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Mighty Princesses with a Taste for Danger

Instead of Susan B. Anthony, the paper doll section offered Rosie the Riveter, who at least presents more costume possibilities (and is actually one of my favorite characters).

Jim’s daughter, Alexis, mother of recent arrival Mabel Jade, sent a link to “The Ultimate Guide to Independent Princesses,” a page of A Mighty Girl website, which claims to be “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.”

Well, of course, I had to have a look, though I was somewhat apprehensive, being born of an era when the politically correct alternative was Jane Addams or Susan B. Anthony paper dolls (each with an array of colorless clothing you could change at will).  But I was pleasantly surprised.  A Mighty Girl’s selections are colorful, fun, and wide enough in each category to provide sufficient variety.

This book, about a princess with a "taste for danger," intrigued me.

There are books, such as The Paper Bag Princess, Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, and Don’t Kiss the Frog:  Princess Stories with Attitude.  Most of them look like they might be fun, not just ideological rants for the pink tiara set.  Some of these seem like they might give Eloise a run through the Plaza. In addition, there are books for slightly older girls, which is important since the 9-14 set seem the most vulnerable.  Titles like Princess Academy don’t sound like much of an improvement, but the descriptions seemed pretty good (though I think it is hard to beat A Wrinkle in Time and The Golden Compass series for this age).

THe Katniss Everdeen doll was much more likely to appeal than all the soft, childlike choices, at least in my opinion.

The test of any such site is going to be the doll collection.  This one had some potential, but mostly missed the mark, at least according to my own memory of what makes a good doll.  Too many baby-ish looking little girl figures.  My sister Susan and I would have thrown these under the bed. Too many obvious ideological choices:  Megan the Marine Biologist, Veterinarian Lauren, and an Amelia Earhart doll (complete with biography).  I did like the Katniss Everdeen doll (an “action figure,” I guess, properly speaking, because you can’t change her clothes) and, obviously, the Merida doll (and I wondered what happened to that slutty version Disney withdrew after protests?).  The Poet and Astronomer paper doll set, along with the many professional dolls of all sorts, made me wonder about the class bias inherent in a lot of our preferences for girls.  And, I’m sorry, but nobody (I mean nooooooobody) wants to play with a Frida Kahlo paper doll.  I’m sorry.  The paper doll crowd is too young to appreciate artistic suffering the way we do.  This is not even to mention the eyebrows.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.  But if my experience as a little girl of the 1950s (as well as a mother of the 1980s) counts for anything, you need to think about what they will actually play with and not just what you think is the “correct” toy.  (Yes, I am the wicked aunt who gave my niece the Singing Mermaid because she was the most heavily advertised doll of the Christmas season, 1991).

Yes, it's true. At 10, I would have picked this one (if I couldn't have a pink tiara), not a Linda, the Professor costume (whatever that would look like).

A Mighty Girl did, however, redeem itself entirely when I got to the costume section.  Bracing myself for a thousand versions of Wonder Woman (which are there), I found so many fun choices, I had trouble figuring out which to feature.  I settled on the one I would have wanted at, say, 10 years old–the Avengers Black Widow costume.  But there were lots of choices:  Shrek‘s Fiona, Jesse from A Toy Story, Princess Leia, as well as more generic ones (the “Forest Princess” costume, as well as the Merida one).  There was an Amelia Earhart costume, but no Susan B. Anthony or Madame Curie, thank heavens.

All in all, it’s a very good site and a reassuring demonstration that empowering play for girls can be fun, cute, and colorful, as well as transgressive. Highly recommended.


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