⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

April 14, 2011

Mirror mirror.



Last night I was playing the piano and Marguerite was dancing along. Her dance seemed a little droopier than usual. Oddly, she requested something slow - so I submitted with a Chopin Prelude but didn't get too far. One look over at her was enough to slide my fingers right off the keys. She sort of lugged her feet over and came to sit on my lap. I asked her what was wrong. I lifted her chin up to encourage her to let out what was making her eyes dark and sad.

She explained. Her friend, Brune, with whom she had spent the afternoon, refused to say they could both be the most beautiful princess. I pointed out that there are many beautiful princesses and she agreed, saying that is what she tried to explain to her friend. But then Brune had successfully reminded Marguerite that the magic mirror only allows one princess to be the 'fairest of them all.' I felt a kind of chill hearing this tale quoted so perfectly, believed so wholeheartedly. Given the paradigm, the response was tricky. Hmmm.

"Do you think there is only one magic mirror? There are so many mirrors and every one of them says a different thing, decides that one kind of beauty or another is different and better than the others." She looked doubtful. I was up against a whole lot of fairytale.

Moments like these make me rattled to have daughters. Little Marguerite is so persuaded by the princess syndrome and imparts so much meaning to the construct. How to avoid the desire to be the prettiest of them all and how to avoid having that become measure of worth for a girl (or a big chunk of it). I am stealing all the fairytale books from my girls (Marguerite too, except she only lives with us for part of the time) and am going to insist on heroic or kind female beings for them to aspire to. Write my own books.

13 comments:

kelly said...

amen to that.

Rosie said...

Little Marguerite,
Mirrors reflect how we look on the outside. But how we treat each other tells how beautiful we truly are on the inside! You are a beautiful! Love to you!

la_sale_bete said...

Aw, that is a really sweet and sad thought about princesses. I will write you a book about a sassy princess who raps. Or about a [sort of scary] x-ray mirror that can judge the quality of someone's character from the inside out.

Emilie said...

or a princess in a wheelchair, for example. let's have a birthday party this weekend meredith.

Emilie said...

and please write those books for us, meredith.

D1Warbler said...

I think you should write the book, Emilie. Maybe a whole series of books connected with mirrors and truth! You have the heart for it. You have the skill for it. And now -- you have the motive for it!

Jill said...

The sad thing is, girls don't have to read fairy tales at all to get these ideas in their head. All they have to do is pick up a magazine, watch a movie or television, go to school, or listen to the talk of other girls. The pressure is intense!

That pressure is starting to creep in more and more as my MK enters teen age. I'm scared!

Emily, write those books. We need them.

TSL @ Living In Art said...

This photo of your beautiful daughter reminds me of the most precious works of children in similar compositions Norman Rockwell painted so wonderfully. This could be straight from a Saturday Evening Post magazines. I adore this. As a matter of fact, your entire family are gorgeous and interesting from an artist's standpoint.

Gabriela said...

Emilie, this is really fascinating. I actually did my senior thesis on how the image of the princess, specifically the Disney princess, has impacted American female culture.

Have no fear. In my research, many studies show that little girls, starting with my generation, manipulate the princess archetype to one that is more active than passive and takes the role heroine instead of a prince's "prize."

I recommend Mulan and The Princess and the Frog, where both of the "princesses" are valued for characteristics aside from being the fairest in the land.

Rebekah V. said...

You might want to remind her that the mirror is working for the evil queen. the one that is obsessed with her appearance is the bad guy. Most fairy tales show the dark side of feminine power as vanity. the beautiful of face but black of heart evil step sisters are the foil to cinderella ane her apparent virtues which are patience and kindness. The animals she loves in turn facilitate her hopes to have a meaningful relationship. Some princesses are silly...usually the ones that have been reconstructed within the framework of modern individualism (ie.by disney) but I think the archetype of the princess in traditional fairy tales is a little more nuanced. This is something I have thought about a lot. I could give you my reading of every princess story. Heaven knows I have given them to my daughters and anyone else who would listen!

TSL @ Living In Art said...

I could have done well to concentrate on the text but the visual aspect immediately caught my eye.

Emilie said...

bekah - i love your versions. come over and tell some, please.

Anonymous said...

Free to Be--You and Me!

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