I just saw Wonder Woman last night and it was amazing. It was everything that I hoped it would be. Wonder Woman is such a strong female character, so confident in who she is and in her abilities. And as I thought about how awesome Wonder Woman is, I started down a rabbit hole and began thinking about female superheroes, Disney Princesses, and my two daughters.
Capes vs Tiaras
My daughters love to dress up, especially my five-year-old, Aspen. Every day she is likely to wear at least three different costumes throughout the day, and most of those costumes involve a tiara. Aspen loves the Disney princesses, absolutely loves them. And over time she has received quite a few of the dresses for birthdays and from Santa, but the first costume she ever asked for was from Frozen and, to this day, Aspen is likely to come down the stairs dressed as Elsa.
And I HATE Elsa! Besides an amazing song, an amazing voice, and looks, what does Elsa have going for her? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
And as I came out of this amazing Wonder Woman movie about another princess, I started to wonder if I’d been pushing the wrong material to my daughters all along. Instead of getting them movies about Elsa and Ariel and Sleeping Beauty, what if I started showing them more superhero shows that featured Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, etc? What if I gave them new heroes to look up to?
You Are More Than Your Looks
Superheroes don’t care about their looks. They don’t sit in front of a mirror until every hair is in place. They don’t put on gobs of jewelry and ridiculous dresses. They wear what they need to get the job done and they don’t care if their clothes get ripped, if their face gets dirty, or if their hair ends up tangled.
And when superheroes aren’t in costume, they are still sending a great message. Wonder Woman dresses in a classy business suit as Diana Prince. Supergirl and Batgirl also dress for success when they aren’t fighting crime. They are respected professionals who rely on their brains, not their looks, to succeed.
The Disney Princesses teach our daughters that looks are a huge measurement of how much they are valued. If Cinderella wasn’t beautiful, she’d still be cleaning that floor. If Sleeping Beauty wasn’t beautiful, she’d still be asleep. And, if you don’t believe me when I say that looks are everything to a Disney Princess, just listen to a few lines from Ariel:
“You’ll have your looks! Your pretty face! And don’t underestimate the importance of body language! Ha!”
Is that really the message you want to be sending your daughters?
You Have to Work Hard
Queen Hippolyta knows that her daughter Diana is special but she doesn’t want her to get any special treatment, in fact, she does the opposite. She makes sure that Wonder Woman’s training is more grueling than anyone else’s. She makes sure that Diana works harder and trains longer than anyone else in her kingdom because she knows that she will have greater responsibilities than anyone else. Hippolyta knows that you have to work hard for greatness.
“You will train her harder than any amazon before her. Five times harder. Ten times harder.”
~ Queen Hippolyta
Queen Elsa’s mom missed this message. She also knows that her daughter is special and extremely powerful, but instead of pushing her daughter towards greatness, she shelters her. The queen is so afraid of her daughter getting hurt that she ends up hurting Elsa more than anyone else could have. Elsa never learns to trust herself. She never learns to work at all, let alone hard. And she never learns what she’s truly capable of. And, in the end, Elsa magically makes everything better without a drop of sweat or an ounce of perseverance. This doesn’t work in real life.
You are the Hero, not the Damsel in Distress
Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty all needed to be rescued. They needed their prince to save them. When there was a problem, they sat there and did nothing. They waited for someone else to come along and figure it out. Even Elsa had to be rescued. She needed Anna to jump in front of her and stop the sword and she needed Olaf to tell her how to control her magic. If she just sat there long enough, someone else would fix everything.
“No, I can’t. I don’t know how.”
I don’t want my daughters to look to others to solve their problems. I don’t want them to think that everything will be fine if they can just find the right guy. I don’t want them to think that someone else will magically come along and make everything okay. I don’t want them to think that their happiness is dependent on someone or something outside of themselves.
I want my daughters to know that they are their own heroes. If a problem pops up in their life, I want them to immediately think about how they can solve it. I want them to know that they are in charge of their own happiness. And I want my daughters to know that they can also be a hero to others.
Wonder Woman is a hero because she fights to help others. She serves her people and helps those in need. She isn’t consumed by her own problems because she’s constantly trying to help others with theirs. And that’s the kind of woman that I want my daughters to become. I want them to be heroes.
You Can Change the World
Even though Elsa has immense power and is a leader of her people, she does relatively little for her kingdom. She fixes the problem that she created and she makes a little ice rink and that’s about it. Elsa is too consumed with herself to be of any use to those around her. And the rest of the Disney princesses aren’t much better. The only lives that they really help are their own. They just don’t have that much of an effect on the world around them.
Superheroes are the exact opposite. Every day superheroes are saving the world and making a difference. Wonder Woman throws herself into battle to save a people she doesn’t even really know and she doesn’t think twice about it. And she ends up saving the world.
“I cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost.”
~ Wonder Woman
I need my girls to know that they can make a difference. I need them to know that their lives matter and that if they struggle and work hard and truly try, they can change the world for the better. I need them to know that they are superheroes.
So I think I’m going to start stealthily replacing the Frozen movies, the princess dresses, and the Disney figurines. (I’ll keep a few. After all, Mulan, Belle, and Merida are still awesome.) And you’ll definitely see more superhero cartoons, books, costumes, and action figures in our house.
And hopefully this summer I’ll see Aspen throwing her tiara and glittery slippers aside to pick up a sword.