Ideas Wanted: Anti-Princess Syndrome Slogans

Update: Is this article silly? See the comments section for follow-up thoughts.

Every day strangers tell my daughter she is cute. Pretty. Beautiful. Gorgeous. I understand babies being cute, but my daughter is 26-months-old. Maybe she’s cute in comparison to mom and dad. Maybe she really is a gem. But the compliments, nice as they are, have grown old.

A toddler's white bodysuit with a handwritten message reading: My head is too big for your tiaraShe enjoys the attention drawn to her looks, hair and clothes, but she is receiving an empty form of praise. She’ll never be commended for her intelligence, creativity or kindness in a 10-second interaction with a stranger.

Plus, American culture still teaches girls fantasies about raising oneself through the ranks of social and economic status by looks alone. It’s princess syndrome. [mirrored copy]

To understand where we’re coming from, know that her grandfather remarked a couple months ago, "She’s beautiful enough to be a model." Her mom replied, "I hope she’s smarter than that."

So I am thinking of having a toddler T-shirt printed for my daughter bearing an anti-princess message, something aimed squarely at everyone who exalts superficiality.

Oh, I know a T-shirt won’t change anything. Strangers won’t read a shirt before issuing praise. The shirt is for my own satisfaction. Aren’t all toddler shirts really for the parents? Kids don’t care what they wear as long as they don’t get hot or cold.

I’m asking for your help devising a good quip or snappy comeback to such praise. For example:

  • Spare $1 for my college fund?
  • Smarter than my looks
  • Future Nobel laureate
  • Junior Scientist
  • My brain is pretty too

Anyone have other ideas?

Comments

41 Responses to “Ideas Wanted: Anti-Princess Syndrome Slogans”

  1. Kim says:

    I ain’t Barbie and I don’t need no Ken

    August 24th, 2006 at 8:56 am

  2. BenR says:

    Future Valedictorian
    Pint-Sized Einstein

    August 24th, 2006 at 10:37 am

  3. Pat says:

    1) Girl power

    2) I am not your Barbie doll

    3) GIRLS KICK BUTT

    4) ASSUME NOTHING

    5) Don’t call me princess!

    August 24th, 2006 at 4:57 pm

  4. Anonymous says:

    How is girls kick butt anti-princess? Seen miss congeniality? lol

    This all seems a little silly to me, people call kids cute becuase they *are* cute. Thinking your 2 year old is going to think she’s only good for her looks over strangers calling her cute is just silly.

    Besides, the notion that women that are models can’t be smart too *IS* exhalting superficiality!

    August 25th, 2006 at 2:59 pm

  5. AJ says:

    Well, Little Miss’ grandmother agrees with you.

    I disagree. Not all kids are cute and people (with the exception of grandmothers) have no obligation to approach total strangers to compliment a child. But if a stranger is going to say something, yeah, they’ll compliment looks or clothing because that’s all they can see in the span of 30 seconds.

    My daughter has been quick to pick up and reuse these compliments. She’ll stare at herself in the mirror and describe herself and other people as “very beautiful.”

    Oh my God, my daughter has positive self-esteem! Oh no! But seriously…

    Is any of this *really* important for a 2-year-old? Offhand, no. But on a deeper level, hell yes. Kids absorb the information around them, especially the behavior of their parents. I view what’s happening today as laying the groundwork for how my child will act and be tomorrow. So I find myself saying, “Mom did a wonderful job with your ponytails. Do you like them? You do? Oh, did you thank Mom?,” rather than merely saying “You look beautiful.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m still human and can’t help being superficial from time to time, but when I’m conscious of my words, I choose to praise positive actions with regard to their effect on other people.

    As for stereotyping models, I recognize that models fulfill a function in society. And by no measure is modeling an “easy” job. No job is easy, not even panhandling. I just hope my daughter will pursue a profession that will fully utilize her intellect instead of her physical assets… much in the same way that some parents don’t want their kids to grow up to be artists or lawyers.

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to insult artists.

    August 25th, 2006 at 3:56 pm

  6. thordora says:

    I have taken every effort to compliment my daughters for their wit, intelligence and strength as much as their beauty. Because BOTH are equally valid in this day and age for girls. I want them to have faith in themselves as people, and as women. I want them to believe they CAN be intelligent and smart and strong. I try not to draw a line between the two, as I’ve seen people do so often.

