Blogging on the princess industrial complex and other hot-button parenting issues leaves Zach Rosenberg feeling conflicted
Check my Google Drive: I’ve got 50-or-so documents three-quarters written that I refuse to finish. I’ve got a handful of documents that contain nothing more than an inflammatory title and a clever zinger of a first line. Some of these will never see the light of day. But I leave them there – like I own a junkyard – and I wait for a similar topic to come up. Need a snarky intro about a food trend? Yeah, I got one of those. Tearjerker ending about fatherhood? I got a couple. Need a joke about potty training? Lemme sift through these three documents, I can make you an SEO-friendly top-five list.
I’m a dad blogger. We’re digital ambulance chasers. We see a topic go screaming by and we’ve got to stay on its tail, lest someone else get there first and snag that national attention that some bloggers enjoy these days. Topic after topic, injustice after injustice. We’re there. Bitching about fast food. Complaining about television. Discussing, as if it’s the end of the world, how soon is too soon for juice, pets, Legos, tiaras and toy guns.
I had this piece all-but-completely-written about the current ambulance: princesses. Raised once a year and fought for a couple months, it’s a big deal. I mean, to us, at least. It started (this time) with a fellow dad blogger named Andy Hinds. You’d know him by his face, because Hinds has been everywhere lately; in print, on television, and all over the internet. He’s a great guy, wonderful father, and respectable writer.
Hinds doesn’t like the “princess industrial complex.” Fueled by Disney and commodified by the toy industry, Hinds feels that drowning his daughters in princess pink will give them unrealistic vision of life, as “the overall princess trope promotes traditional notions of femininity and an unhealthy focus on physical beauty.”
Feminist writer Hugo Schwyzer answered Hinds’ rant against princesses, and it might surprise you. Schwyzer is not only unfraid of princess culture, but is having a birthday party for his own daughter complete with an actress dressed up like one of the Disney princesses. But the House of Hugo is optimistic that his daughter has “ability to leave the less healthy lessons of princess culture behind as they age” – thanks in part to his and his wife’s parenting.
There are about a dozen (a baker’s dozen nonetheless!) of articles batting the issue back and forth.
“We’re keenly aware” says Schwyzer, “that we’re taking sides in one of the many small conflicts that make up the larger contemporary battle to define good parenting.” And so it goes: chalk another up for princessing. Chalk another up against.
I had a great – if you don’t mind me saying, and you don’t – article about how amidst all this talk of princessing girls, I was glad to have a boy. But as I wrote and rewrote the article, I was more worried about getting my article in during the window of time where the topic was hot. I then became worried about the fact that I was presenting myself as a parent glad to have a boy simply because I got to avoid some conflict about gender stereotypes, all the while flying under the radar and playing my son right into other non-hot-button ones. I didn’t want to come off like that, since anyone that knows me knows that I do two things: fight for things and blur the gender stereotype line. So, my child will grow up to be an inexorable contrarian, possibly one that wears a pink robe.
You won’t see my article on princessing and why I’m glad to have a boy. Not on this cycle, at least. You won’t hear anything from DadCentric founder Jason Avant either, who declared today that he no longer has parenting opinions. And kudos to Jason, it’s a thoughtful insight into the process of parent blogging – and one of the reasons for this article. Avant, like me, had clicked around the internet and read all of our colleagues’ articles on princessing. There are a lot of great articles out there by a lot of talented writers on the topic. “Jumping in to the conversation just to read myself think seemed disingenuous,” Avant said in his DadCentric piece, “the equivalent of calling in to a talk radio show just to say I’d done it.”
Last night, I was trudging through my princess piece and couldn’t for the life of me, figure out why I ran out of steam on it, and Avant nailed it. The topic was already well-traveled. The opinions were already there. It wasn’t like I had a hard-nosed opinion on any of it; I was simply saying “gosh, what an issue, I’m glad I’m not dealing with it!” And with that, I’d monitor the hits on my article, hoping that some of the internet traffic still googling “princess industrial complex” would end up on my article too.
Like Jason Avant, I didn’t want to throw my hat into the ring on the topic because I didn’t need to. I’ll echo Avant by saying that “smart, good parents…raise smart, good kids,” in or out of the princess complex, and whether or not we end up writing about the topic while it’s hot.
I’m not done ambulance-chasing. Some other hot topic will come up, and I’ll inevitably have an opinion (they’re like a-holes, you know). It’ll inevitably relate to me as a father, and I’ll inevitably have some take on it that you just couldn’t possibly read elsewhere. Maybe an old article will have a good snarky line I can repurpose. I’ll check my Google Drive and get back to you.
—Photo by Autistic Psycho/Flickr