The Feminist Mom and the Princess Party
Blog by Dana Hernandez
“Mommy, I want to have a princess party this year for my birthday.”
Suddenly the air was sucked out of the room and I waited for the oxygen masks to deploy from the ceiling as the living room nose-dived.
“What?” I coughed out, wide-eyed to my 4-year-old daughter.
“A princess party!” she smiled, cheekily. “And I can dress up as a princess for Halloween!” She took off in a happy spin as I plummet to the soon-to-be-memorial ground below us.
Welcome to my surprising life as a stay-at-home mother of two daughters, who is grasping at the label “feminist” with all her might. I thought my role as the Coordinator for the SPARKteam, which stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, and Knowledge, provided me with a shield that protects against anything that is sexualized, pink, princessy, and stereotypical for girls. I was wrong. Really, really wrong.
Let me introduce you to my 4-year-old. She’s the oldest and most graceful of my daughters, with beautiful long, curly locks that bounce down her back. She loves wearing her black tennis shoes, running through mud puddles, playing with cars (especially Lightning McQueen), soccer, swimming, watching baseball, and drawing. Oh, and she wants to be a princess when she grows up. (Yes, I am clawing at the oxygen masks and the under-the-seat life preservers as I gasp for air.)
Let me make this clear as I brace for impact: we do not own one princess movie. My daughters’ favorite movie is Cars and there are more matchbox cars, books, and musical instruments than any other toys in our home.
So where in the hell is this princess party request coming from? Get this: A book. One stinking old princess book in a huge box full of books on Craigslist that we bought for $10. It’s like giving Kool-Aid to a baby and expecting her not to like it. Seriously, one look at that dress, that damn carriage, and the dancing with the prince at the end and suddenly everything changed. Who can battle a singing mermaid, a fairy godmother, a prince, and a beautiful blue dress with glass slippers?
I never called myself a real feminist before my work with SPARK. I mean, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. I believed that real F-cards were handed out to career-or-nothing-types, until I discovered feminists who taught me about real feminism.
SPARKteam Blogger Stephanie Cole said it best in “The Loaded F-Word” when she redefines a feminist as someone who “keeps an open mind, and tries to always be aware of patriarchy and sexism wherever it occurs. She or he also tries to educate others who are unaware, as well as speak up and take action against inequality.”
And my friend Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, co-creator of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, put me in my place when I questioned if I could be kicked out of the feminist club for allowing my house to become a pink castle. “Feminism gets a bad rap as being one very strict thing, when there are so many ways people are feminists,” Brown said. “My feminism is one that doesn’t turn people away from the honest struggle you are having.”
But, how can I be a feminist and a stay-at-home mother at the same time? Especially when I have failed in the princess debacle?! The answer is simple for me. I follow my gut. I was once on a path to save the world as a high school teacher. Yet, everything changed once I met my daughter. Everything. I left my career as a teacher and moved across the country with my husband to become a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. (Full disclosure, I suck at the homemaking part, but I’m a damn good mom.) Two years later, I had daughter #2 – an identical piece of sass with curls.
It was a gutsy move and the best decision my husband and I ever made. I honor the fact that we’ve scraped by on a one-salary income so I can host play dates, kiss boo-boos, find blankeys, and read stories at naptimes. The monotony of my days is often monstrous and hard. Though it’s not for everyone, I know it’s something I will always treasure.
I have activism in my blood. When I look deep enough, my feminism and my loathing of inequality has always been there. Am I political? Yes. Opinionated? Yes. Strong-willed? Yes. (My husband would say “Hell YES.”) I feel feminism is inherently found in the voice of a mother raising her children, too. I am fighting so hard for my girls to be strong, focused, secure, loving, and determined young women. I abhor a media that labels my girls “tom boys” because they love a good play in the mud or cars.
Real feminism is about choice, right? The choice for me to instill in my girls and others how powerful their lives can be, even if they choose to be stay-at-home moms who let their daughters dress as princesses.
“Why do you want a princess party?” I later asked, when I felt the crash landing had aborted.
“Because I want to be a princess,” she answered.
I shrugged, “But what do they doooo that you like?” I asked, drawing out the verb and trying to crack the code. My daughter shrugged, “They’re princesses, Mommy! They wear those dresses and are pretty. Do you like princesses, Mommy?” I think she already knew the answer… “I think they’re kind of boring. They don’t run and play sports, have fun or draw like you do.”
“Then I can be your princess, Mommy,” she said with the biggest smile in the whole wide world. “I can be all of it.”
Yes, she can.
I learned four lessons that day: First, I have no idea what I am doing. Second, I am doing a pretty damn good job at it. Third, I just may be hosting a “You-Can-Be-It-All” Princess/Cars party in my future.
And lastly, my daughter is one awesome princess.
And yes, I am a feminist.
Dana Hernandez is SPARKteam Coordinator and a current Emerge America student. She worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and taught high school for at-risk boys in East Los Angeles before moving to Maine. She is now a candidate for the Maine Senate for 2012 and stay-at-home mom to her 2 and 4-year-old daughters. She is a mother, writer, activist, campaign manager, community organizer, and soon-to-be politician.