    I just want the shirt that says ‘I’m not a performing monkey” for my girls.

    August 26th, 2006 at 8:34 am

  7. Karen says:

    I do not think this is a silly discussion. I feel like I need to deprogram my daughter after she spends time with my mom. She (mom) says things like, “You need to wash your face, noone want to see a girl that’s all messy. Now, that’s better, now you look pretty.”
    While I have nothing against clean kids, I do not like the “If ou aren’t pretty noone will want to see you” message.
    When some stranger compliments my child’s cuteness or clothes or whatever, I try to respond with a statement like “She chose her own outfit” or “she has very strong opinions about how her hair should look today” or whatever. Maybe it’s not a big deal but I feel like I am affirming my daughter’s decisions, choices, styles and not her looks.

    August 28th, 2006 at 3:43 am

  8. Carolyn says:

    I’m pleased to see this, actually. I’ve read that it’s kind of a gender thing – people give different compliments to small boys. Sometimes they call them “handsome” but it’s often “brave” or “strong” or what have you. I have an infant boy, I guess I’ll let you know. So far I mostly tell him that he’s wonderful, he’s adorable, that he’s a nice baby, that we like having him around, and that he’s a great communicator.

    Some shirt ideas:

    MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE
    ASK ME ABOUT MY TEST SCORES
    WELL-BEHAVED TODDLERS RARELY MAKE HISTORY

    Incidentally, you might enjoy Pink’s new song/video, “Stupid Girls.” It’s up on YouTube. Note: it has some swear words, sexual content, and a grody bulemia scene in the middle.

    August 28th, 2006 at 2:21 pm

  9. NB says:

    I’m going to try to say this without sounding obnoxious. I was a pretty, smart little girl. My mom was one of those who was worried I was only going to value looks, not brains. So when a stranger said something perfectly nice like, “She’s so pretty she could be a model,” and my mom practically spat “Well I hope she does something with her brains,” it was just a downer. I always felt like she was taking the compliment away from me, and being rude to the person who said it. So just try to calm down if you have a pretty little girl, and smile and say thank you when she gets complimented. If she has great brains, too, then she’ll know they matter just as much.

    August 31st, 2006 at 12:48 pm

  10. Joe says:

    Wow. I had this same crisis a couple of months ago. Some of the favorite ones that I thought up:

    Hang Hopes and Dreams Here
    I Am Not Your Second Chance
    I Suck The Life Out Of Mommy
    I Am Not Mommy’s Little Princess

    Maybe too mean spirted for some people? Feel free to use these, but send a creeper my way!

    And I don’t think this is silly. There’s a perception problem right now in our society and we need to teach our children that it’s not what other people think of you that matters, it’s how you think of you. You can only have self esteem if it starts with the self.

    Then if she becomes a model, you can be proud of her. :)

    September 4th, 2006 at 9:14 am

  11. Steve says:

    My wife and I created a onesie for our daughter using computer-printable iron-ons. It says “Astrophysicist”, but in a fanciful princessy font with pink letters and a purple crown.

    Picture at http://www.bigadventures.com/blogpics/astrophysicist.jpg

    September 4th, 2006 at 9:42 am

  12. Melissa says:

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with – post a link – maybe I’ll buy one. We’ve been blessed with a very pretty daughter, but it got to the point where we teased that we weren’t going to take her out without her wearing a burqa because getting stopped by strangers in the store would add 15 to 30 minutes to our grocery shopping! After hearing from my dad for the 5000th time how pretty she was, I had to respond, “yes, but we prefer to emphasize how active and energetic she is and what a good person she is. She’d be just as wonderful if she looked different.”

    Some suggestions:

    HUMANITARIAN
    a red circle/slash with a princess crown in the middle
    My secrets? Oatmeal on my face and botox

    September 4th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

  13. Jill says:

    I have a son who has stopped traffic since he was an infant. My favorite comment, from a guy in painter coveralls, was “Wow, he’s cute enough to be a girl.” Huh? What am I supposed to think of that comment? What is a boy learning from that? He’s not supposed to be beautiful, but girls are?

