw (from the Simon R Green novels) a few weeks ago; was constantly mistaken for The Baroness (G.I Joe). I’m thinking of going as Abby Sciuto to the next one, but will probably wear something regal when Princesses Vader and Batman appear.

  • demodocus’ spouse

    A girl playing at princesses is only a problem if that’s her only option. My ex-stepfather once flatly stated, “But you’re a girl, of course you like pink.” Um, no. He’s also the one who encouraged my toddler brother to take my hotwheel cars. Because M is a boy. And I’m not. Never mind who was the appropriate age.
    I’m a little bothered by both the author’s desire to ban the princess books and their earlier decision never to ban any books. Hopefully he meant age/maturity level appropriate books. Some of my history books have very graphic pictures; they’re on a high shelf at the moment. Demodocus’ Baby already owns 3 Angelina Ballerina books and 2 Disney princess, though he prefers Eric Carle. Tomboy that I was, even I enjoyed a couple “girl” books. ‘Though my princess book was the classic A Little Princess.

  • Carolina

    Proof you haven’t been living with a pre-schooler for the last year. Frozen. Needs. To. Die.

    • Bugsy

      Hahahaha!

      We spent time during our trip to Disney this year chasing down an Elsa dress for our friend’s daughter. What a nutty fiasco that was! (They’re sold at Hollywood Studios, for what it’s worth…)

      • Smoochagator

        And Target and Wal-mart and online and Toys R Us…

        • Bugsy

          Lol, they only recently arrived in those stores up here in Canada. Moms in my moms’ groups were going to any length possible to locate dresses for their girls south of the border.

          • Smoochagator

            Ohhhh, yes, that makes sense. Sorry, I forget that sometimes the USA takes awhile to export its addictive pop culture 😉

        • Carolina

          For a while, they were almost impossible to find. It was the dark ages for Frozen-obsessed children.

          • Smoochagator

            Very sad… I see them EVERYWHERE here! (Virginia, USA) Luckily my girl isn’t into dress-up yet, though we DID buy Elsa & Anna plushy dolls for her Christmas present 😉

          • An Actual Attorney

            I know two different girls who were “Elsa borrowing Anna’s dress” for Halloween.

        • Mishimoo

          There are also patterns from McCalls, for the sewing parents.

      • Carolina

        My mother and I waited in line for 3 hours to enter a raffle to get my daughter a $70 Elsa dress. We succeeded 🙂 That is maternal love, right there.

    • Guesteleh

      A third of the girls at my son’s school dressed as Elsa for Halloween. It is nuts!

      • Dr Kitty

        As did one of the boys in my daughter’s class.

        • sdsures

          Excellent!

        • the wingless one

          My two year old son is obsessed with Frozen and princesses in general. We were at the Disney store and he was amazed by Elsa’s shoes.

      • carr528

        We watch the movie at least once a day. Gotta keep the three year old happy!

      • Ardea

        I love Elsa. I want to dress up as Elsa too. And I credit Elsa with expanding my youngest daughter’s palette of color choices: now she likes blue, too.

    • sdsures

      There is a sequel in the works.

      • anh

        Melted?

        • sdsures

          Sublimated?

          • Ardea

            Vaporized.

          • sdsures

            *has a giggle fit*

        • me

          Flooded. That’s usually what happens after a huge snow storm. Right?

    • araikwao

      Ha ha, we’ve only just started listening to the soundtrack (haven’t let our princess watch it yet as she’s a bit on the sensitive side), and Miss 5 is constantly singing from it. Even Master 2 sings his best, which at his current stage of speech development is “Leg it Doe”.

  • Ann

    I’m sure mister Auerbach will be happy to “mansplain” his decision to his daughter when she’s is old enough (in *his* opinion) to understand.

    He reminds me very much of the parents of some neighborhood kids I grew up with. They were children of a very vocal and agressively counter-culture couple a few houses up. It was a point of pride with them that they didn’t allow their children to have toys, or celebrate birthdays, nor the Holiday Season. This was because they “needed to be taught” to rise above the “societal hypocrisy and “materiality” that was all around them.

    You never saw two more miserable kids in your entire life. Both of them were out of that house and gone the minute they turned 18.

  • RKD314

    In some sense I agree with you, it seems to me that the real problem is not that there are princess toys available, but that sometimes it seems like “princess” is the only option. If this child was only discovering princess-themed play at the age of 4, it is probably safe to say that her parents are making sure that she knows that she can play with other toys if she wants. Having a choice is what’s important; the actual choice of what to play with should be made by the kid themselves!

    What I have a problem with is when people buy *only* pink things, or *only* princess things, or *only* “girl” things for a little girl of any age, regardless of her preferences. This effectively tells girls that “princess in pink” is the only acceptable way for them to be, these are the only acceptable preferences to have. And I think that this is a point that the article touches on. The writer of the piece talks about how many of the “for girls” toys options are more limiting in the type of play they encourage, and that the “girls” toys are kept distinctly separate from the “boys” ones in the store. This sends the message that the pink toys are only for girls, and the only toys that girls should play with.

    So, I think that that’s a wrong message to send. But I agree with you, that we have to be very careful not to send the opposite message, that pink/princess/feminine are somehow UNacceptable.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Yes.THIS. I am so sick of seeing toy sections or toystores with toys seperated into boys and girls. NOTHING is specifically a boys or girls toy. There is nothing wrong with a boy liking dolls, or crafts, or cooking or glitter or pink, or tutus or Frozen . There is nothing wrong with a girl liking cars, or robots, or videogames, or building, or pirates, or Star Wars or Zombies. But a lot of kids get from tv, movies, books, friends, teachers, other parents and our culture in general that THESE things are coded “boy” and THESE things are coded “girl” and if you don’t conform to expectations for your perceived gender there may be a price..(if you are a boy you don’t want to be called wussy, sissy or girly, cuz god forbid you be compared to a FEMALE)
      There is nothing wrong with ANY kid playing at being a princess, or an alien, or a racecar driver, or a firefighter, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a nurse or a programmer, or chef or a parent or president, or a truck driver.

      • Young CC Prof

        Is it just me, or were the toy stores LESS segregated a generation ago? I know that baby clothes weren’t sexed.

        • deafgimp

          Nope, you’re entirely correct. 50 years ago toys were much less made into strict gender roles than they are now, even though in real life the gender roles were more strict than they are now.

          • Roadstergal

            Interesting point. Backlash?

        • Deborah

          Baby clothes weren’t sexed because most of the people didn’t know the sex until after the baby was born.

      • sdsures

        At our local Tesco, Lego is on the “boys’ aisle”. Drives me nuts.

    • demodocus’ spouse

      When we wandered into the local target to buy newborn onsies last year, they had a rack of them. On one side several shades of brown, blue, and green, as well as grey, white, and a bit of red. The other had cotton candy pink, purple, white, and cotton candy pink. (gender neutrals were on the end cap) It struck me as odd that the “boys” side was more colorful than the “girls” side.

  • Gretta

    I think it’s pretty much ok for kids to play whatever they want… I mean it’s just kid play. They’ re just trying to learn about the world and try new things. It’s pretty sad to ban a certain form of pretending from a four year old. Are you kidding me? Controlling much? I really don’t encourage or discourage my kids from playing anything (unless it’s dangerous)… I just encourage them to play….and if they want a book we darn well go get it… Because hello reading is one thing I encourage.

  • Anna T

    My daughters love princesses and fairies, Lego and other construction games, fancy dresses with lots of pink and glitter, rummaging through Daddy’s toolbox, cooking and baking, climbing trees, embroidery and bead work, and of course, animals! I pity the little girl who gets the message that being herself is somehow an educational failure.

    • anon non

      My friend was not allowed to enjoy anything feminine growing up. It seriously has messed with her head, and she’s just now in her late 40s feeling ok with exploring “feminine” past times and hobbies. It’s terrible for a woman to be made to feel it’s wrong to indulge in things like crafts because it’s “what women do.” It’s really rare for a man or boy being made to feel like shit because he wants to play with cars, and she was made to feel shitty because she wanted to do crafts or play horses or dolls

      • Mishimoo

        I would ask if she’s me, but I lucked out and began exploring my femininity in my 20s with support from my friends and chosen family. Otherwise, I had something similar: an unhealthy load of misogyny from both of my parents and my dad’s friends simply because of my gender. I’ve ‘failed’ them by choosing to be a stay-at-home mum and figuring out what I enjoy.

