Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: A real-life princess


Every day my daughter, recently turned three, wants to be a princess. Or a fairy, or Cinderelly, or a mermaid, but mainly a princess.

I am convinced that this longing is a result of some pretty savvy marketing by the Disney Corporation, but nevertheless, it does appear to tap into some sort of primal urge of many little girls to be beautiful, special, and waited on hand and foot.

These days we tend to hope a little girl will eventually drop her interest in becoming a princess and yearn to be a doctor, teacher, lawyer or astro-physicist.

We might also hope she has time to fit motherhood into her future plans, should she be so inclined.

But what if your daughter, like Kate Middleton, actually dreams of becoming an actual princess?

What if she squanders her considerable intelligence on meaningless jobs and other fripperies, waiting for her prince to come?

Well, it worked out for Kate Middleton, although at least she does have a tertiary education to fall back on should her dreams of happily-ever-after not work out.

Apparently, however, the Daily Mail reports that the general behaviour of girls in high schools in the UK has declined as thousands of them give up on school and instead pin their hopes on similarly unrealistic dreams of non-working futures - in most cases, as reality TV show contestants or footballer's wives.

This was a finding of a survey of 859 members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers - teachers, heads, lecturers and support staff working in state and independent schools - ahead of the organisation's annual conference.

Painting a chilling picture of girls more obsessed with their looks and popularity - and bullying other girls - than with any type of school work or future academic career, the article ends with what I think is a real issue for everyone mothering girls - the constant adulation of women who have essentially lucked-in, in a one-in-a-million fashion, to some incredible easy, glamorous lifestyle.

The article quotes psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who says the wrong kinds of women and achievements are being celebrated.

'When I ask girls to name famous men, they will name politicians, artists and businessmen,' she said.

For women, 'they will invariably name those famous for being pretty or sexy or singing - not necessarily singing well'.

She added: 'It's a scary time to be a little girl when the message is constantly that your value lies in being desired - not your intelligence."

In New Zealand we are not immune to this kind of message - especially in the current climate, as the frenzy over the royal wedding rockets into high gear.

What are New Zealand girls meant to make of the adulation of Kate and Wills, by a distant media that really should know better?

That the way to take out the biggest prize in life is by keeping yourself looking beautiful, skinny, and not too threatening?

Some may say that the life of Kate will not be all glamour and fun. Perhaps not, but it will be a helluva lot more so than your average suburban working mother of two or three.

More wealth, more privilege, more opportunity to travel - and lots more help with child-rearing, for a start.

I personally don't wish the royal couple anything but happiness, but at the same time, and at the risk of being labelled an old fashioned, hairy-armpitted feminist, I do wish we'd take a second to celebrate women who have actually done something of import with their lives - entirely apart from whether or not they nabbed a 'prince' in the process.

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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