    September 5th, 2006 at 11:32 am

  14. Margot Vigeant says:

    The Society of Women Engineers at my university produced an excellent t-shirt a few years ago – we weren’t combating “princess” so much as “brat”, if you recall those tight fitted shirts with glitter-script lettering. The shirt, which was also fitted, has “Engineer” in the glitter-sparkle lettering. They are pretty darned cool.

    September 8th, 2006 at 11:05 am

  15. Anonymous says:

    I like “my brain is pretty too”

    September 12th, 2006 at 7:30 pm

  16. Anonymous says:

    hmmmm… the boy/girl thing… I go up and say all babies are cute, regardless of gender….

    did drive me nuts that everyone thought my son was a girl all the time. he had little curlies and long lashes… um no, guys have curly hair too, it’s not a gender specific trait. course, people thought my girls were boys too, cause I’d dress them in blue… the oldest gravitated towards pink, though, at an early age, I’d be picking out some nice neutral clothes and she’d be staring at the pink thing. So, wanting to encourage her to make her own decisions, I got the pink thing, and then everythng had to be pink or purple.

    September 12th, 2006 at 7:42 pm

  17. allison says:

    I was always partial to the slogan

    Don’t call me Doll. I’m an Action Figure!

    September 14th, 2006 at 8:17 am

  18. C says:

    You have a problem with people complementing her? How would you feel if NO ONE ever acknowledged her, or ever said anything nice about her? What if she wasn’t cute? Then you’d be worrying about that, too. A parent is going to worry no matter what, no matter which direction it goes. It’s a normal parental behavior for us to worry, whatever the reason may be. Complementing her will only add to her self esteem, so when she gets in grade school, if anyone teases her, she’ll be confident and secure enough for the teasing to not faze her at all. There’s nothing wrong with a little outside complementing, other than from immediate family, friends and neighbors. She will grow up very secure with herself, and very confident. Enough that when other kids ridicule her, or say mean things to her, it won’t affect her in the least. She’ll have a solid confident foundation built up inside of her, (other than from you and immediate family) so she won’t end up being shy or self conscientious from the mean things that WILL come later on in life. As unfair as that sounds, it does happen with kids. Maybe more so in her case because she is cute. Kids will find reasons to tease her out of jealousy. Kids can and will be mean to other kids, plain and simple. It’s up to you as her parent to redirect the complements she receives right now, from going straight to her head, if you think that’s happening. When someone complements her, you can tell her, “well, it must be that beautiful clean top that you’re wearing today“. Or, “you helped mommy pick out a cute outfit for you to wear today“. Things like that. There’s nothing wrong with you telling her that her hair looks beautiful after you brush it. Then you can tell her that when she gets older, you will teach her how to fix her hair the same way, so she to can make herself look beautiful with a pretty hairdo. This way, it will instill in her that you have to work on yourself to be beautiful and that cuteness doesn’t always come naturally.

    In a sort of way, you’ll be cushioning all the complements she gets. You’ll begin to make her realize that she has to have clean clothes, or nice hair, eat her food, all combined, to look healthy, which makes you look pretty. That might even help you in some areas if she is the type of child that doesn’t like to eat her food, or change her clothes if they get dirty, etc, etc. Use all this to your advantage!!!

    Something else here. When kids get teased and they come home sad and/or crying from it, and you reassure them on whatever they were teased about, most of them will answer your response with, “but you’re my mom, of course you’re going to say that. So, with things being the way they have been, she’ll always have that memory of pure strangers coming up and telling her how cute she was, which will leave her believing you that much more, that she is cute, and you’re not just saying it because you are her mother and you’re trying to mend her feelings if they’ve been hurt.

    January 3rd, 2007 at 2:35 pm

  19. AJ says:

    C, thanks for your perspective. I’m fine with strangers not complimenting my daughter. I don’t believe that encountering a child in public necessitates issuing a compliment, so if people smile and walk by, that’s cool with us.

    The only inoculation against schoolyard teasing is self-esteem. Such things as education, being valued by others, accomplishing difficult tasks and forming strong interpersonal relationships will strengthen self worth. Physical beauty is arbitrary, and thus easily attacked by others and questioned by oneself. The other issues I mentioned form a solid foundation that can make even an ugly duckling into a strong individual.