      • Anka

        This sounds like me. In my case, it was also that my mother (who had some undiagnosed but relevant and very likely personality disorders) hated her mother (ditto), who was ultrafeminine, so my mother decided that femininity was disgusting and threatening and our house would be a femininity-free zone, and that any interest in femininity on her daughters’ part as children was abusive (we were “abusing” her, that is). It was basically 70’s-era feminism distorted by my mother’s psychological issues. I was on an eternal campaign as a kid to wear dresses and read fairy tales with romance in them and play with dolls, and my obsession with being a “princess” reinforced my role as the family scapegoat. I did my best to explore my femininity once I left my parents’ house, but even so, I didn’t learn some things that I had desperately wanted to do growing up (like sewing and knitting and baking, or proper makeup application) until I hit my 30’s. I still have to fight my own idea that I’m doing something massively transgressive and shallow and unpleasant when I’m doing anything associated with femininity.

  • Amazed

    I was a princess admirer for quite a while. Then, I moved to admirer of real princesses in history (thanks, Dad, for telling me episodes of our history as a bedtime fairytale.) I even dragged my brother into being interested as well. Ah the curse of the younger child…

    I am still very much a princessy girl in that one of my favourite books to translate are the historical ones – and nowadays, they tend to be written from the PoV of princesses and queens. The interest my dad inpired in me about history and mythology never faded – I got a related degree, as I said, I love translating such books… Thanks again, Dad! You could show Mr Auerbach some of the unintended consequences of actually paying attention to your little girl WITHOUT going into a full panic mode.

    Oh, and brother? He’s a lawyer now. All this time of playing princesses and princes with me doesn’t seem to have twisted him beyond repair. Much. Or so I think.

    • guestS

      Well, he is a lawyer…

      • Amazed

        But an evil one, not a gentle princessy one.

  • MaineJen

    My little girl loves princesses, fancy dresses and ballerinas. She is also tough, scrappy and strong, a natural optimist, a natural athlete, and a sweet and loving human being. My son loves legos, firetrucks and robots; he also likes me to paint his finger- and toenails sometimes, is a fierce and tenacious competitor, also a natural athlete, and loves playacting and crafts.

    They are whole human beings; already at 3 and 5, they have some interests that are stereotypical to their gender, and some that aren’t. And that’s okay! It’s okay for them to like what they like. Sheesh.

  • KarenJJ

    I love this post. This has put into words how I feel about my kids likes and dislikes and letting them work out what they like and what they want. I want my children to be a reflection of how they are raised – thoughtful, considerate, passionate, interested, questioning etc – not a reflection of my own particular choices in life. I was not a princessy girl, but my kids have princess things (both my boy and girl have fairy wands) and I’ve no interest in denying them.

  • Driving280

    I was a seriously princessy girl when I was growing up. At four, at seven and probably a little later too. Didn’t stop me from going to Harvard and now becoming the main breadwinner in our family.

  • ForgetfulGuest

    It’s another one of those privileged middle-class problems IMO – “we don’t have any major issues in our little bubble, so let’s create some new ones and fret about little girls wanting to be princesses!” – completely forgetting that feminism was always supposed to be about choice, and that discouraging and disparaging femininity is deeply anti-feminist in itself.

    (And as you say, there are still plenty of issues facing women… but this is probably not one of them.)

    My daughter is one of those girly girls – always has been. I don’t know where she got it from – not from me, that’s for sure – in fact I always made an effort to avoid the typical gendered toys, clothes and all that, and I’ve always been very non-girly myself – my choice! I’ve really had to resist getting sucked into feeling like a feminist failure for allowing her to be that girly girl. Now I sometimes wish I was more girly myself as it would give us something to bond over (fortunately we have plenty of other common interests). Taking a step back from all of that made me realise that the pendulum may be starting to swing the other way a bit too much, as per your example.

  • SF Mom & Psychologist

    My 2-year-old daughter loves girly-girl stuff – princesses and all. When she tells me she wants to be a princess, I usually say this:
    “OK, you can be the princess. But you might want to consider being the queen. The queen is really the boss – the princess is often just married off for political advantage.”
    Sometimes she sticks with princess, sometimes she chooses queen and says: “Now I’m the boss!”

    • Mishimoo

      I was informed that I can’t be the king because I’m a girl by Miss 8, which lead to some silly footstomping (on my part) about how if I want to be the king, I most certainly can be. Which lead into a discussion about Hatshepsut; I am so grateful for history nerd kids.

    • Kelly

      I always tell my daughter that if she is a princess that I am the Queen and my husband is the King. I also have to convince her that her sister would also be a princess. She is not too happy about that one.

      • KarenJJ

        My daughter once told me that girls could be nurses but not doctors. I was alarmed and completely baffled by that one and we sorted that out when we next visited her (female) GP.

        • Samantha06

          When I was in grade school, girls were not expected to do well in Math and Science. Those were considered “male” subjects and the teachers gave preferential treatment to the boys!

          • In my high school days [early 60s], my [male] teacher for second year algebra made no secret of the fact that he thought it was too difficult for girls, and gave every girl an automatic pass grade.

            Which was great for me, because I really am terrible at math!

            Have to confess I have benefited greatly, over the years from the cooking and sewing classes that were compulsory for girls, but would have liked to have also had wood and electric shop, which only boys took, since I’m married to a man who cannot figure out how to even change a light bulb.

          • Samantha06

            I understand! I was in grade school in the sixties and being a nurse was “expected.” But I would have loved to have taken some of the traditional “boy” subjects too. I love WW II books and documentaries, and anything to do with rockets and the space program! Maybe that’s because I was raised between two brothers and I was exposed to all that while I was growing up.

          • Amazed

            Oh traditions! Boy subjects and girl subjects! I remember the day I came home to my boyfriend cooking… with my kitchen gloves on. He wasn’t that great at cooking to start with and the gloves adden another layer of difficulty. But he braved the challenges of the kitchen bravely. “Why are you wearing them?” I asked. I simply couldn’t think of anything else. Turned out that he did because, well, he saw that I did when I was doing real cooking. He thought it was all part of the process. That was how much he knew about cooking. I burst out laughing and showed him my patently polished nails… and his totally unpolished ones.

            Poor guy was lucky, though. This pair of gloves was one that was actually a little big on me, so it was just a little small on him. No way would he been able to navigate a carrot, a knife, and my usual gloves!

          • KarenJJ

            My husband did a compulsory cooking class at his high school. He learnt some great recipes that we still cook.

          • Samantha06

            Love that story! Did you marry him?

          • Amazed

            No. With time, we drifted apart. Last I heard, he was still ready to do some cooking for his new lady. Him being lazy at home wasn’t one of our problems!

          • Mishimoo

            I married a mechanic – he can change lightbulbs, he maintains the cars and mows the lawn, but I do the rest of the ‘manly’ chores because I enjoy them and I’m better at them. Woodwork classes and spending most of my childhood helping out in a workshop and with renovations definitely gave me those skills. He is awesome at doing the laundry, vacuuming, and emptying the dishwasher (and I really appreciate him doing those things)

          • He will be welcome in my house any time

          • KarenJJ

            My daughter is only 5, so I was surprised to see that attitude still around. No idea where that came from – certainly not at our house (we’re both engineers – so I did plenty of “boy” subjects).

          • sdsures

            Grrr!

        • CanDoc

          Unlike my five-year-old son, who believes that all doctors are girls (myself, our friends the optometrist and dentist) and all nurses are boys (our neighbours and the boys’ uncle). 😉 I’m still not entirely sure he believes me that he can choose to be a nurse OR a doctor.

  • Allie P

    I like this vision of princesses: http://www.princess-awesome.com/blog/a-ruler-by-any-other-name-/

    Also, the children’s book Part Time Princess is amazing.

  • OBPI Mom

    I LOVE THIS! And agree 100%… I loved princesses, then I hated them and loved anything “boyish” for 4 years, then I wanted to become a beautician, then I wanted to be a doctor, then a journalist, then a wife and mom…. I am SOOOO thankful that my parents never forced anything and never said “no” to any of it because it was too girly or too boyish, etc. Kids go through phases and they will do what they are passionate about. If my daughter is passionate for years about tea parties and princesses, good for her! If she’s not, I’ll buy her a Dr. Quinn-style medicine bag and a prairie skirt and love that phase too (thanks, Mom, for that best thrift store gift ever!)…

    • toofargone

      I loved Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

  • Guesteleh

    I sort of agree with the author in that I have a serious problem with Disney princesses and the lesson that your worth is dependent on your ability to attract and hold onto the prince. And yeah, Belle is a bookworm and Mulan saves China, but that’s a sideshow to the romance main event. I loves me a pretty dress and jewelry and makeup, but I don’t love a lot of the retrograde messages that Disney shovels out there.

