For various reasons, some of the junk mail that comes to the house is aimed at parents with small children (even though none live here). One of the most recent was an invitation to join the Disney Princess Book Club. As anyone with eyes can see, I like pink. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I do not have an aversion to "girly" things. The Disney Princess line has always annoyed me a little bit though, and reading the promotional material, I realized why.
When I was a kid, my parents signed up for a book club called ValuTales. Every month for a few years a hardback book about some famous person and the important characteristic their life exemplified would come via the US Postal Service. Most of the books were about men, but there were plenty about women. The values that were praised ranged from Florence Nightingale's "Compassion" to Sacagawea's sense of "Adventure", from the the Wright Brother's "Patience" to Alexander Graham Bell's "Self-discipline". The one I remember best was about Nellie Bly. I was absolutely fascinated by her courage, self-confidence, and daring.
They were very much "pre-PC" and being the commie loving liberal that I am, I think they were worse off for it. The values tended to divide along gender lines (Harriet Tubman was "Caring" and Nellie Bly was "Fairness" while Jefferson was "Foresight" and Edison was "Creativity"). I understand that discussing Helen Keller's socialism would be problematic when it comes to nine-year olds, but there's no excuse for Nightingale's story to not mention her role in furthering the study of statistics and how her work in that field was instrumental to her humanitarian work. I'm also fairly certain that Columbus was not the best choice for "Curiosity" - surely there were plenty of better options for that one.
Compared to the current Disney Princess series though, they were practically revolutionary - it seems as though we've taken several steps back.
The literature for the Disney Princess series tells parents that
...each all-new, character-building story asks your daughter ÂWhat would a princess do?Â when faced with a challenging situation...by following their example, your daughter will begin to understand that a true princess should be kind, polite, and respectful at all times.Apparently princesses do not need to be adventurous like Sacagawea (no wonder why Pocahontas sucked) know the value of "Laughter", like Lucille Ball, or even know the importance of "Learning", like Marie Curie.
If good manners is all that it takes to be a princess, count me out. My favorite ones growing up were daring and courageous as well. When you've got that many people counting on you, you've got to be. Even if it means giving your prince the boot for being a twit.