    January 4th, 2007 at 12:29 am

  20. Melody says:

    I may be pretty enough to be a princess, but I’m smart enough to be President

    January 22nd, 2007 at 12:28 pm

  21. Abbie Gale says:

    Pro girl statements don’t have to be anti male. I can’t stand anti boy ,anti male comments comming from angry hurt women who can’t give a little girl an affirming compliment without castrating and insulting the equal male gender. Yes, that’s what I said. Males are not bad. That may be news to you. They are the other sex that’s all. so that’s for all you femminazis out there.
    How about: Ann Coulter is my hero.

    March 5th, 2007 at 6:41 pm

  22. Melanie says:

    Totally agree–we are actually making this kind of shirt with pro-girl (not anti-boy!!) messages in Rhinestones. We have things like “Rocket Scientist” or QT pi…not to mention Princess Schmincess! So, if you’re still looking for an anti-princess shirt, or any other tee for a Smart Girl check us out :)

    March 15th, 2007 at 10:58 am

  23. melanie says:

    p.s. Forgot to list the site! It’s mindcandyclothing.com

    March 15th, 2007 at 10:59 am

  24. jenna says:

    any suggestion for locating a great shirt I saw recently which read “Why be a princess when you can be a president”? I’d love to find it.

    March 27th, 2007 at 5:24 am

  25. Angela says:

    As a parent of a child who has always been complimented, I have really struggled with this. I realize that when someone who doesn’t know my daughter compliments her looks, it is sincere and we should graciously receive the compliment. But I much prefer it when someone compliments her on being polite or kind. Looks aren’t something we can really do anything about (plastic surgery aside), we are just born that way. I realized very quickly that when people complimented us on our daughter’s looks they were complimenting us on something we couldn’t even control, it was just the combination of genes. So I sometimes say “Thanks, she just came that way.”

    But something else we have discovered as our daughter gets older (she’s 4 now), cute wears out very quickly on a rude, disrespectful, unkind child. So I work on manners, compassion, and all those character traits we hope our children have and the cute just takes care of itself.

    Plus she has started telling people she wants to be a paleontologist. Maybe we should have had her model as a baby to pay for grad school.

    I really like the slogan above about well behaved toddlers not making history. So true.

    March 28th, 2007 at 10:05 am

  26. Marcy says:

    I found the perfect shirt site for anti princess syndrome slogan shirts with style & class. I have bought several for friends and now my 2 year old has two of them. Go to http://www.mindcandyclothing.com/ if you are looking for a good alternative to shirts with empty messages about looks and not brains! Check it out and you’ll be impressed!

    August 31st, 2007 at 11:50 pm

  27. Jayson Southworth says:

    I have a 7 year old daughter. She is beautiful, and smart and creative. I support her in her princess moods and her scientific moods. She is all of these and more to me. I stress to her that she doesnt need to care what people think about her! The only thing that matters is if she is happy. It worries me when people go out of their way to channel a child one way or another. Moms that feel like they didnt receive enought pay or weren’t taken seriously because they have a vagina. Dads that didnt make that game winning play in high school. That now push their child into sports to re-live a childhood they feel they were owed. I cringe when i read something like “im no barbie, i dont need a ken” Sounds like a very angry woman that is breeding the same angry thoughts in her daughter. How about I put a t-shirt on my son that reads “I’m not your little princesses (or engineers) future sugar-daddy” i’m sure that would go over well at the playground! Raise your child to be good, strong, and moral. If that child wants to be a princess…let them be that too.

    October 8th, 2007 at 1:25 pm

  28. Natalie says:

    Everyone knows it would be weird to go up to someone else and say something along those lines, so it seems even stranger to me when someone goes up and compliments or attempts to talk to another person’s child.

    November 6th, 2007 at 6:26 pm

  29. Julie Keefe says:

    I just stumbled across this great blog while
    I was doing some online work. My mother, my two sisters and I started Project Positivity, an online effort to raise awareness promoting words of positivity in girls and young women. We sell our “Why Be A Princess When You Can Be President” t-shirts. $2 from each shirt is donated to local initiatives that promote empowerment for women. Visit us at http://www.projectpositivity.com for more info and to order your Positivity Wear! Keep up the great work and a great discussion!!

