Olivia is 9 years old. She’s at an age where she’s eager to grow up and hungry for independence.
She is strong-willed and knows her own mind (I won’t use the word ‘bossy’ because it only ever seems to be attributed to women in a negative context). There’s nothing wrong with these qualities, it just means you know what you want and how to achieve it. This is Olivia down to a tee.
As I say, I think this is a good thing. But what it also means is that she wants to be doing more things for herself. She craves it, although I admit I’m less ready to let go.
It’s that age-old parenting struggle with wanting to empower your child while at the same time wanting to make sure they are safe.
And I think it’s something that others in the family struggle with as well.
Being the only girl of her generation in our family, including the wider branches of our family tree, there is a tendency to wrap Olivia in metaphorical cotton wool. It’s like some people see her as needing to be protected. I know they don’t mean anything by it, but I also know Olivia can feel suffocated and stifled. It’s something her younger brother doesn’t always experience.
More than just a ‘helpless princess’
When she was little, Olivia loved all the usual princess stories. We read the books and watched the Disney films. She used to insist on watching Frozen every night, just for Elsa’s rendition of Let it Go. I had to search desperately for an Elsa costume when they were selling out left, right and centre. Tangled and other Disney princess films were also among her favourites.
But that was around 5 years ago. She’s now older and her view of the world is changing. Olivia is increasingly rejecting traditional depictions of women from fairy tales. She’s fed up of women portrayed as helpless human beings.
Granted, things are starting to change, but on the whole I totally get where she’s coming from. She is fiercely independent and wants people to know it.
It actually makes me a little sad that she’s only 9 and has already acknowledged this gender stereotyping.
The only two ‘princesses’ that she doesn’t mind right now are Princess Fiona from Shrek (“She’s good at fighting”) and Moana (“She’s a chief’s daughter, so not really a princess and more of an adventurer anyway”).
I think these two exceptions to Olivia’s princess rule are revealing. She wants to see kick-ass women taking on the world and being celebrated. She doesn’t want to see women being feared, like Elsa was for most of Frozen, or needing a man to save her like Rapunzel, Snow White and Cinderella.
To that I say, “Hell yeah!”
Why we need strong female role models
Our daughters deserve strong role models. They deserve to see independent women carving their own path, making things happen and enjoying life. It’s important to see this in movies and have it normalised on the big screen. They need to see it and know it’s possible.
Don’t get me wrong, depictions of empowered women do exist and have for some time – think Carrie and friends in Sex and the City, Angelina Jolie in Salt and Tia Leone in Madam Secretary – but they’re all aimed at women, not children.
I’d argue that it’s just as important, maybe even more important, that we show our children from an early age that women are capable of doing amazing things. That women deserve an equal place at the table.
Olivia is assertive, knows her own mind and can be stubborn and competitive. She’s also an amazing writer (not really relevant to the point here, but I couldn’t help fit it in). Her favourite female role models at the moment are Black Widow from the Marvel movies, Violet from The Incredibles and Raven from Teen Titans Go!
How I hope I’m helping my daughter
Strong female role models are important to have in real life too and I hope I can provide some inspiration for my daughter.
I’m by no means perfect – sometimes bedtime can’t come soon enough and I definitely find it hard juggling family and a career at times (although I have improved my work-life balance over the years) – but I knew from a young age what I wanted my future to look like. I worked hard to get where I am today, both in the workplace and at home. I always make decisions based on what’s best for my family and I’d do anything to protect my children.
Success in life means different things to different people. I hope Olivia knows that she’s capable of achieving anything she wants and that I’ll back her on her own journey, whatever that may be.
And what does my husband make of all this? James thinks Olivia’s outlook on life and desire to see strong female role models are two incredibly positive things. However, he’s also adamant that Olivia is still ‘Daddy’s princess’, a phrase she constantly scowls at.
As he puts it, “There should always be space in a young girl’s life to be her dad’s princess.”
What an old softie!