Elevating the Pink by Chaya Houpt

Elevating the Pink by Chaya Houpt

I have been begging begging begging my Nachlaot buddy Chaya Houpt for several months now to start a blog. Chaya is a very thoughtful, very smart, and very funny mom of 3 kids ages 3 and under. She’s also a really great writer. Well, my nudging finally paid off and Chaya finally agreed to start a new blog called AllVictories. I read it and was truly blown away. This totally surpassed my expectations. Definitely check it out.

Here’s a recent post from Chaya’s new blog. This brought tears to my eyes…Chaya, please keep writing!!!!

Elevating the Pink by Chaya Houpt

The discussion around Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter caught my attention. See, I have young girls, and there’s a lot of princess talk in my house, too. And most of it is coming from me.

I tell my young daughters to sit like princesses, no feet on the table. Meals are served in “princess portions,” and if they finish that, they can ask for seconds. When they behave in a way that is beneath their station, I tell them, “You are princesses; I expect more of you.”

I encourage my girls to see themselves as princesses, but I’m not talking Disney. Orenstein describes the effect of the princess culture as creating a reality where “how a girl feels about her appearance – particularly whether she is thin enough, pretty enough, and hot enough – has become the single most important determinant of her self-esteem.” That is not my aim. With all the princess chatter, I’m pushing for something a little deeper and more ancient than Grimm.

I am an Orthodox Jew. My concept of a princess comes from Psalms: “Kol kevuda bat melech penima—all the glory of a princess is within.” This is the opposite of the image of a pretty princess all in pink. The true value of a princess, according to the Psalms, is her internal reality, her essential self. Her image, her physical appearance does not define her. It is not here that her value lies. She is not rescued by the prince; she builds her relationships and her family through her greatness and nobility.

According to the mystical tradition, royalty (malchut) is a feminine trait. The Jewish concept of regality implies both grandeur and dignified humility. This is the royalty I desire for my daughters, this is what I am trying to teach them. The glittering tiara, the pink everything—this is not what it means to be a princess. A princess is someone so confident in herself that she can make space for other people. A princess radiates majesty and self-possession that come from within.

My twin girls are three-and-a-half. They love trucks, construction work and dinosaurs. But soon they will enter preschool, and all of that is likely to change. They will be assaulted by the “girlie-girl” ridiculousness that Orenstein critiques. My hope is that I can inoculate them by painting an alternate picture of what a princess is, so that when they hear, “You are such a pretty little princess,” they will recall that they are capable of true greatness. I hope they won’t be blinded by the sparkle. I can’t push back against the pink entirely, but I can try to rechannel it and elevate it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Teresia

One comment

  1. A beautiful post.

    As a 64-year-old woman looking back on my two daughters’ childhoods, I would like to add a comment. I raised my girls when feminists were ranting against Disney and Barbies. My girls watched Disney princesses (they loved Cinderella and Belle), played Barbies non-stop, and played dress-up in tutus and long skirts every day. One Halloween they dressed as Little Mermaids. I didn’t raise them Orthodox because we, at that time, were not. My older daughter is now married, living in Israel, an Orthodox Jew with covered hair. My other, influenced by all the English and Irish fairy tales we read in her childhood, is doing a PhD in Celtic Studies at Harvard — I suspect as the only Orthodox Jew who’s ever been in that department! There is clearly no contradiction between the deep message of the fairy tale motifs my daughters were saturated in and leading a good Jewish life. The motifs are as Chaya articulated — to firmly adhere to the good in the face of evil because good will triumph in the end: Cinderella’s true identity will be discovered in the “anagnorisis” or untying of the knot at the end of the story. True, the stories and the Disney cartoons put an emphasis on beauty, but that beauty is generally a metaphor for goodness, and all the Disney princesses also demonstrate ingenuity and strength of character. And, in any case, family values can always trump the superficial pop ones. I saw that in how my girls turned out, all those Barbies notwithstanding!

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