    January 2nd, 2008 at 12:06 pm

  30. Kit says:

    Most people don’t want to be caught with nothing to say, so it becomes a reflex to compliment a little girl on her looks, it’s just less awkward than “Hey, you’ve got a kid. That’s…cool.”

    I think “My brain is pretty too” Gets the point across without being mean spirited.

    I know Hot Topic has a baby/toddler/child line, and if you’re not comfortable around the tattoo-sporting, hair-dying ear-gaging teen-20 crowd, they have a website. (HotTopic.com)
    They have a “Science is Awesome” shirt for the little ones, or there’s always the “I cry because you’re ugly” shirts which would, I suppose, keep strangers from coming up and complimenting her looks.
    Kidding, of course.

    January 16th, 2008 at 4:34 pm

  31. L says:

    I love your parenting philosophy. Was reading about the common interests in your circle of friends (no TV before age 2, herbal remedies, etc.), and started looking around to see if you had them all bundled together somewhere in a single blog. I absolutely agree with this one. Any chance you do have a blog that speaks of your rules for raising kids and I am missing it?

    February 6th, 2008 at 7:13 am

  32. Paola says:

    **Is that you have never seen a lil’ girl**

    **My tiara is my brain**

    February 24th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  33. Jane Henson says:

    Have you visited http://www.anti-princess.com?
    I like their message

    May 4th, 2008 at 8:12 am

  34. SK says:

    I have just returned from my mother’s house, leaving in tears after a heated argument with her on the topic we always seem to clash about. While she sees no harm in showering my 4-year old with the Disney princess empire, as well as encouraging her to be a ballerina, twirling around and smiling at herself in the mirror …. I cringe! I was a ballerina myself for many years, so I have nothing against ballerinas. I also played with Barbies and loved Snow White. Yes, I turned out ok as my mother feels the need to remind me all the time. I am indeed in a science career and feel that my self-esteem is in the just fine catagory. However, I also feel strongly about encouraging my little girl to explore other things besides princesses and ballerinas. My mother somehow sees this as crushing her spirit, as if importance on self-image is a natural born thing (it ain’t). Neither is self-esteem, so I will continue to encourage my daughter to look at the world in a way that values her mind and spirit, therefore hopefully fostering value in herself (inside and outside). Maybe it is a futile waste of energy that will backfire on me in the end, but I can’t give up on something that I believe in so strongly. Fight the Disney consumerism empire! BTW, I don’t indulge my son in monster trucks and cars either. There is more to life for both of them.

    July 22nd, 2008 at 3:40 pm

  35. Thien-Kim says:

    Ooh what a great discussion. I agree with you. My daughter is indeed beautiful (not from a biased point of view) as we’re told this on a daily basis. And I don’t want her to grow up thinking that it’s more important than anything else. So I usually tell people that she’s smart too, but I like your “My brain is beautiful” slogan better.

    My daughter is into princesses right now (no idea where she got it from since I’m not a girly-girl). It is really hard to find books about non-Disney princesses but thank goodness for google!

    August 18th, 2008 at 2:26 pm

  36. Amy says:

    What’s wrong with being beautiful and accomplished? Just look at Sarah Palin!

    October 18th, 2008 at 8:18 am

  37. JS says:

    I would cry and consider myself a failure as a parent if my daughter turned out like Palin.

    October 18th, 2008 at 9:53 am

  38. Aaron says:

    Funny, I thought MY girls were the only ones out there be complimented.

    Talk about a downer. ;)

    January 19th, 2009 at 8:42 am

  39. Greeno says:

    I totally agree, no princess stuff for my little girl.

    She’s got a few good tshirts.

    QT Pi
    That’s Dr Princess to you

    All from http://www.mindcandyclothing.com

    July 21st, 2009 at 4:55 pm

  40. Jennifer Nichols says:

    Princess Bubble is a great anti-princess book to empower girls. They may have a slogan.

    September 3rd, 2009 at 4:55 pm

  41. Yam Erez says:

    Sweden being the most progressive country with regards to women’s rights and gender issues, I’m dying of curiosity as to whether the Princess Disease has infected their retail culture there. Can anyone out there tell me whether “girls’ backpacks” (for instance) in Sweden are pink sparkle-drenched?

    March 1st, 2011 at 6:32 am

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