If you have a little girl and you've visited a Disney park recently, you probably know about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. At the parks, it's the magical salon within the castle where girls are transformed into princesses, complete with a crown, glitter and (for the right price) a beautiful ball gown. But what about the boys? Shouldn't they get to become Disney royalty too?
Photo credit: Daryl Mitchell via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Growing up in Florida, Walt Disney World was a staple of life. Annual school field trips and frequent visits with family made the parks familiar places always full of joy. Once becoming a mother I couldn't wait for my kids to grow old enough to share in the wonder and magic that is Disney. I fully expected my children to love each place — especially Magic Kingdom — as much as I did. And for the first few visits they did. But on our last trip, my oldest realized something that made Disney lose a little luster for all of us. On that trip, my 5-year-old son realized that Disney is sexist — against boys.

Wait — let me explain

I don't want to be a princess and I don't want to be a pirate. I want to be dressed up like a prince. Like a good guy.

As we were walking through Cinderella's castle, my son pointed out the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and asked: "Mommy, how come they don't do that princess dress-up for boys?" I literally stopped dead in my tracks — what a great question. I racked my mom-brain for an age-appropriate, politically correct response and came up blank. So I deflected the question, and told him we could pay for him to do it if he wanted to, but that they'd probably dress him up like a princess with glitter and makeup. I then offered to take him to The Pirates League, the other dress-up experience at Magic Kingdom. After thinking for a moment his response was this: "I don't want to be a princess and I don't want to be a pirate. I want to be dressed up like a prince. Like a good guy."

He let it go and we went on with our day, but the entire exchange started me thinking. As we walked around the park I saw little girls everywhere who'd had their Disney princess fantasy fulfilled. Tiaras and sashes, gowns and glitter — these girls entered the Magic Kingdom ordinary and were transformed into royalty. Why couldn't my son have the same? Sure, he could be dressed up like a pirate, but that attraction is offered for boys and girls. They have an attraction geared specifically toward girls, so why can't they have one for boys?

At Disney, girls seem to come first

Once home I started looking into the dress-up attraction options at Disney. The more I researched, the more sexist it got. There can be no doubt that Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques are for girls — the tagline on the Downtown Disney website is, "A magical beauty salon where any little girl can make her dream of becoming a princess come true" (emphasis added). The main photo? A group of girls, dressed to the nines, surrounded by Fairy Godmothers-in-Training. The Magic Kingdom site is along the same vein: "Make her dream of becoming a princess come true at this enchanted beauty salon located inside the iconic palace" (emphasis added). The Disneyland location is just as bad: "At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disneyland Park, girls can be transformed into little princesses!" (emphasis added again)

Once home I started looking into the dress-up attraction options at Disney. The more I researched, the more sexist it got.

The websites for all three locations do mention boys participating eventually, but you only have to look at the package offerings to see who the main audience is. Girls, depending on the location, may choose from four or five different packages ranging in price from $55 to $195 dollars, depending on just how "transformed" you want your daughter to be. If you purchase the top-dollar "Castle Package" at Disneyland, your daughter also gets personally escorted on a mini-processional to Fantasy Faire — where they get to skip the line into Royal Hall and meet Disney princesses personally.Princess dresses

For boys? One package. One option. No escort. No procession. The "Knight Package" is all they can choose from, and it isn't particularly exciting. It includes hair gel, confetti, a sword and a shield. For boys like my oldest — who has hair about 1/4-inch long and swords and shields at home — this package isn't appealing at all. The real evidence of the lameness of the Knight Package is in the price tag — just $19.

Yo, ho, no

The other dress-up option for kids available exclusively at Magic Kingdom is The Pirates League, where kids can, well, get dressed up as pirates. If you're thinking "princess for girls, pirates for boys" you're wrong. The pirate costumes are pretty elaborate, but are by no means geared specifically toward boys. The base package is either "The First Mate" or the "Empress," depending on gender. The rest of the website for The Pirates League is gender non-specific, and nowhere on it could I find any talk of anything that was for "boys" or "girls" exclusively. And for all the girl-talk on the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique sites, you'd think The Pirates League would be their male counterpart, at least to even things out. But no. This league is decidedly co-ed.

Photo credit: Ricky Brigantevia Flikr: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

He wants to be royal

My son wants to walk into the Magic Kingdom a boy and walk out of Cinderella's castle a prince — clean, elegant and refined a la Prince Charming.

As fun as The Pirates League might be, my kid doesn't want to be a pirate. He doesn't want to be made up to look dirty and unshaven. He doesn't want to talk like a scalawag and pretend to pillage and plunder — we do that at home all the time. My son wants to walk into the Magic Kingdom a boy and walk out of Cinderella's castle a prince — clean, elegant and refined a la Prince Charming. He wants to pretend to save the girl — however old fashioned and out of date that fantasy may be — and live out a classic Disney fairy tale. Legions of little girls go to Disney and get the experience of being made into royalty for the day — he wants that experience too. And it is completely unfair that because of his gender that option doesn't exist.

(I reached out to Disney Guest Relations and spoke with a cast member about my concerns. She thanked me kindly for my suggestions, promised me Disney loves the little boys the same as the little girls, then patted me on my virtual head and sent me on my way. It didn't appear as though any changes would be made, which is disappointing. For a company as large as Walt Disney Co., one hopes they will recognize the gender disparity in their attractions and offer more dress-up options for boys in the near future.)

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