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zip line on parasols, nav igating an obstacle course of tires in their stilettos, slithering on their
bellies under barbed wire, then using their telekinetic powers to make a climbing wall burst into
flames. “I f y ou can stand up to really mean people,” an announcer intoned, “may be y ou hav e
what it takes to be a princess.”
Now here were some girls who had grit as well as grace. I lov ed Princess Peach ev en as I recognized that there was no way she could run in those heels, that her peachiness did nothing
to upset the apple cart of ex pectation: she may hav e been athletic, smart and strong, but she
was also adorable. May be she’s what those once- unisex , postfeminist parents are shooting for:
the melding of old and new standards. And perhaps that’s a good thing, the ideal solution. But
what to make, then, of the y oung women in the Girls I nc. surv ey ? I t doesn’t seem to be “hav ing
it all” that’s getting to them; it’s the pressure to be it all. I n telling our girls they can be
any thing, we hav e inadv ertently demanded that they be ev ery thing. T o ev ery one. All the time.
No wonder the report was titled “T he Supergirl Dilemma.”
T he princess as superhero is not irrelev ant. Some scholars I spoke with say that giv en its post9/ 1 1 timing, princess mania is a response to a newly dangerous world. “Historically , princess
worship has emerged during periods of uncertainty and profound social change,” observ es
Miriam Forman- Brunell, a historian at the Univ ersity of Missouri- Kansas City . Francis Hodgson
Burnett’s original“Little Princess” was published at a time of rapid urbanization, immigration
and pov erty ; Shirley T emple’s film v ersion was a hit during the Great Depression. “T he original
folk tales themselv es,” Forman- Brunell say s, “spring from mediev al and early modern
European culture that faced all kinds of economic and demographic and social upheav al —
famine, war, disease, terror of wolv es. Girls play sav ior during times...
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- Spring '12