    • Who?

      I’m informed (by my son who watched Frozen with his friend’s three year old) that it pushes against the princess theme of earlier films.

      • Mishimoo

        I really enjoyed the “You think you love him? But you’ve only just met, aren’t you being a bit hasty?!” point that they kept making.

        • Who?

          Yes he mentioned that. My children never cease to surprise me.

        • KarenJJ

          I adored that “love song” when Anna and that loser guy were singing about how much they had in common but it really highlighted how little they knew about it other.

    • mollyb

      I don’t know. The desire to fall in love, to love and be loved is typically one of the largest portions of our emotional lives in general. Most of our stories in general, adult, child, classical, modern, what have you are about love. I work with the elderly and reflecting back on their lives, their wives and husbands, their love story, is usually the biggest part of their personal story–the “main event”, as you say it. That is not the say we are nothing unless someone loves us or that women “need” a man but finding love is a huge part of what makes us human. Why shouldn’t children’s movies reflect that?

      • Roadstergal

        Disney movies always paint such a confining picture of love, though. Heteronormative, cis-gender-appropriate, young and immediate.

        • Guesteleh

          And movies aimed at boys frame romance as a prize the boy/man gets for being brave, virile, etc. The quest in the story isn’t the romance, the romance is the reward for the quest. Big difference.

        • mollyb

          I don’t disagree with you but Disney is hardly alone in that critique. I would love to see are more media in general.

          • Roadstergal

            I agree with you on that. I always enjoyed the portrayal of the princes in Into the Woods.

        • anon

          I don’t know – I think the message in Disney movies has changed and evolved over the years. Of course, Cinderella is that traditional, guy rescues princess and they live happily ever after story but that movie is over 60 years old. The main “love story” in Frozen was the sisterly love between Anna and Elsa. Frozen actually kind of poked fun at the “traditional” Disney love story – the rescuing Prince turned out to be a real loser. Yeah, Anna kissed Christoph in the end but that was secondary to Anna and Elsa living “happily ever after”.
          Though, I still don’t like that all the Disney princesses are skinny little things with giant eyes and tiny hands.

    • SporkParade

      In the Chinese, live action Mulan movie (warning, it’s an action movie with blood and gore), Mulan IS the general, not her love interest. And he doesn’t get the girl at the end. Come to think of it, it’s a really sad movie. But really romantic, if you are into washing the blood off of wooden dog tags in the moonlight before they are returned to dead soldiers’ families.

      • sdsures

        Does this movie have English subtitles?

  • Bugsy

    OT: Can anyone here point me towards studies proving/disproving the benefits of acupuncture with fertility, specifically with IVF?

    Background: I have unexplained infertility and got pregnant with my son on my first IVF attempt. I had IVF #2 last month, which failed (early miscarriage/implantation failure). As I struggle to do anything to increase my odds for my upcoming frozen embryo transfer, I noticed that my fertility clinic recommends acupuncture for increased success. Figuring that at the very least it wouldn’t hurt, I signed up.

    I had my first session this morning and am puzzled. Not only did she provide acupuncture, but the therapist also spent time making recommendations on my medical history. For example, in contrast to medical recommendations I’ve received, she recommends I wear a holster monitor for 24 hours to confirm that anxiety-fueled heart palpitations are caused by anxiety. I’ve had two GPs and a psychiatrist confirm that given my medical history and diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, that they are not concerned.

    Even more troubling to me is that she wants me to go on a 3-week cleanse to rid my body of toxins. As she was saying it, my woo-meter went off. While I’m not happy with my diet and believe I eat too many carbs, the extent to which she pushed a cleanse (and not simply an improvement in my diet) was troubling. Never mind that a cleanse seems highly stupid when possibly in early pregnancy.

    This is the cleanse she wanted to sell to me: https://thorne.com/practitioners/resources/articles/mediclear-plus

    Do acupuncturists usually try to sell cleanses and give medical advice to their clients? That wasn’t what I was expecting…at all.

    Anyway, if anyone can provide any links to legitimate studies confirming the benefit of acupuncture on IVF outcomes, I may continue going. Otherwise, I feel a bit like it’s an expensive way to take in woo.

    • Roadstergal

      Cleanses of all kinds are utter woo. Acupuncture is utter woo. The underpinnings of acupuncture are as scientific as the four humors. When they’ve done proper placebo-controlled trials on acupuncture for pain control, sham acupuncture (needles not set at the proper ‘points’ that do not penetrate the skin, twiddling toothpicks randomly against the skin) works just as well as ‘real’ acupuncture. There is absolutely no basis in science for acupuncture to treat IVF, and real, if rare, risks to the procedure.

      It annoys me, the extent to which acupuncture has invaded legitimate medicine.

      • Guest

        I won’t refer to to an REI if accupuncture is provided or encouraged through their office. It gives false hope to desperate and hopefully families who are already expending small fortunes of their savings.

        • Roadstergal

          I went to see an Urgent Care doc at Stanford once because something had gone *ping* in my back in a bad way. He said it was a minor, self-limiting condition, and suggested some stretches to help loosen up, which is all I needed to hear. Then he suggested acupuncture. At frikkin’ STANFORD. I told him that I liked my placebos less expensive. I should have mentioned with a little less HepB, too…

          Speaking of IVF… I mentioned a while back that I was going in to help out a friend by giving her the eggs I wasn’t using. Well, although I’m very fit and healthy, my AMH is at a level where the docs don’t even recommend giving it a try. I have a lemony body when it comes to egg donation, it seems. I found myself much more disappointed than I ever expected to be, for both her and for myself.

          • Mishimoo

            I’m so sorry that the egg donation didn’t work out.

          • Bugsy

            I’m sorry to hear about your failed egg donation. 🙁

      • Stephanie

        It’s insane the amount of woo that’s perpetuated. I had an acquaintance post on Facebook that her chiropractor said she had two sprained wrists and a sprained ankle, her 6 year old had a sprained neck and shoulder, and her 2 year old has
        a sprained neck and sprained ankle. He can also help them heal over the next 3-6 months. They’ve had no traumatic situation. Everyone is so excited that she’s gone and gotten a verdict as to why they are stiff. I’m thinking of asking what her doctor has to say, but we aren’t that close. I can’t believe
        people will trust chiropractors with their children’s’ necks.

    • Who?

      Run, don’t walk.

      • Guest

        Hah, I wanted to type just that! Run. Fast.

    • just me

      Ccrm might have something on their web site. I did it with both my transfers there just in case. Two babies. They prescribe it for uterine blood flow issues also. No woo, just the acupuncture. I would find do done good tho and avoid the cleanse people.

    • Vg2010

      Hi Bugsy, I think you should find a different person to do your accupunture. Woo or not woo (I do love my crunchy granola, so I won’t comment) you need to be treated by someone who will make you feel comfortable.

      I don’t have an opinion about cleanses.I have never done one – but I am sure the people who love them do feel better afterwards (who knows why? placebo? starvation?) I think cleanses/juicing/elimination diets are never going to be real science but it is about making YOU feel better. So if you dont want to do it, don’t (and I doubt that it will affect your process).

      I find it sketchy that this lady was trying so hard to sell you on the cleanse. In my limited experience with alternative medicine, they shouldnt be pushing you to do anything. I see an osteopath for back pain (and love the guy) and he has never given medical advice. That’s not their place, especially if you arent asking her for additional tips to try

    • Bugsy

      Thanks for all of the feedback, both positive and negative towards acupuncture. Can anyone point me in the direction of any studies regarding IVF & acupuncture? I’m leaning towards not continuing w/ it at all, but would like to have some evidence backing up my decision. Otherwise, it becomes hard to decline it, as just me states below “just in case.”

    • KarenJJ

      I did acupuncture leading up to my first IVF attempt (which was successful) because I was desperate and thought “whatever might get me over the line”. Both my doctor and the IVF clinic nurse said that the latest evidence was not promising (this was 6 years ago). I hated acupuncture and swore not to bother the next time. My next IVF cycle was planned and I accidentally fell pregnant without acupuncture with out special lubricants and without any special supplements – however I was on a trial medication to manage a recently diagnosed immune system issue.

    • araikwao

      I think Science-Based Medicine has tackled this before, with the criticism along these lines: if there was some biologically plausible mechanism for acupuncture assisting IVF success, it should show an effect on the treatment group as a whole. Because it only helped a subgroup (those who had difficulty.conceiving with IVF), it is probably just a finding due to chance.
      ETA: and the rest of the advice is just excrement/quackery

      • Bugsy

        Thanks – I’ll check it out.

