The Princesses…

I’m not sure what to make of the whole Princess thing..

On one hand, I like the more multi-cultural elements of the new group of princesses, although, I’m not sure why the African American princess isn’t in the illustration above.  I like that there are blonde, brunette and red headed princess.  I also appreciate that the Princesses can be the center of stories and that generally they behave in ways that are good role models for young girls.

There are, however, several things that disturb me about the cultural phenomenon.

First of all — the Princess isn’t a Princess unless she has a Prince.  The message seems to be quite hetero-normative .  Princesses have friends, but they don’t have Girlfriends.  The message is usually that they need a man to be complete, that marriage is the goal of a girl’s life and that without a man and a marriage she’s a SPINSTER… eeeewwww…. I suppose this rubs me the wrong way because I come from a family that was recently described as full of smart, articulate and powerful women.  We aren’t princesses in my family, we’re real people who think well, say what they think and mean what they say.

A Princess’ wedding is a huge affair — which feeds the wedding-industrial complex.  Any episode of the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress” provides a reality-TV example of how this works.  The bride comes into the shop looking for a dress that makes her look and feel like a princess.  The bridal boutique has racks and racks of them… and they’re expensive.  Like, ‘do I buy this dress or a new Toyota?’ kind of expensive.  Parents and brides are maxing out credit cards, taking out home equity loans and spending money that could otherwise go toward college tuition or a downpayment on a house (or a kick-ass honeymoon) for a garment that will be worn for part of one day and then stored in a big, expensive box.

A Princess wedding also comes with attendants — each of whom must also buy a fairly expensive dress, travel and devote time to the BRIDE in order to show her value as a friend.  Sometimes this turns ugly when the friend decides that she can’t make that kind of time and financial commitment and friendships are destroyed.

The second major concern I have with a Princess role model is what it tells little girls about body image.  Princess have big boobs, tiny waists and I’m sure they don’t have chunky thighs or kankles under their flowing skirts.  They don’t have acne, warts or freckles.  They wear make-up,  have perfect teeth and straight long hair appropriate for putting up…  Little girls who look like normal people aren’t Princesses.

The other part of this concern is the message that what boys/men find attractive is the Princess image.    The thing is, it isn’t what boys/men say they actually DO find attractive.  Men tend to like women with a bit more “meat” on their bones.  A girl who needs a sandwich isn’t quite the type most guys go for.  I suppose that’s fortunate because most women don’t look like Princesses… but, when the message is that the Princess image is the image attractive to Princes, girls and women will expend an enormous amount of energy trying to achieve that look.

My third concern is that Princesses aren’t smart girls — they aren’t dumb, mean or cruel — but, what’s valuable about them isn’t their artistic, musical or academic abilities – it’s their ability to look good while being sweet.  Princesses don’t do math.  They don’t get down and dirty in the mud looking at toads (except — they do pursue frogs in order to kiss them to find their prince..), they don’t spend hours figuring out the constellations with a telescope and they’d never spend an afternoon watching educational TV.

The message here is quite simple, smart girls need to play dumb.  They need to tone down their intellectual abilities — at least in front of boys — and maybe even talk in the “I’m a little baby” tone of voice well into adulthood.  Really, why should a Princess be a science geek or be concerned about making a living — the Prince is going to come and solve all of those problems for her.

In the end, I know several smart little girls who have a favorite princess.  I suspect it’s a phase and I know that the smart, articulate and strong women in my family will make sure there’s something more to these little girls than their big boobs, tiny waists and long flowing hair.




One Response

  1. I totally appreciate the fantasy of wanting to be pretty and admired. But the princess narrative is so potentially harmful–it makes me glad I have no daughters.

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