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Modern Parenthood

The Disney Princess divide: The next mommy wars?

The Disney Princess phenomenon is defining life for American girls – and that, parents say, is either really cute, or really concerning. Could princess wars be the next mommy wars?

By Correspondent / April 11, 2012

Some say the "Disney Princess wars" are the new "mommy wars," with parents splitting over whether they are pro- or anti- Disney Princess. Here, the leading ladies in a 2007 "Heart of Gold" campaign to benefit Toys for Tots.

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So, what do you think about the Disney Princess phenomena? 

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We ask, because according to Rebecca Hains, an author and academic who is working on a book about princess culture in America, the “princess wars” may well be the “mommy wars” of the 2010s. 

Haven’t heard those terms before? 

“Mommy wars” is a phrase that started to get a lot of attention in the mid 2000s, and described the tension between stay-at-home moms and mothers who went back into the workforce. According to the mommy wars concept, American women are really judgmental about how others manage the career-parenting balance. The stay-at-home moms think the working moms are abandoning their kids, or at the very least missing out on what matters in life. The career moms think that the stay-at-homes are anti-feminist and, well, boring.

That’s the theory, at least.

There are some critics who think the mommy wars phenomena was media driven, and that mothers tend to be far more supportive of each other than divisive. These critics believe the whole mommy wars concept is passé, a relic of the Brangelina, pre-YouTube era. 

Indeed, take a tour through the world of parenting websites and mommy blogs today, and people seem to be bending over backwards to show their acceptance of anyone who is just trying to figure out this crazy, overwhelming, joyful, exhausting thing called motherhood. 

When it comes to princesses, though, the gloves come off. 

Over the past couple of years, there has been a growing number of written critiques of Disney princesses. (For the uninitiated, the "Disney Princess" is Disney’s brilliant marketing idea to combine all of their fairy tale leading ladies, from old school Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White to the more modern Jasmine and Tiana, into one pastel-colored collective.)

Skeptics see the ladies as limiting girls’ play, focusing attention on appearance, and training girls to be little consumers rather than little people with their own creativity. Last year journalist Peggy Orenstein pushed the debate mainstream with her book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” connecting the Disney Princess pretty-in-pink phenomena to early sexualization of girls. (We wrote about the same in our piece, “Little Girls or Little Women? The Disney Princess effect.”) 

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