Sofia the FirstIt's been a tough year for parents of little would-be princesses. They ask us, "Hey Mom, are princesses real?" and there's really no good answer. Princesses like they see in most Disney movies are decidedly not real, but now we've got the very real Kate Middleton out kissing babies with her hunky royal hubby. We can't say no, and we can't say yes, but help is on the way from a surprising place.

A new Disney princess will make her royal appearance in 2012. Word has it Sofia the First will come a lot closer to our real, live, in the flesh daughters than any of her predecessors.

The star of a fall 2012 TV movie and a Disney Junior show that will begin airing in 2013, Sofia is the daughter of a commoner who marries a king. She gets swept into royal life and has to deal with royal step-siblings. She will actually go to school and deal with boring old life issues like not fitting in in a new town and having a mom who's on her second marriage. So much for glitz and glamour, girls! This little princess is supposed to actually teach our girls something about real life.

And why not?

The righteous feminist backlash against Sofia has been predictably scoffing at the need for yet another princess in a world where t-shirts still tell girls they're too dumb to do their own math homework, so they might as well get back to the mirror and fix their makeup. As a mom, I'm as frustrated as the whole lot. It's hard to raise a smart girl in a society that wants to dumb her down.

But it's as the mother of a little girl who wants to grow up to be a princess and still kicks butt at math tests that I'm hopeful.

The assumption that "pretty and sparkly" = "stupid and constricting" is as dangerous as the notion that girls can only fit into the princess mold. If we tell our girls they can like poofy and pink and math and science and reading too, they will believe us. So why limit them? Why tell them they can't enjoy the fun and frivolous in addition to the more high brow pursuits?

As it stands, we know a lot of girls do love those princesses. It stands to reason that we can leverage that. If princesses are what little girls want, we need to give them princesses who also happen to embody the other values we want them to embrace.

I'm willing to give Sofia the First a chance if she can help show girls that princess means a whole lot more than a pretty dress. How about you?

 

Image via Disney Junior