    • Amy M

      You don’t have toxins in your body. If you did, you’d be crazy ill. Your liver and kidneys and immune system take out anything that shouldn’t be there. There is no need to “cleanse.” Eating healthier is probably good for all of us, and that’s up to you, if you want to take that on right now. But, it doesn’t matter what juice you drink or if you fast, you are not loaded with “toxins.” Did you ask which toxins, specifically? Usually, they have no answer, because the whole thing is a scam made up to sell you something.

      • Bugsy

        I completely agree that the toxin argument is bogus.

        The acupuncturist’s take on it was that the toxins cause inflammation, which show up in the form of my wonky blood sugars (I had gestational diabetes), current struggles with hypothyroid, and the best: my endometriosis. In other words, this cleanse diet will relieve me of all of my internal inflammatory issues, i.e.: my health problems. If only it were that simple…

        I didn’t ask specifically about the toxins; both the acupuncturist and the brochure she gave me describe a nebulous concern over toxins in the modern environment. Truth be told, the brochure could be straight out of Dr. Amy’s post on toxicophobia. It was that ridiculous.

        • KarenJJ

          yuck. I have inflammation issues, acupuncture did sod all but a lovely daily dose of big pharma has been sorting it out nicely.

      • Bugsy

        Amy, here’s some of the great info on toxins from the brochure that the acupuncturist gave me on the cleanse she recommends for me…for your viewing pleasure. I dunno, seems convincing!? 🙂

        “Are We All Toxic?
        In the last 50 years our environment has become increasingly more polluted. This has resulted in a greater human toxic burden than ever before. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of toxic chemicals have been introduced into our environment. So, no matter how careful we are or where we live, we all have some level of exposure. Add to this the use of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription, non-prescription and illicit drugs, and you can see that this has created a challenging fast for our bodies to get rid of these substances. The liver carries the greatest burden of detoxifying foreign substances, as well as substances are bodies create (like hormones). You can help your liver do its job by providing your body with enough protein and the key nutrients and botanicals involved in liver function…

        …So, if we are exposed to toxic substances or if we make unwise dietary and lifestyle choices, we can build up many potentially toxic substances in our bodies. Allergies and exposure to toxins in foods, water and the environment are being increasingly recognized as major contributing factors in many health problems. The MediClear program is designed to do two things: (1) decrease your exposure to toxins and allergens and, (2) help your body cleanse.”

    • Allie P

      Of course they do. Quacks constantly try to sell you on more quackery. It’s the business model. I think I’d look for a different fertility clinic, if they are referring you to this charlatan.

      • Bugsy

        It’s something we may consider…the very fact that our clinic is associated with this acupuncturist troubles us.

    • Carolina

      When I asked my RE about it, she shrugged and said there were no studies showing it worked. However, if I found it relaxing, that wasn’t a bad thing (she also said massages, light exercises, etc. were a good idea to manage the stress). I found a very non-woo acupuncturist and tried it a few times. She didn’t act like she could cure everything, told me couldn’t improve egg quality/quantity, etc. I felt so relaxed after sessions I was afraid to drive. Anecdotally, I conceived on a FET cycle while doing the acupuncture. And I use her periodically now while pregnant because I think it feels so nice.
      That said, it is not cheap. If spending the money is stressful, don’t do it. I would also ditch the person pushing cleanses, etc.

      • Bugsy

        Congrats on your successful FET! It sounds like you’ve been happy with your acupuncturist, which is great to hear. If my experience had been more like yours, I would have considered regular visits. I think I’m going to stick with yoga and massage instead.

  • Julia

    As a former
    princess-dress loving girly girl (who ended up getting a PhD in biochemistry) I
    completely agree that boys and girls should follow their interests regardless
    of whether they involve the color pink or not.

    What pisses me off
    though is the way we are being bombarded with gender stereotypes for our
    children. -The entirely separate sections for girl and boy toys and clothes, one with pink
    and purple, the other one with the remaining colors. – the virtual non-existence of gender neutral versions of the most mundane items: cups, plates, birthday cards, wrapping paper, napkins… Instead of
    embracing whatever one’s interests might be, that screams that there is only
    one correct way for each gender. And I do think there’s
    a slippery slope from what’s being marketed as typically girl and boy to internalizing
    more detrimental stereotypes.

    • Julia

      Yikes, formatting. This was not supposed to be a poem.

      • MLE

        I imagined it being read aloud in a smokey room, which heightened the experience for me.

        • Siri

          By someone with a floppy fringe and a black poloneck.

          • MaineJen

            Don’t forget the bongo drum.

          • Mishimoo

            You mean snapping is no longer in? *gasps*

    • just me

      Yeah. I’m not convinced it is all harmless. Are girls naturally dawn towards this stuff or is it the marketing? I tried to keep that sh!t out of my house but my sister gave my daughter stuff in a way that made it hard to prevent. Still not happy about it.

    • Guesteleh

      Yes, this is a huge problem. Why are our conceptions of gender so rigid and pervasive?

  • Amy M

    Totally OT: Anyone else on the Northeast coast, and getting this insane storm right now?

    • FormerPhysicist

      Yes. Ick! I’m glad I don’t need to get to the hospital for delivery.

  • mythsayer

    OMG! THANK YOU, Dr. Amy! I have a four year old as well who loves all things princess and My Little Pony. And you know what? WHO CARES? I’ve had the same opinion as the one you stated here for the longest time. Who cares if she likes pink? She also likes playing doctor. So… doctor pretend is good, but princess pretend is bad? That’s ludicrous. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

  • Trixie

    We are in full-on princess mode in this house. I just sent her to preschool with not one but TWO pink tutus, several layers of Hello Kitty tops, “Princess Anna hair” (french braid pigtails), sparkling sequined shoes, a sparkling headband, various jewelry, clear lip gloss, handbag and accessories, etc. etc. etc. She feels great about herself, and she’s making her own choices, so who am I to stop her? My only requirement is that her clothes be seasonally appropriate, which results in some fights when she doesn’t want to ruin her look with a waffle-knit Hello Kitty shirt underneath her Hello Kitty princess dress. Attn girls’ dress manufacturers: more long sleeves, please!

    • Guest

      My brother couldn’t have tried harder to keep their child’s gender experience neutral. It worked for awhile, then she turned five and with all the glory of her imagination she became quite convinced she was a princess. Four years later, far be it from me to correct her. Yep, we can put those plaids, strips and neutrals away. This girl is all glitter and pink, it’s just who it is. Attn winter sports manufacturers: why do these kids need to sacrifice cold protection for sequins?

      • Who?

        It’s like the rebellion thing that was touched on last week-we never know what our children will choose to focus on, so be mindful what you push and be ready for them to run in the other direction!

      • KarenJJ

        There’s a little boy and my son’s kindy that is the most determined little girl I’ve ever seen in a 3 (now 4yo) boy. All about dresses, sparkles, dolls, drawing. I don’t work with kids or anything but I’ve never come across anything like it. He has a twin brother that is very easy going little boy – and very “boyish” and plays with my little boy. They’ve all been going to the same kindy for the last 6 months and if anything he’s rebelled even further against the idea that he is a boy as time has gone on and he is really determined and strong willed. To their credit the kindy community has been incredibly accepting and I sincerely hope he finds the same when he starts school next year.

        • Dr Kitty

          Some kids don’t enjoy the stereotypical things, and some kids are trans.
          I hope that this kid is supported in working out which of those groups is the one he fits into.

          • KarenJJ

            I don’t know his family all that well but his parents seem pretty friendly and easy going at drop off. I asked my 3yo son about whether he played with him and he just corrected me by telling me Joey is a girl and he doesn’t like the girls at kindy apparently.

          • Amy M

            There was a boy like that in the first daycare my boys went to. I don’t know if he was trans, gay or just really open minded, but he was the sweetest kid. Really into disney princesses, and wearing dresses though. At the time, my guys were babies and he was 4 or 5 and he was SO sweet to them. I hope his parents were tolerant. He’ll be in 4th(ish) grade now—I wonder about him every so often.

  • comicgeek

    My daughter is into princesses and unicorns as well as Legos and the Avengers. She loves math and biology, dressing in pink and climbing trees. I don’t understand why it has to be one or the other. But God help the idiot who tries to tell my daughter she is too “pretty” to do math or says “girls don’t do well in science,” I will beat them bloody. I had both things said to me in my youth and it destroyed my love of STEM subjects and I regret that deeply.

    I myself am a tomboy who loves comics and Star Wars, and discovered my feminine side as an adult. A closet that once held only jeans and hoodies now has swishy dresses and dressy sandals (still can’t do heels).

    • Mishimoo

      Same here! Well, novels and Star Trek, but still. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve started getting into make-up, own lipstick (more than one), paint my nails often, and started looking at and buying dresses. My kids enjoy a mix of everything fun and the two school-aged ones are great at maths + science as well as the humanities subjects. The toddler picks his own clothes and spent winter in ‘girls’ leggings because he was comfy and he liked the colours/patterns.

      I don’t get the one or other thing either, let them enjoy what they enjoy without making them feel bad. I copped enough of that as a kid/teen and I really couldn’t do it to my own.

      • Who?

        Just read this as I step out to a beauty therapist appointment.

        Glad you are enjoying all that stuff alongside watching your kids doing their thing.

    • Kelly

      I was a huge tomboy but my daughter is a girly girl and I love it. I absolutely love dressing her up in dresses and doing her hair. I don’t worry about it and I can’t wait to see if either of my daughters will be into sports like I was. Their changing personalities are so much fun to watch no matter what they are in to.

  • Mom of 2

    I have always tried to encourage my kids interests but its not always easy. Sexism hurts girls and boys alike. For example, all the cleaning type toys are in the “girl” aisle, which unfortunately sends a message. When my son was two, he loved sweeping. He had a pink toy broom from the girls section. At that age he didn’t care. But now he is 5 and doesn’t like “girly” toys because they are pink. I didn’t teach him that pink is girly, but he picked it up from somewhere. (Thankfully he will use the pink plates again, after some discussion about how anyone is allowed to like any color they want). When he was 4, he went through a phase of wanting his nails painted. I didn’t care, so I painted them when I did mine and my daughters’ nails. But then some 7 year old boy at the park made fun of him and he never wanted them painted again. At such a tender age he was taught that femininity is “bad”. Still, we are trying hard to teach him he can be into anything he wants, and he will be supported by us.

    It’s almost been easier to encourage interests for my daughter, because like you say, society deems masculine things “acceptable.” She loves “spinny dresses” and has loved any kind of a ball since birth. As such, she can frequently be found kicking/throwing a soccer ball around while wearing a frilly dress (it has to be one that flares out adequately while she spins). She is 3. So she pleases the progressives by liking sports, and the traditional types by loving her dresses (and pretty nails, although she couldn’t care less if her hair is combed). But if my son wanted to wear a dress that spins, well, that would be much less well received.

    tl;dr: It’s important for parents to encourage interests, but unfortunately society makes it difficult at times. If girls (or boys) are into princesses, let them be princesses. It will let them know that you support them, which will come in handy when they grow up and need your support in becoming a successful adult.

    • araikwao

      My 2yo son loves cats. But most cat toys are very obviously aimed at girls, which seems a bit odd to me – why should felines be relegated to females, yet puppies are ok for either?

      • Mom of 2

        Yeah, it’s weird. And at times, damaging. It’s disturbing to me that “girl” toys are often homemaking/baby care type toys, and boy toys are about adventure. Of course there’s no rule that we have to buy them for a specific gender, but there is no doubt that marketing has a large effect on people. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be convinced that one “needs” a big diamond to get married, or that women need to have hairless legs. Basically, I’m not opposed to any specific toys, I just wish they were all marketed to all kids.

    • Klain

      I bought my daughter a cleaning set after seeing one at a friend’s house that belonged to her sons. Now it’s been passed on to my two year old son. The most popular toy in our house when boys aged 5 and under come over is the toy vacuum which makes a great noise. I just wish it would actually provide suction because then my house would be so much cleaner with all their help.

      • Mom of 2

        Yeah, why can’t those toy vacuums have real suction? That would be amazing!

        I’m glad someone sells gender neutral household toys. Unfortunately, the gendered stuff is what gets heavily advertised and is what’s sold in the big, heavily trafficked stores (target and toys r us are horrible about this).

        • KarenJj

          My kids love the little hand held dyson. In fact when my daughter was recovering from scarlet fever and shedding flaky skin all over the house her brother had a marvellous time vacuuming up after her. Considering I was feeling grossed out and disgusted by the bits of skin going everywhere I was more than happy to let him help.

          • Mishimoo

            Ack, I hope her heart is okay!

          • KarenJJ

            All good 🙂

        • Jen2

          I was excited to see that Target has a very neutral wooden toy kitchen this year. Mostly brown and “stainless steel” with some accents of blue. Two years ago I bought their frilly pink play lichen and painted it those colors for my son. I have nothing against pink, but 1) I wanted it to have lasting appeal for him and 2) grownups don’t have pastel kitchens – ours is maple, beige, and green.

    • Mishimoo

      Aldi has kids household toys that look like the adult versions every 6 months or so. The vacuum looks like a mini-Dyson, the toasters come in more than one colour, and so on.

  • Amy M

    I wasn’t a super girly-girl myself, but I definitely had a typical girl-phase: horses. I LOVED all things horse, from age 6 to about age 11. One of my favorite shirts was pink, with a white unicorn (iron on) with a rhinestone at the tip of the horn. I’ve always loved animals, even after outgrowing the horse phase, though at this point, most of my animal contact is with the mice I work with. 🙁

    I have sons, so this really isn’t an issue for me. They behave like typical boys, running around a lot and yelling. They like to fight bad guys (and I have a fabulous picture from last night, they are in their fighting gear: life jackets, with various plastic toys stuck in the straps, and very serious expressions.) I hope I’ll have a granddaughter someday though, because I miss braiding hair—mine has been too short since 2003.

    • Cobalt

      My horse phase hasn’t ended yet, 25 years later most of my income comes from turning sunshine into horse manure.

      Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of anatomy and physiology (human and equine), farrier skills, basic veterinary care, parasite impact and management, pasture ecology/management, equine nutrition, basic breeding and foaling, some genetics, etc.

      I also spend too much on tack and horse blankets, because who doesn’t like dressing up their animals too!

      • Amy M

        Ha! I deleted the horse part because I figured it was too boring, but not to you! 🙂 Yeah, I was never able to do much about my horse phase, because my parents couldn’t even afford riding lessons for me, let alone owning a horse. I still think they are beautiful animals, and maybe one day, like after I am retired, I’ll take lessons.

        • Cobalt

          Don’t wait til you’re retired. Find a local barn that caters to adult amateurs, tell them you have no show ribbon ambitions but want to be trail safe. One hour a month (or week), just for you. It’s like yoga, but outside with a horse.

          And when the kids turn 6, take them.

          • Amy M

            yeah, still no $.

          • Cobalt

            That’s the hard bit, especially with littles in the house. Some barns will trade work for lessons (working student), but with kids it’s not like you have a ton of time either.

            The going rate for basic beginner lessons in my area is $35 for a half hour or $50 for an hour. Some instructors will do the first one free or give you a deal if you buy a bunch of lessons up front (but then you’re committed, and you have to pay up front-not always the best option for busy moms). For equipment beginners need good enough boots (starting around $30) and a certified helmet ($25 for the basic). If you stick with it you eventually upgrade to better stuff, but there’s no need when starting. You might get by with a bike helmet and work boots for a little while.

            Just keep it in mind. Don’t put your dreams (or even persistent whims) off forever. Now might really not be the right time to pursue this particular fancy, but don’t write off your wants too far.

      • Mishimoo

        If you were in my area, there’s a master farrier I could recommend. :p (My best friend’s husband has been ranting about backyard farriers and horse-woo lately)

        • Cobalt

          You mean certified equine podiatrists offering all natural barefoot mustang trims for every horse, regardless of age, soundness, workload, or conformation? And at only 50% more than what that mean old “blacksmith” charges for shoes?

          • Mishimoo

            And the ones that insist that laminitis can be cured by doing exactly what they say, and if it doesn’t work, then clearly you weren’t following their instructions properly.

            Plus the ones that think it’s okay to leave racing plates on for long periods of time, and so on.

          • Cobalt

            Precisely. Heck, I’ve seen “animal communicators” tell people that their horse really likes a particular color, then sell them strings of beads to hang around the stall in that color for “color therapy”. It’s expensive, but mostly harmless if the horse isn’t mouthy, and makes the stall very festive.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Heck, I’ve seen “animal communicators” tell people that their horse really likes a particular color, then sell them strings of beads to hang around the stall in that color for “color therapy”.

            And the horse is also in favor of big tips for “animal communicators.” She asks them about it.

