In Defense of Princess Culture

Let me preface this with the disclaimer that the following is my opinion and only my opinion and I realize sane, intelligent women can have other opinions on this topic. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Whatever. Here goes.

I was reading a blog the other day. In it, a mother talked about her daughter’s love of princess culture – the movies, the dresses, the stories, and all that goes with it. To paraphrase her, this particular mom was pretty disappointed in this. She “hates” the princess stories. She “really, really” does.

But she was sucking it up and supporting her daughter, anyway (kudos for that). Though it killed her to do so, this mother allowed her daughter to tiptoe through the magical world of castles and happy endings.

But when she had to read the story of Cinderella to her daughter’s Kindergarten class, she (and this is where she lost me) adjusted the story to suit herself: Cinderella’s stepsisters? “Jealous and misunderstood.” The stepmother: “lonely, rather than cruel.” Cinderella’s prince? A “like-minded partner.”

Um …

SERIOUSLY!?!

My daughter also loves princess culture, as anyone who has met her is aware. She loves the dresses and the stories and the books and the PRINCES and the LOVE! It’s all so wonderful and magical! The funny thing is, when she was born, I had it in my mind she’d be a tomboy, following after her brother in dirty overalls and messy pigtails.

That is not how things played out. And at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

After seeing my daughter decked out in her princess best, someone asked me, “Were you into princesses when you were little, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said, realizing I really didn’t know. “I was never given the chance.”

I grew up with hand-me-downs and once-a-year trips to Walmart. I’d never really been presented with a princess dress. But thinking back, if I had been, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been STOKED.

Somewhere along the way, I’d come to believe princesses were a bad thing. Degrading to women; a symbol of being spoiled and superficial (thanks Paris Hilton); a precursor to those sad little girls in beauty pageants.

But is any of that actually true?

Because, ladies, have you watched Disney’s Snow White lately? That girl had someone try to KILL her, yo. And she got away and survived! And the whole time, she was really, really NICE about it.

And Cinderella? Talk about work ethic. Plus she had a good attitude, even when people were completely awful to her – she remained honest and sweet. And it was because of that goodness that she was rewarded with a happy ending.

So what’s so offensive about this? We don’t want our daughters learning that if you work hard and are good and sweet, even in the face of difficult circumstances, you’ll find happiness?

I already know the rebuttal to this question: it’s the idea that a woman needs a prince to rescue her in order for her to be happy that women find so offensive.

To which I have one question:

WHAT’S SO AWFUL ABOUT THAT?

Why is it offensive that a woman might need a man to be happy? I can tell you, I wouldn’t be happy without MY man. Does this make me weak? Or just honest with myself? I know, I know, there are a lot of women out there without men in their lives and they’re doing just fine. Great. Good for them.

But why does that mean I should shield my daughter from the idea of finding love? I’m kind of hoping she finds a “prince” to take care of her one day. And these princess movies give me a great chance to talk to her about what kind of guy she should marry: namely someone who is courteous, gallant, willing to do anything for her; to protect her from the bad things in the world.

Which brings me to my next point: lonely stepmothers and misunderstood stepsisters?? I’m sorry but if you’re bullying someone and treating them like a slave, I don’t care WHY you’re doing it – you’re a bad guy.

And I want my daughter to understand that there are BAD people out there in the world. If someone hurts her or treats her badly, I don’t want her to try understanding where they’re coming from. I want her running in the other direction.

And my final point: as far as role models go, do you have any better ideas!?

Would you rather your daughter dress up as and admire Bratz dolls?

Or Katy Perry and Ke$ha? I’m racking my brain, scanning popular culture, trying to find a better avenue to direct my daughter down. There are options – but not a lot.

If my daughter knows all the words to every song in The Little Mermaid, so what? It’s better than her singing along with Rihanna’s latest ode to promiscuity.

And if she hopes to someday find a gallant man to marry, awesome! I hope she finds him. And if she loves wearing princess dresses and crowns and jewels, guess what? Those dresses are pretty classy. She could do worse.

I have another daughter. She’s just learning how to be alive right now (dude, getting a toy into your mouth with brand new hands is HARD WORK.) but when she’s old enough to care, will I steer her in the same direction? No, I won’t. If she’s into pirates or animals or ninja spies, I will totally support her in that. And use that culture to teacher her the values I want her to learn.

But in the meantime, I ain’t hating on the princesses and I don’t think you should either.