when i was a kid, i owned the disney cinderella storybook, the record, the cassette tape and desperately wanted a glass slipper. my favorite parts of the story were the makeover, the hot carriage and her ballgown - loved the ballgown! the prince? feh. what's a prince compared to glass slippers and a hot dress? (and i didn't like his hair. he looked like a JCPenney dummy.)
of course, nancy drew soon replaced cinderella and then i even discovered the french version of cinderella that was totally crazy and bloody and that one became my favorite. by this time, i was sneaking my mom's books into the bathroom and who cares about cinderella when you're reading the pubis shaving scene from ken follet's Key to Rebecca?
thanks to my mother's trashy books (oh, kathleen woodiwiss! the rose in winter!) i was saved from the Princess and went straight to the Feisty Yet Passionate Virgin-Heroine. until college, my feminine tropes were set.
but now here i am, a public and loud feminist in her mid 30's, confronted with caving to the Princess crap when buying gifts for her niece. last weekend, i was in target and saw this huge, gorgeous book that was basically a guide to princess behavior. it had great illustrations, secret pockets, a princess code, some pop up action. it was pink. it was pretty. it looked like a princess bible. so i called my brother in law.
'is alex still into princess stuff?' 'is she! she loves it,' he said. 'so you guys are ok with it?' 'sure! it's ok.'
it's ok to them, but i have seriously fundamental issues with it. why can't she be into pirates? the Pirateology book looks so much cooler. or even the ones about sharks. anything but princesses. (princesses lead to beauty pageants and look at the hypocritial bullshit with donald trump and Miss USA - acting like a sorority girl is only good if you do it for the male-owned franchise, not for your own gratification.)
but did i get the pretty princess book? you bet i did. i even wrapped it in pink butcher paper. but then i took a trip to the chicago cultural center and bought her this lunch box and a mint case with a sultry mexican film star on it (i was going to get the frida kahlo pill box, but i thought the film star one was funnier), along with tough chicago tatoos that can wash off.
so here's my advice to all you feminist aunts and stuff: get the princess stuff but flatten the power of the iconography by hiding it among all your favorite feminist stuff. they may not get it now, but at some point they're going to have to pay attention.