          • Dr Kitty

            I’m non Ireland, the place where, as the joke goes, being middle class means not owning a horse.
            There isn’t so much woo, but a fair amount of folk medicine for horses.
            Much of it seems to involve pieces of silver, molasses and thistles, so I guess you use what you have.

            Nobody who keeps horses would dream of overruling their blacksmith though.

  • MLE

    I am expecting a girl, and having never been into traditional princesses, pink, makeup, etc, I have been worried about handling those things. I want her to be interested in whatever she is interested in, and I will support it however I can. My greatest fear is discouraging her from her genuine interests, and I’m not entirely sure why I have anxiety about that for her and not my son. I think I am afraid of making parenting choices for her as a “reaction” to anything, as that father seems to be doing.

    • araikwao

      I never thought I’d have a “girly girl”, because I’m not. But I have a 5yo who’s a princess or a fairy most of the time, yet aspires to be an astronaut or a doctor. So we just let her love the tho gs she loves while answering very advanced questions on human anatomy and physiology! ( and sometimes zoology or astrophysics, which I am far less good at

      • Dr Kitty

        Hello, are you me?
        My kiddo can’t decide if she wants to be the first person on Mars, or an architect (because then she’d get to draw and build model houses and she loves Lego)

        She knows all the words to Frozen, loves to dress up in pink sparkly dresses and thinks her ballet class is the best fun ever.

        My objection to Princesses is political (I.e the problem with an inherited monarchy over a democratic or meritocratic system) but I’m not sure that 5 is the ideal age to have that conversation.

        • araikwao

          Ha ha, I have the same issue with princesses! We’ve recently had a state election so I’ve been highlighting the benefits of democracy.
          But no, I’m not you because I am not finished my medical degree much less specialty training! On the bright side, I’m very relieved to be through third year now!!! Only one more year to go!!!

    • Amy M

      I was a little concerned, before we knew our children were boys, about having a girl. My mom, not the most fashionable of women, was not able to help me with things like hairstyles and clothing. When I was 17, two of her friends decided to have a makeup intervention for me, insulting both her and me. Me, because they thought I was a mess and needed make up, and her because they figured she was unable to help me, so they needed to step in. I’m still a bit outraged by this, 20yrs later, but my mom didn’t seem to notice. At any rate, I had little to offer a girl, in the way of fashion and social (moray eels). I suspect now, that if my boys had been girls, we’d have managed ok and I’m sure you will too. 🙂

      • MLE

        Ha! I pretty much had the exact experience sans formal intervention, but there were a few times when I was cornered on the bus and told to apply makeup, which only made me cry angry tears. My mom was also clueless and proudly so. Now I love fashion and at least wear enough makeup to pass as a professional in public, but I’m still fighting against my knee jerk reaction to all that as unnecessary and kind of an insult since what, I’m not good enough as I am? I want to teach my daughter both how to use makeup and fashion to her advantage and also that she’s not defined by her appearance. Ugh. Good thing newborns don’t really care so I have a while 🙂

        • KarenJj

          I had a very similar mother 🙂 She’s naturally very beautiful and got away with it. I take after Dad… Thankfully lack of makeup doesn’t seem to matter in my career.

  • MS

    I’m just working on my PhD to kill time until my Hogwarts letter arrives 😀

  • Lisa Murakami

    Could not agree more. The French asked me often about why it was that American feminists reject femininity – to them, feminism *demanded* embracing it.

  • Guest

    FYI most fire departments now prefer candidates with a four year degree. I have both firemen and police officers in my family and all have a BA or BS.
    Otherwise a great article.

    • Anyone with any day job can pursue becoming a volunteer firefighter if they’re physically capable of performing the tasks, too. You CAN simultaneously be a professor of comparative literature or a surgeon or a beauty queen and ride in a fire truck if you really want to.

      I suppose being on-call as a volunteer firefighter and on-call as a surgeon might not be compatible, though.

      • Who?

        Or indeed Prime Minister of Australia. At least he’s decently covered when he’s fighting actual bushfires, as opposed to when he’s being a volunteer lifesaver.

        • KarenJJ

          I wish that image would leave my head…

          • Who?

            Sorry about that. I thought it might be aspirational for the non-Australians on the blog. It’s a shame I can’t feel good about it, but no, whatever grace I have does not extend that far.

  • My older daughter, now 32 and married, is quite severely dyslexic, and was in special ed for almost her entire school career. When she was about 8, and I felt she needed the company of girls of her own age — her class consisted entirely of boys, and quite disruptive ones, at that — I had to have an interview with the school psychologist in order to change schools. One of the questions was about my “expectations” for my daughter as an adult. I replied that, while we’d back any attempt to have a professional or academic career that she wanted, if my daughter, who greatly enjoyed “homemaking” with her dolls, etc., wanted to be nothing more exotic than a wife or mother, that was fine with me, too. At the moment, she hadn’t expressed any preferences of her own, and that it was a bit early to do so, IMO.

    It was obviously the wrong answer. I was treated to a lecture about how dyslexics “needed to be challenged” more than others, in order to gain self-esteem, and that “settling” for “just” being a balabosta [homemaker] was being defeatist. I became quite angry. “If my daughter wants to be a doctor, or a lawyer,” I said, “then it should be because she has an interest in those professions, not because she has to “overcome” her dyslexia”.

    • Guest

      Similar circumstances, different comments. My daughter also has multiple learning disabilities. At her first IEP we were told to set the standards low, that someday she ‘should’ be able to graduate high school, be a mother or ‘even’ a grocery cashier. I have loved being a mother, but was a bit dismayed at it being listed as a consolation prize of sorts. Through intense hard work, tutoring and tears, she was able to test out of the Special Ed program upon entering HS (whether she truly ready, leaves a bit left to be discerned).

      Despite the professionals encouraging us to keep expectations low, I’m grateful we never led her to believe there was a limit to her abilities or future. You can imagine our delight and surprise when my pink dress wearing, frog catching, youngest child of a family of boys decided to take on an entire school district in a Title IV pursuit to play a very aggressive and physical sport on a Men’s athletic team. To hear her lecture on Title IV policy, to earn her place as a starter and pivotal member on her Men’s Varsity team, she is so much more than her disabilities. She broke more barriers than she will ever know, honoring her predecessors and polishing the path for those who follow in her footsteps. Getting a little tearful here. I’m just so grateful to have been her mother and to watch her become the amazing young woman she has grown into, disabilities or not.

      • GuessT

        This brought tears to my eyes. You have an amazing daughter who has a wonderful mother. 😉 Thanks for sharing.

        • Guest

          Thank you. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but yes, I think she is amazing too. She is nothing I would have imagined and much more than anything I could have dreamed of in having a daughter.

      • Good for her! But the point is that that was something she WANTED to do, not something she was taught she OUGHT to want, as a means of overcoming a disability.

        • Guest

          Yes, you’re right. My point was to share the alternate expectation level of a school psychologist in our experience, in which case sought to limit the expectations of her potential. The point which I may not have expressed well enough was that we didn’t let gender expectations, educational aspirations or disabilities limit her outlook. She hasn’t overcome her disabilities, although she has developed tools to compensate for the different manner in which her brain processes. She has the ability to process and connect in ways I could never aspire to, a beautiful talent, hidden behind the limits of standardized testing and mainstream educational processes.

          In the end, both of us have raised daughters with learning disabilities, had expectations placed on their course and future, in which an outside influence assigned or imposed a value judgment.

      • Samantha06

        That is beautiful!

  • Karen in SC

    My Dad even called me “Princess” until the day he died, when I was past 40. My degree is in chemical engineering.

    • MLE

      That is so sweet.

  • I want well rounded kids – that means that my daughter’s toys are fair game for my son and vice versa. I want them to know that its okay to be who they are – whoever that happens to be… Almost nothing is off limits at this point.

  • Haelmoon

    My four year old wants to grow up to be a princess. She is quite serious and has given it a lot of thought. When asked what her job would be, she replyed “Go to balls, dance and make little girls happy”. If she fails to become a “real” princess, her plan is to work at DisneyWorld (not DisneyLand – she is very specific) or maybe on a Disney boat. She also wants to be a surgeon like mommy, but it concerned that she will get her dresses dirty when “cutting up mommies and pulling out babies”. She also plays with firetrucks, so I am not really concerned.

  • jhr

    This Slate article by Auberbach vibrates with retro-gender stereotyping to the extent that we can reasonably assume that the author and his “programmer” wife, as supportive, educated, modern parents, would not prevent their son from wearing a pink princess outfit.
    I remember in the early 1970’s when my “playgroup” for feminist stay-at-home moms debated whether to give our little girls dolls or whether to do this was somehow limiting their life options. I was on the “give the doll” side since I adored being a mom and I saw that direction as an option that I wanted for my little daughter. That child, when presented with match box cars and trucks, would bring them over to the large ride-on size TONKA vehicles, rock the small ones in the hanging steam shovel and say “mommy truck and baby truck.” She is now a successful neuro-psychologist, married with 3 daughters.
    Dr. Amy–you are right on target, as usual.

