Why can’t we let kids be kids? If a boy wants to dress up, let him! But don’t make it into a whole narrative of “acceptance” based on adult terms. Likely he isn’t thinking of turning into a girl – he is just enjoying dressing up. Children’s books are being politicised at an ever faster pace. Have we thought carefully about the consequences of promoting this type of literature to children?
In My Princess Boy, a pre-school boy of four years is introduced as the main character. He is based on the author’s son. There is quite a limited range of activities that are described in the story, stereotyping him into an LGBT role at the age of four. We do not get a sense of the full personality of the child, nor is there a gripping plot. It is just an average story, another one of the many routinely politically correct agenda books alleging “acceptance” but lacking both imagination and creativity.
Princess Boy enjoys dancing like a beautiful ballerina and dressing up in dresses and wants to buy a pink bag or two. If he climbs a tree, it is done in stereotypical girl clothing – as if we care whether he wears a Superman or a fairy outfit. His brother plays soccer and football, once again stereotyping the brother as “boyish” to highlight princess boy’s feminine tendencies.
The reality is that children demonstrate a range of behaviours and participate in many different activities which can be common to both genders. For example, playing with cars, climbing trees, playing with dolls and dressing up in a variety of imaginative costumes…
Good picture books recognize and show a sense of irony and play, often by one thing happening in the pictures and another thing entirely going on as we read the words. The child feels secure in this sense of play and fun. This is lacking in the one dimensional narrative of My Princess Boy. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Sadly, Princess Boy is made to feel he is loved by the very fact of putting on a dress rather than being loved for his own sake and without conditions.
Resilience is not encouraged. “He went trick or treating on Halloween and one lady laughed at him. ‘Why is she laughing?’ asks Princess Boy and is told ‘Some people don’t like boys to wear dresses.’ This is hurtful.” It is stated that it “hurts” because people “stare at him” if he wants to buy a pink bag or sparkly dress and laugh if he wants to buy girls things. There is much in life that will be laughed at. It does the child no favours to promote an extra sensitivity to it.
The Princess Boy is depicted as having a good relationship with his father. “Princess boy’s dad tells him ‘how pretty he looks’ in his dress, holds his hand and tells him to ‘twirl’ “. We see no other interaction between father and son.
Princess Boy is illustrated right through the story without facial features, and with just the silhouette of his face. This aspect has attracted much criticism because the boy appears “faceless.”
Jane Fagan worked for 14 years as a children’s and reference librarian. She has a B.A. and a Grad Dip Library and Information Studies from Melbourne University.