Princesses Aren’t the Problem

(If I could have gotten the embed to work, this would have been the image I would have used for this post. Click to see it in full awesomeness and pretend.)

A private all-girls’ school was kicking up a hoopla lately with what is being termed a “girl power campaign.” It features minimalist posters depicting references to fairy tale characters, with lines like “You’re not a princess” and “Don’t wait for a prince to save you.”

Considering it’s an ad campaign designed to draw attention (and donor money) to the school, I’d say they did a good job.

But these posters are also being lauded in general for their “down with princess” terminology. And I have a problem with that.

Judging from some pundits, being a huge fan of Disney movies and fairy tales in general should have made me into a simpering, sparkly, pink-wearing fanatic who doesn’t know how to change a tire or earn an income and spends her whole day writing “Mrs. Prince Eric Charming” over and over on my TrapperKeeper.

And yet… I am not that. I’m a feminist, socially conscious, job-and-a-half having, multicolor-wearing woman — and I’ve never even owned a TrapperKeeper, nor have I figured out whether to take my fiance’s last name or not. (And yes, I do happen to like sparkles. Tasteful sparkles, anyway. Moderation!)

*GASP* How can this be?

Because, frankly, the characterization as “princess = weak and disempowered” is a complete misattribution of these characters.

A quick sample:

  • Snow White: importance of kindness; friendship; value of hard work; internal beauty to match external beauty (she’s the most “princessy” of all the princesses, but the movie came out in 1937…so history is at play here)
  • Belle: intelligence/book smarts; value of reading; kindness; family loyalty; facing your fears; standing up for what you believe in; opposing bullies
  • Jasmine: not a prize to be won; clever; ability to look beyond monetary value; fights back against a giant magical snake; protects her father
  • Ariel: goes against outdated “separate but equal” policies (segregation between merfolk and humans); plays up her talents; exploration/discovery; doesn’t value her looks (unlike her sisters); not afraid to show her enthusiasm; refuses to give up; saves a man from drowning
  • Mulan: values her family over her own life and her culture’s strong dictates against her decisions; refuses to give up in the face of a challenge; smart and adaptive; creative; unlike the men, values her romantic partner for more than what he can do for her (also: not a princess, actually)
  • Tiana: businesswoman/entrepreneur; overcoming racism; friendship despite differences; courage; belief in following her dreams

It IS a problem that a girl in a Disney movie can’t make it through without finding a forever beau (Merida escaped the trend, though, so there is hope!). It IS a problem that toys are separated into “girl toys” and “boy toys,” when, in practical situations, kids will happily play with both. It IS a problem that for a company to sell to girls, they think they have to make things pink (especially when pink was the “boy” color until the 1950s!). It IS a problem that dress-up choices for girls can fall almost exclusively on the “princess” spectrum.

But just because a girl admires a princess does not mean that she is a wussified, pathetic, glittering freak.


Filed under Feminism

2 responses to “Princesses Aren’t the Problem

  1. My eldest daughter loved Disney princesses and still does. She met her husband at a cosplay event and they were married in costume, she as the queen of hearts and he in a suit of armor. I feel that she learned very positive lessons from the movies she watched so much as a child, such as the ones that you mention above. I think that girls benefit from playing at being princesses, they learn to feel valuable and worthy of love and respect. My eldest girl knew that she deserved a prince, and she found one, a man that I am proud to call my son-in-law, but she also knows that her value doesn’t come from a man, it is within her.

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