    • Mel

      My husband was given baby dolls when he was young especially when his mom was expecting a baby so that the boys would have their own babies to play with while my MIL was busy with the new baby.

      Net outcome: Sometimes the baby doll would get cuddles; often the baby doll would be magically tranformed into a gun.

      • Who?

        My son was something of an authority on breastfeeding at 2 and a half, having watched his sister being breastfed at length. He would breastfeed the little doll we had lying around, and thought that was pretty great.

        The wheels fell off one day though when he was telling his little friend about it, and lifted up his shirt, pointing to the critical area. Most unfortunately his friend, who was a bit younger and always hungry, decided to take a bite.

  • guests

    YES YES YES YES! I’ve argued this until I’m blue in the face with some people. Also, have a friend who constantly posts things about how to bring up girls, usually EXACTLY the type of “pink=bad/feminine=lesser” that this point refers to, even though she has two boys! It really gets my back up! Are the things my little girls like doing worth less than the things her little boys are doing? NO! Are they convinced that they don’t have to work hard because they will become a princess by marrying a prince when they’re older, because I let them play with barbies? NO!

    Sorry for the capitals, I’m very excited that I am not alone and agree with every word!

  • Bugsy

    The original article is bizarre; it seems that he has a beef with girls’ toys (and girls?) in general. I agree that he’s way too sanctimonious, and I would add to it, narcissistic. A whole article devoted to this issue? Seriously? Does anyone else truly care about the depth of his judgment on his kids’ toys?

    “Our local toyshop is neatly divided into two aisles, one with building sets and model trains and games, the other with Barbies and princess dresses. It’s not that dress-up and dolls are inherently terrible, just that an exclusive focus on stereotypical-girl interests severely limits the scope of unstructured play, which is so important to creative development.”

    Is he kidding? I’m the mother to a two-year-old boy. Boys’ toys aren’t inherently more creative; it’s all in how you use them. Yes, his Thomas tracks probably have more of an engineering focus than some stereotypically girls’ toys. However, “dress-up” is generally considered to be girls’ play; we’ve struggled to find a good set of costumes he can use for imaginative play. In the same vein that he criticizes certain aspects of girl play, I could easily use examples of very specific Lego and other building sets inhibiting boy play and encouraging children (of both genders) to simply recreate the toy on the box.

    I was also adamantly against princesses prior to becoming a parent. My thoughts have changed a lot since he was born (and princesses aren’t exactly an issue with our little guy…). Like RNMomma below, our goal now is to follow his heart and encourage his interests and talents. I can’t count the number of our friends who were against princesses prior to the births of their kids…and who now just want their kids to be happy.

    I will admit that when possible, we limit our son’s access to toys that are just the newest fad and/or one more aspect of modern capitalism. This is a personal choice, in part because I would like him to enjoy toys because they’re fun and not because everyone else has them (and also because I’m pretty cheap!). That being said, everything in moderation. The kid has a Thomas set in our living room and has been to Disney World. We’re purchased Elsa bags for our friends’ girls for Christmas, since we know how much they adore Frozen.

    I seriously think that the author either has additional issues with girl toys or he’s just clamouring for attention. The title ‘Women in tech and the sciences: How to make sure your daughter knows she can do anything” further suggests this. I think 4 years of parenting is a little too soon to make such a proclamation.

    • Haelmoon

      We too have problems finding costumes for our boy. I also have two girls who love dress up. They loved frozen and I could easily get them an Elsa and Anna dress. My son wanted to dress up as Kristoff or Sven (but not Olaf), and I couldn’t find anything. Now at least it is Christmas time and I was able to buy him some antlers, but it was a long wait for him. He also wants a prince costume, so he can dance with his sister, but those are hard to come by (afordably) – we finally got a pirate costume that he wears with out the hat that looks pretty dashing. But he is adament that he is not a pirate. Kids imagination is not constrained by the toys you provided. It is constrained by parents refusing to let children explore their interests.

      • Costco had some fairly great costumes around halloween…but building a little kids “tickle trunk” sounds like a fantastic idea. My daughter has 4 princess dresses, but my son really doesn’t have much in the way of dress up clothes…(a little bow tie, a brief case, an apron, some scrubs, a chef’s hat, a fireman’s hat, a pirate, a prince, a work belt and hard hat – the whole gamut, some fake glasses, a calculator, etc…) Maybe a trip to value village would do the trick.

        • Bugsy

          Will have to add some of these suggestions to our dress-up box; they’re great!

      • Bugsy

        You said it much more eloquently (and to the point) than my post above. Spot-on!

      • Roadstergal

        I remember when I was younger that I would find amazing things at thift stores and theater sales…

    • MLE

      I have been looking everywhere for a good set of costumes for my son too!! If anyone knows of any, please share :). He’s 3 btw.

      • Bugsy

        I’ve had decent luck hitting up garage sales, and Gymboree had some good post-Halloween sales. It’s generally stereotypical – cowboy, knight, superhero, dragon – but I did find a magician/sorcerer and a Viking. It’s tough!

        • Dr Kitty

          Hi visibility vest- can become police officer, builder, fire fighter, crossing guard, engineer, hunter or disco dancer. I got mine from IKEA. Disco dancer require some sunglasses, beads and neon face paints, in case you were wondering.

          I got a magician’s outfit complete with soft toy bunny in false bottomed hat from T K Maxx.

      • Amy M

        We found a box set of Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger costumes at Toys R Us a few years ago. Got some mileage out of that. And superhero halloween costumes.

        • D/

          The Power Rangers! That brings back twenty-some-year-ago fond memories of my youngest. For the daycare “graduation” program they made ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ video interviews of the kids.

          My kid? … “I’m gonna be the pink Power Ranger!” … “Ok, but what if you can’t be the pink Power Ranger?” … *Long*, thoughtful silence … “Well, I guess I could be that yellow one then.”

          Really proud of her at five for keeping so many of her grown up options open 😉

      • Mom of 2

        Wrong time of year for this to be helpful, but next year hit up the big box stores the first few days of November. I got a couple of superhero costumes (Ironman, Spiderman) for 90% off at Target–$1 apiece! They are Christmas presents so we shall see if my kiddos actually like them. I have a boy and a girl, but both love superheroes.

      • Isramommy

        I like the Melissa and Doug Dress Up costumes. They have lots of different jobs to choose from (astronaut, firefighter, chef, construction worker, etc…). They’re a little pricey but the two my daughter has are very well made and hold up great. We have the Princess and Ballerina costumes so far (because that’s what she wants/likes, and I respect her interests), and she’s been asking for a doctor costume too, so that’ll be coming for her birthday.

        We went through a phase where she wanted to wear the ballerina dress over her clothed to daycare every day for 2 or 3 months, so that thing went through the washer and dryer several times a week, and it still looks great.

        http://www.melissaanddoug.com/dress-up-role-play-costumes

    • The word you’re looking for is “clickbait.”

    • Jennifer2

      “Women in tech and the sciences: How to make sure your daughter knows she can do anything – as long as it’s not a traditionally “female” activity,”

      There. I fixed it. I can remember being told I was letting my gender down when I switched my major from genetics to political science and decided to go to law school. Never mind that I have been fighting against domestic violence on behalf of my clients, for better parental leave at our workplace, for recognition of gender biases in this profession, etc. I am all for encouraging girls to pursue math and science. I love them and am good at them and am proud of it. But NEVER make a woman feel like she is less valuable because she chooses a different profession.

      • Anka

        It always kind of bugged me how maximizing your intellectual potential as a girl (when I was growing up, anyway) meant being good at math and the hard sciences. Of course girls are pressured out of math and science in North American culture all the time, and that’s absolutely revolting, but I always got the message that I was letting my gender down if I didn’t somehow perform effortlessly in these fields. I’m a frustrated visual artist who ended up majoring in a social science field and sometimes writes for a living, and also a hyperpolyglot* who knows 16 languages, but I can’t help but notice that in mainstream American culture, “smart” or “genius” is invariably associated with “good at math and science” and also “male.” MAYBE “like a male” in rare instances.

