“Why are princesses not good Athena?”
“Umm… because they’re not good… because…”
“Because princesses have no personalities.”
“Umm… okay… but they wear tiaras…”
“Princesses do nothing but sit around and wait for a rich and handsome prince to marry them.”
“Umm… they wear long dresses…”
“Princesses are always so helpless and they need a man to have a better life.”
“Umm… but fairies are okay, right?”
“Yes, fairies are fine.”
“Umm… ponies are okay?
“Yes, ponies are okay.”
“Umm… Princess Elsa and Anna are okay, right? Frozen is okay, right pops?
“Yes Athena. Frozen is fine. The two princesses took matters into their own hands.”
“So can I be Princess Elsa?”
“Okay Athena, okay!”
I’ve tried my best to shelter Athena from the devastating influence of fairy tale princesses from the day she was born right up till today, when she is three years old.
I screen all the books and cartoons that we get for her making sure there are no stories about Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid and all that crap.
Exactly! Crap is the word!
Lots have been written about the dreaded princess syndrome and one just has to type the phrase in to Google to start a comprehensive literature review.
Look at all the princess stories out there.
Abused by her step-mother and step-sisters, she had to rely on a prince to be enchanted by her beauty and who searched for her all around with a glass slipper in order to marry her and improve her life. What? She can’t escape herself and improve her own condition? Is that all she has going for her? A beautiful face that a prince likes to gaze at?
Cursed into a long deep and death-like sleep, Princess Aurora can do nothing but wait for a handsome prince to come and kiss her and save her from her permanent slumber. So, she can’t do anything by herself since she’s asleep, but only rely on her beauty to make a prince who she doesn’t know fall in love with her, kiss her, wake her up, marry her and lead a happy life?
Here is a daughter of an underwater king who has no apparent skills or any intelligence except for being pretty and have a somewhat beautiful singing voice. She falls in love with a handsome land prince and is willing to give up her only positive thing that she has going for her – her voice – just so she can live on land and marry her prince. Somebody needs to tell her to get her priorities straight!
The list can go on and on and it is an exhausting job trying to keep little Athena from being exposed to such negative, gender indoctrinating influence.
It was much easier when she was a little baby staying at home everyday. But she has been going to playschool, having play-dates with friends and meeting cousins now.
And not everyone she meets will have guardians that prioritise gender equality and feminist beliefs. So there will be dangerous exposure that I won’t be able to control!
Since I can’t be with her all of the time, I’ve been trying my best to drill some education into her so that she will know when she is faced with such negative influence to not be… influenced!
Its kind of like wanting to have trust in your child. You can’t be there every single minute to save her from anything so you just instill in her some good sense so she makes the right decision.
The solution really isn’t to permanently shelter her from the destructive princess syndrome. She needs to see the world too to learn and experience life for herself.
Every time we enter a toy store some day and walk past the Disney aisle or even the dreaded Barbie section, I get nervous. I can’t blindfold her, can I?
So what I’ve come up with is to just keep on talking to Athena and make sure she can always talk to me. I treat her mother with respect and never look down on her and hopefully, she’ll be just fine.
Zan Azlee is a multimedia journalist, writer and filmmaker. He specialises in solo-journalism and often reports from conflict zones around the world. He usually succeeds in staying safe and coming home unharmed to his daughter, Athena Azlee, and wife, Jasmine Abu Bakar, by screaming like a little girl whenever he is faced with danger. Follow his exploits at FatBidin.com.