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Halloween is around the corner and with over four million princess costumes sold annually, it’s not hard to guess what many young girls will be this year. But can the pink tulle, crowns, and white horses bring an unrealistic view of what life’s really like? KSMU’s Chasity Mayes reports.
Some people blame Disney. Snow White was the first princess to show her porcelain skin to the world in 1937. And just like any “good” woman of her era, within a few moments of arriving, she began cleaning the dwarves’ cabin. Today, things have modernized a bit, but we’re still all waiting for our prince to come.
That’s exactly what Sharmista Self, chair of Missouri State University’s gender studies committee, is worried about.
“I just think it is so far removed from reality. Maybe for some children, they can separate the fairytale from the real life and some children can’t,” says Self.
Self says her daughter never wanted to play with Barbie or Disney Princesses, but she says if she did, there would be a couple of triggers that would put an end to playing with unrealistic dolls.
“[Keep an eye out] if it starts affecting the child’s self image.-- you know, she starts seeing herself as this princess in terms of how she looks, her body. And she kind of begins expecting that this prince charming is always going to be there to solve all of her problems, which doesn’t necessarily happen,” says Self.
Although some feel like wanting to play “princess” isn’t the healthiest option, that’s not the case for everyone. Shannon Wilson is an Ozarks mom with two princess loving little girls at home. She says wanting to be a princess isn’t a bad thing.
“It encourages creativity and using their imagination to pretend, and dress-up, and play. And I think that it can help build their self-esteem when they feel like they’re a princess. It makes them feel special,” says Wilson.
Wilson’s girls are direct targets of the princess costume craze. Princess children’s costumes are generally directed toward girls between the ages of three and six years old. Wilson’s children are three and five years old, and like many, her oldest will be trick-or-treating princess style this year.
Wilson also added that neither of her girls focuses on the “prince charming” aspect of playing dress up. She says both girls simply love to look and feel like a princess.
For many, it’s the wanting to “look” like a princess that’s the problem.
Dr. Glenna Weis is a clinical psychologist and director of the child and adolescent program at the Forrest Institute’s School of Professional Psychology. She says the real issue with the princess craze is related to body image.
“I have to admit that even at age three to six they pick their image of what boys and girls are supposed to look like on those things. Again, because of it being concrete. It would be nice to have dolls with normal body image.-- to be a princess in a princess gown without having to have a two inch waist, I guess,” says Weis.
However, Weis is far from against playing dress-up. She says at such an early age, children see everything in black and white. Often, it’s not even a princess dress that’s the problem, it’s the way parents react to it. Children in the targeted age group aren’t focused on prince charming; they’re focused on being a princess. And she says that’s not a problem unless it creates a negative body image. It’s important for parents to remind little girls and boys that wanting the body of a doll isn’t a realistic goal.
Weis says both of her daughters played with dolls, but they often made jokes of how it would be impossible to look like “Barbie.” She says playing with your children while allowing them to pretend should have a fairytale ending.
For KSMU News, I'm Chasity Mayes.