Hold the Tulle: I’m Anti-Princess

Manhattan is a special place, no doubt. I live on the Upper East Side in Yorkville, a formerly German and Czech community. I jokingly refer to the far east neighborhood as the “suburbs of Manhattan.” It’s not a scene. There are lots of families and doorman buildings, as well as a lot of tenements. I live by a school, so mornings are marked by a stampede of kids Mr. V and I ford on our way to work. I’m always stunned by the amount of tutus ported by the younger female set.

I vote we abolish the P-word. Pink backpacks are marked “Princess.” T-shirts are marked “I’m a Birthday Princess.” And dress that used to be acceptable only at home while playing dress-up or on stage is now street wear.  Perhaps the argument against sparkly leotards, pink sequins, and chiffon skirts wasn’t worth the argument that morning. Perhaps the family ran out of time changing clothes before going out the door.

Don’t get me wrong – I myself had a powder blue tutu. But it stayed in the house, along with makeup until I was 12 (still early!) and my mom’s silver high heels. They were for play. In order to boost up girls, we’ve chosen the wrong image. So often we approach girls by commenting on their appearance, instead of letting them know that we value their minds.

I recently read Lisa Bloom’s article about how to  talk to little girls. When starting a conversation, don’t say “how pretty you look!” or “what a nice dress.” That immediately indicates to the girl that her value is related to her appearance and the material goods she wears. Try something like “what’s your favorite class at school,” “show me your favorite toy,” or “what book are you reading right now?”

Would you ever approach a little boy and comment on his appearance, saying “how pretty/rugged/tough you look?”

Lego advertisement, 1981.

Lego advertisement, 1981.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.