A creative mom gave her daughter’s Disney princess book a little extra empowering flair.
Danielle Lindemann is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University and mother to a soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter. When she received the Disney-brand What Is A Princess? book as a gift for her toddler, Lindemann thought the messages seemed a little shallow.
“Like a lot of ‘princess’ stuff one sees out there, it presented such a limited range of options for femininity,” she told The Huffington Post. “I thought I’d jazz it up a bit.”
Lindemann’s tweaks included changing “A princess is kind” to “A princess is kind of a badass” and completing the sentence “A princess likes to dress up” with the phrase “in her medical scrubs when she goes to work as a neurosurgeon.”
“I just want my daughter to see that she can be anything she wants,” the mom explained. “She can be kind and pretty and love to dance and wear sparkly tutus. Sparkly tutus are fabulous! She can also speak her own mind and be a doctor or a senator if she wants.”
After Lindemann made the changes, she thought her daughter might be a bit confused, but the toddler actually “just rolled with it,” she said. “Maybe because it made complete narrative sense to her,” Lindemann conjectured. “Why wouldn’t Cinderella have sparkly shoes and be a neurosurgeon?”
Lindemann did not intend for many people to see her edits. She told HuffPost she mostly made the tweaks “kind of as a lark” and posted pictures on Facebook because she found it amusing. After a friend suggested she submit her work to Sociological Images, it received some viral attention from there.
Though she didn’t imagine having such a wide audience, Lindemann says she thinks it’s great if her edits make people chuckle or even think a bit differently about gender stereotypes.
While the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, she’s also received criticism from people who completely missed the point (or simply did not like it).
“I think it’s sort of silly how bent out of shape some people have already gotten about these edits ― like, why does the idea of Cinderella being a neurosurgeon get to people that much?” she said. “But the fact that they’re getting so heated, though, is sociologically interesting, and I think speaks to how entrenched these gender ideals truly are.”
Lindemann wants to be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind. “We should teach all of our girls ― and boys! ― that it’s important to be kind,” she explained. “But there’s a lot of media out there that teaches young girls to be kind, sweet, accommodating, compliant... While those are not bad qualities to have, per se, I think it’s also important to model other qualities for them as well.”
Based on some negative responses, she also feels the need to clarify that she doesn’t mean “badass” in the sense of “rude” or “bratty” but rather in the sense of “being a totally boss chick ― just a girl who is all-around confident and accomplished and knows what’s what.”
Further, Lindemann added, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with girls (or boys!) wanting to put on something sparkly and feel pretty. I have some pretty dresses myself. But when the dominant idea is that girls ― and women ― are judged mainly on their physical appearance in a way that boys and men are not, I think it’s important to model some other values for these girls as well.”
As a parent, she believes it’s important to show girls that their worth does not lie solely in their physical appearance and that their other qualities are valuable and important.
Ultimately, Lindemann believes her edits are about providing options in the stories kids consume. “If there were a multiplicity of children’s books out there in which little girls were shown playing with trucks and trains and learning to be engineers and surgeons, and if there were books out there in which boys were shown getting a kick out of dressing up in fabulous clothes... well, it would be a different world,” she explained. “But it’s not that world.”
Beyond providing options for her daughter, the mom has an even simpler explanation for this project.
Said Lindemann, “It’s really just about me being silly and having fun with my daughter’s book one lazy night at the expense of Cinderella’s sparkly shoes.”