        *And that’s another weird area, since even though “communication” is supposed to be a female trait, hyperpolyglots are supposed to be male. I usually avoid letting it be known that I am one, because people usually disbelieve me, think I’m showing off, or become afraid of me for some reason. I’ve been in multiple situations (graduate school, relevant work atmosphere), where I’ve been pressured to hide or downplay my skills in deference to the “real,” male hyperpolyglot(s) in the group. Also, the “genius” (male) hyperpolyglots are always supposed to be enamored of the patterns (so more mathematically inclined?), rather than interested in communicating, which I guess is also part of the issue of math and math-related skills being prized above others and coded “masculine.” I enjoy the patterns in language for aesthetic reasons AND I like to communicate with speakers of those languages, which apparently means I’m doing it all wrong.

    • Isramommy

      “…it’s not that dress-up and dolls are inherently terrible, just that an exclusive focus on stereotypical-girl interests severely limits the scope of unstructured play, which is so important to creative development.”

      The author is ridiculous. Dolls and figurines are an awesome form of unstructured play. My daughter’s dolls dress up and play house, and they also have all sorts of non-typically feminine adventures, often including her toy dinosaurs, airplane and astronauts.

      • Bugsy

        In a similar fashion, my little boy loves playing pretend with his dolly and her pink stroller. My husband was surprised to see us come home with it, but the little guy adores his dolly.

        It seems that the author is ascribing to gendered stereotypes and assumptions on what his daughter would do with set toys instead of letting her freely play with toys that interest her – and letting her imagination grow with such play.

  • Roadstergal

    I wanted to be a princess when I was a girl – and a knight (Howard Pyle!), and a fireman, and an astronaut. These days, I’m a scientist and the primary breadwinner in my family, a triathlete and a motorcycle racer, a sex-positive bisexual, and I love me some pink and a nice dress now and then. Being a woman is complicated, but there’s nothing wrong with hating pink and princesses or with liking them.

    I like bold colors, and pink is bold. The first bike I ever raced, a minimoto – I spray-painted the shrouds pink. Because I could, and it was fun. I felt even better about it when Pasini had a knock-down battle with Simoncelli in the rain with pink livery in Mugello.
    http://www.sportmediaset.mediaset.it/bin/6.$plit/C_27_photogallery_1532_GroupPhotogallery_listphoto_itemPhoto_2_immagine.jpg

  • lawyer jane

    Thank you!! This stereotyping also affects boys negatively. I have found myself discouraging my 2.5 year old boy from liking pink just because I was afraid of him being made fun of. That was heartbreaking. Also made me realize that there actually is nothing inherently feminine about pink, sparkles or unicorns. Frankly, pink sparkly unicorns may be just objectively more appealing on an aesthetic level than trucks – but both boys and girls are castigated for liking pink because it is stereotyped as feminine.

    • Guests

      On a few occasions little boys have been playing round at our house and wanted to try on the princess dresses and been laughed at and told “What would your Father say” etc. I note that when my girls dress up as superheroes (which…gasp…they do, as often as they dress up as princesses), nobody bats an eyelid. Or, actually, they’re complemented on not being too girly, which is confusing when sometimes they are!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      My boys dress up like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz all the time. In fact, my older guy entered the Dorothy Look-a-like contest at the Chesterton Oz Festival a few years back. I was so pissed off when he didn’t win. I talked to the judges and they said they were concerned it wasn’t his idea. I told them, if they had heard him argue when we tried to convince him to take off the ruby slippers because he was getting a blister they wouldn’t have questioned it. He deserved to win. He was adorable.

      My younger guy has been more boy/girl separate in things. Just the way things happen with them. However, he still dresses up like Dorothy and other princesses around home.

      ETA: they also have Elsa and Anna dolls.

      • Guesteleh

        My son loves Hello Kitty and My Little Pony. It’s all good.

    • realitycheque

      You’re right, there’s nothing inherently feminine about pink. In fact, pink was originally considered a stronger, more masculine colour and favoured for boys; whereas blue was favoured for girls. It wasn’t until ~1940s that the current distinction became popularised.

      The intention of the “anti pink/girly” fad for girls is supposed to be about breaking down rigid gender stereotypes, but I can’t help but feel as though it’s become more about the parents than the kids (as per usual). I have seen parents encourage their boys to play with traditionally “girly” toys, and girls with “boy” toys, but as soon as the kids are interested in anything that has been marketed to their own gender, they freak. It seems as though it’s becomes more about proving how progressive they are and how their children are “different”. When their kids take interest in “gender specific” items, the parents lose their “alternative” cred.

      Girls can wear process dresses AND play with trucks; boys can pretend to be superheroes AND love to dress up barbie. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

      • Guesteleh

        That’s been my son: loves Hello Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine and My Little Pony and Minecraft. I suspect most girls are the same way.

        • Mishimoo

          Indeed! Just add in Goat Simulator and it describes my munchkins (Side note: I’m glad that the teacher doesn’t actually read their holiday journals, as explaining to a Pentecostal teacher why Miss 8 wrote about making ‘Evil Goat’ (Devil Goat) would have been a bit awkward)

  • Ceridwen

    Truth be told, I’ll be sad when my daughter hits the princess phase. But not because I’m not OK with pink, or with her being feminine, but just because it’s not something I’ve ever been into and not something I’ll be able to connect with her well on. Princesses grate on me because of years spent with my sister forcing me to watch princess movies and play princesses. I’ll feel the same way if she becomes obsessed with fire fighters. I certainly won’t be preventing her from reading books about either topic though. It would be absurd of me to expect her to tailor her desires to my interests.

  • Stacy48918

    Ok, now I want to go buy my little girl a princess dress. 😛

  • anh

    Three cheers!! Alright. This is a safe place, so, confession time. Like any good highly educated feminist, when I found out I was pregnant with a girl, I proclaimed to tons of people how much I dreaded the princess phase. I chatted with likeminded colleagues on how I might avoid it.
    Then I took a look at my 50+ pairs of shoes and said “ANH, stop bullshitting and get the hell over yourself !”
    God’s honest truth…I cannot wait for the freaking princess phase. No, not the hugest fan of Disney franchise but what the hell is wrong with gorgeous pink gowns and sparkly shoes? I went through a queen phase…still got advanced degrees, still have kickass job. I married an amazing man but not until I was 28 (no Prince Charming rescued me from anything)
    I found a catalog that sells matching princess gowns for mom and daughter and call me unhinged but I cannot wait to dress up with my little girl.
    Can we PLEASE stop micromanaging our kids like crazy and just let them like what they like and stop hand wringing over everything?

    Vive les princesses!!

    • Mel

      I read portions of the article to my husband and we were both laughing very hard by the end of it.

      The author was inadvertantly making “princesshood” more appealing to his daughter by making such a snit about it. Think about it: What is more appealing to a child who is learning about independence than taking up an interest that makes their parents frustrated as hell?

      Let her read the princess books that are more about Prince Charming than the princesses; she’ll learn to pick out bull-shit even earlier then.

    • Meg Muckenhoupt

      You realize that by posting that, you’ve just asked the Tomboy Fairy to visit your family, right? You may have a little girl who’s more interested in climbing trees than princesses. Have fun!

      • anh

        You’re probably right 🙂

        But I’m still going to get myself the adult princess gown.

      • Klain

        My Tomboy loves to climb trees and cradle millipedes and other bugs around the place. She does them in her princess dresses. It’s a bad combination because tulle stuff tears easily when caught on branches, rocks etc and is impossible to repair.

  • RNMomma

    We’ve avoided things extremely “girlie” in efforts to expose our daughter to a variety of things… She has a colorful, gender neutral room and we never buy her pink or purple clothes (though she has plenty given as gifts). While I’ve never intended to to keep her from princess stories, or anything similar, this was a great perspective to read. Our children deserve our respect as fellow humans. As she grows, I look forward to learning what she enjoys and prefers and will defer to that whenever possible and appropriate.

  • Monica

    My 7 year old proclaimed today that he’s going to be a soldier. Truth be told he probably will be and that’s a-ok as long as he’s happy. My 3 year old has told me she’s going to be a monkey when she grows up. Yeah, probably not going to happen, but hey maybe she’ll be a zoologist. I have no idea what any of their future bring. My 15 year old has wanted to be a teacher since she was 5. And I have encouraged that desire. My artsy 12 year old wants to be a hairdresser. I put her in a middle school where she can explore more of the arts and the things that are of interest to her. I suppose I’m doing this all wrong encouraging my children to follow their interests.

    • Medwife

      My 3 year old wants to be a dog. OH NO how will I keep him in school and stop him from chasing squirrels?

      • Roadstergal

        On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

        (Also, he could be a co-pilot.)