Does Dora the Explorer Need to be a Princess too?
Dora the Explorer entered my household when my son was little, and I was thrilled to have her. I welcomed her not only because she was my son's first Spanish teacher, but because she embodied positive traits of girlhood. Dora was an explorer, an adventurer. She was smart, bilingual, she figured out problems, solved them, and was able to navigate maps and follow directions. The only girl on the show, she did this on her own, with only a monkey by her side.
When my daughter was born, I thought it was great that she had such a role model for her girlhood -- until now.
Today, Dora has become more girly, more feminine, and her adventures require her to be transformed into a Princess with long billowy hair, a gown, and jewelry. Apparently, the original Dora wasn't girly enough for our daughters; she needs to be feminized, girlified, modified for girl consumption and emulation.
But who decides these things?
It wasn't little girls. They didn't look up at their mamas and inquire why Dora wore a t-shirt and shorts, had short hair with bangs, collected stars, and solved problems instead of brushing her hair and trying on dresses. Dora was spectacular the way she was -- but now someone -- a corporation, media specialists and God only knows who else -- have decided that they can make more money by turning her into a Princess. But at what cost?
It's all at the cost of our little girls. Our daughters don't need any more Princesses. They don't need any more toys, TV shows, and models of superficial, fragile, docile, and limited femininity. They need the original Dora -- the adventurer, the explorer. Girls need their version of Diego, who is nothing more than a child seeking knowledge and new experiences with which to make her stronger, smarter, and more empowered in a society that tells her she is nothing more than a girl -- nothing more than a pretty, girly, feminine mommy.
We -- our daughters -- don't need another Princess, another pretty girl they cannot equal in appearance. They do not need to believe that wearing a dress, having long hair, and dancing is the way for them to live life to the fullest -- that being pretty is the thing to achieve as a girl.
They need more models like the old Dora -- a Dora that simply presented herself as a little girl in the same outfit and same haircut for years, with the only thing changing in each episode was a problem she had to solve. Dora focused on her brains, her problem-solving skills, her ability to follow directions and read maps, solve riddles by surly trolls, count to 100 in English and Spanish, and revel in her accomplishments. These accomplishments required thought, intelligence, and skills that went beyond her outward appearances and her clothes. Now Dora is a Princess, and her goal is to follow the directions towards becoming a pretty girl.
Why can't they just leave her as she was, providing our daughters with real life role models who use more than their looks to get ahead? Why can't we just have one little girl that transcends the superficiality of femininity that plagues our society, our gender, and our televisions? Leave our girls alone unless you have something empowering to show them -- because Princess Dora is not empowering, and she doesn't empower our girls.
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