My sister and I were talking about her daughter's fascination with all things "princess." I've seen the Cinderella bed sheets, the sleeping beauty books, the pink fluffy gowns and tiaras.
My sister is not amused! We both thought the princess thing was cute at first, a chance to indulge our own undernourished inner royalty. Then, a suggestion came from my niece's teacher, who recommended at a parents meeting that girls not bring princess items or wear princess outfits to school.
My sister was the first one to speak up. "Yeah, that's a good idea," she said. "Because the next thing you know, they'll be waiting around for someone to make sure they live happily ever after." Amen.
I first heard this fairy-tale bashing when I was in college in Chapel Hill and new ideas came often and from far and wide. It was "The Cinderella Complex," by Colette Dowling, and Carol Gilligan's "In a Different Voice."
As for "The Cinderella Complex," a friend simply said to me, "Don't worry about reading it. That's something you can just say you're glad you don't have."
Now that I'm older, I see why women writers object to fairy tales. There's always a vain, post-menopausal woman running around trying to kill the young beautiful adolescent. The beautiful adolescent, meanwhile, is stumbling around waiting for Mr. Right to save her.
So when it comes to Matilda, my niece, I'm not going to lecture her about the princess items, since she's got a well developed ability to speak up for herself. As for the books I've got for her to read, "Make Way for Ducklings" and "Where the Wild Things Are" will do just fine.