I remember an incident that happened over a decade ago as if it
was yesterday. Katie came home with a permission slip for me to
sign. Her Girl Scout troop had been selected for a mall sleepover--
the ultimate princess experience. Of all the organizations I'd
expected to sell out to the concept of "I am girl. Watch me shop,"
Girl Scouts wasn't on the list. Other moms weren't thrilled. But
they wearily shrugged. Nothing they could do. I felt empowered and
refused to sign.
I think Jennifer L. Hartstein would have backed me on that. Her
Princess Recovery is, in my mind, a must read for parents of
daughters. She analyzes some very real dangers posed by our media
obsessed society that jeopardize girls' healthy physical and psychic
One danger is the idea that appearances are everything. I'm
sure we all know how that can lead to eating disorders. I've had a
four-year-old girl tell me she needed to go on a diet. There's also
the tragic lowering of the age at which girls are supposed to look and
act sexy. In beauty pageants you have girls barely out of diapers
acting suggestive. Other facets of what Hartstein calls Princess
Syndrome are also alarming: materialism, an entitlement mentality,
brains seen as inferior to beauty and something to hide, the promise
of rescue by someone else..,
With all the pressures our kids are under from the media, peers,
and even well-meaning adults, raising healthy, confident daughters can
seem quite the daunting task. Hartstein acknowledges this. She
reminds us that we have singularly important roles in our daughters'
lives. She believes that with consistency, determination, and love we
can take on the outside world and win.
After the introduction each chapter describes not only a symptom
of Princess Syndrome and its perils, but a heroine value that is its
healthy and empowering polar opposite. Chapter three has "Appearances
Are Everything" replaced by "Smarts Pay Off.". Chapter four has
daughters pursuing their passions instead of becoming material girls.
Many helpful strategies are discussed.
It won't be easy. Sometimes you have to put your foot down, say
no with an age-appropriate explanation, and deal with a melt-down.
Sometimes you have to politely explain to other adults (as I did to
the scout leader) where you're coming from. Sometimes you have to
examine your own behavior to make sure you're walking the walk as well
as talking the talk. My biggest parent regret is that I let anorexia
prevent me from being a good body image role model.
But, heck, if raising a daughter to be a healthy, happy,
empowered and empowering woman isn't worth the ultimate effort, I
don't know what is.
On a personal note, I never wanted to be a princess. "Lie around
until some boy kisses you? Boring!" I was the knight who rescued
princesses from other perils. In school I rescued peers from
bullies. I held out to be a hero, not for a hero. I still believe
I'm a knight with a mandate to speak up for others who can't speak for
themselves. That's why I'm a trailer park resident school board vice
chair. That's also where grad school comes in. A Ph.D. In
educational advocacy will give me more weapons in the fight to make
sure all kids get educations that help them fulfill their dreams and
A great big shout out goes out to all the kids and adults for whom
today is the first day of school.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod