Wednesday, November 13, 2013

To Be or Not To Be....A Princess

Today I was reading about a girls school in Kentucky that decided to tell students "You're not a princess". First off, the title got my attention and made me rather upset because as much as I like to think I'm a strong, self-empowered woman, I still want to be thought of as a beautiful princess who has people that love her and want to be around her just by virtue of her being who she is.

Then I started actually reading the article and discovered that the school's definition of princess and mine were very different.

School's definition
Princess: Girl who needs someone to take care of her and rescue her, who has to depend on some Prince Charming the rest of her life (who may or may not exist)

Here's the actual article:

I was all like, "Whaaaa?" and "Oh no they didn'!!!"

Seriously though, it seems to me that the school was worried that their students were turning into spoiled, greedy girls who weren't about to have any dreams other than getting married and raising lots of kids. They have it as part of an enrollment video, with messages such as, "Don't wait for a prince, be able to rescue yourself."  The principal, in addition to saying that they thought this message would be risky also said : “Our girls are growing up in a society where they’re told by their parents that they’re a princess, and our message is that they’re not a princess, they’re so much more.” (spoiler alert: apparently all the girls loved it and cried when they were told they weren't princesses....)

I would just like to address that for a moment. This seems to me like another attempt to pull down the idea that women and girls can be thought of as beautiful and kick-ass at the same time. The Disney movies cater to a very specific type of thinking, but they have been changing with the times. Look at Merida and Rapunzel. Merida very notably did not need a Prince Charming and turned down all the suitors. Rapunzel worked with Flynn Rider towards an ending that neither could have achieved without the other (he cuts off her hair to break the ties to her fake-mum, she heals him so he doesn't die, win-win). 

All the famous Disney Princess stories do have a princess who eventually (we think) finds a Prince Charming. This is more evident in the classic stories (I'm thinking of Snow White here) but what's wrong with that? Just because the Disney movies end with weddings or a proposal doesn't necessarily mean that their stories end there. Ariel had to rescue her prince several times over, Mulan won a war (and rescued her man), Pocahontas had to say goodbye to John Smith after saving his life, and Belle had to show her Beast the power of love. Come to think of it, why WOULDN'T you want to be thought of as a princess? These girls are gorgeous and empowered, are we attacking them for being able to find love by the end of the movie?

I think the three main culprits that people attack when speaking derogatorily of the Disney Princess stereotype are Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. These are the classic princesses, always featured prominently on all the pink, glittery Disney merchandise you see running around. These are the oldest, most famous Disney stories and for good reason. Let's look at this here. Sleeping Beauty had to go into hiding for 16 years and live away from her parents until she happened upon her prince in the forest. True, she doesn't do much after that besides cry and fall asleep, but what can you do when you've got a witch who is determined to curse you? Okay, strike one for Sleeping Beauty. Snow White runs away from an abusive step-mother, starts becoming self-sufficient until once again, a witch/her stepmom curses her and needs her prince to lift the spell. Oh, she needed a prince, strike two for her. Cinderella works day and night for her cruel stepmother and finally gets brave enough to go to a ball. After being thwarted by her family, she gets a little help and makes her dreams come true. Wait, she got married. Okay, strike three.

I just have to say, a lot of people get married. There's a liberal agenda being pushed for people to NOT get married now, but I have to say that I'm for getting married vs. shacking up. So these girls find a guy and get married? Yeah, not forward-thinking enough, better cross them off. Oh, and curses? We don't believe in magic or difficult circumstances here, better teach our girls that everyone is the same and doesn't need help.

I would just like to say, everyone needs help on occasion. I've needed help with my bills, Cinderella needed help finding a nice dress.

And what I'm asking is, what's wrong with that?

What's wrong with getting a little help to achieve your dreams? What's wrong with having difficult circumstances in life and having other people care about you enough to overcome them? 

I think that's what really bothered me about the school saying, "You're not a princess, rescue yourself" or whatever, because they're implying that princesses by nature are frivolous feminine things that HAVE to be rescued. In reality, they didn't, and they weren't. Both Cinderella and Snow White were servants and cleaning girls from an early age and you can bet they had hard lives. Sleeping Beauty grew up in a forest with 3 rather incompetent fairies (who didn't use magic until her 16th birthday) so you can bet she learned how to work hard and take care of herself. 

Again, what's wrong with being a princess?

I would like to think that Disney's message is that all little girls are special and deserve to think of themselves royally. That's the beauty of it. That's why so many little girls dress as princesses, think of themselves as beautiful, and watch Ariel until their VHS tape snaps. (I had a friend who did that, I wasn't allowed to watch that much TV :) 

Here's what the end of the article says: 
                      “You watch the Hollywood romance movies and you see the happy ending and the guy always comes in and saves everybody and everybody lives happily ever after and that’s not life,”
So what if it isn't? The movies obviously don't end with everyone dead. That's always the true end and so what if we can think that the princesses are happy for the rest of their lives? We know that's not life and that's why we escape into movies. I would also like to point out, there are plenty of movies where the girl comes in and saves everybody. Also, someone who thinks that riding off into the sunset is the end of the Disney movies has obviously never been a little girl and met up with the multiple straight-to-dvd movies that have extended what happens to every princess after they get married. (There's another Snow White, 2 Cinderella ones, 3 Lion Kings, another Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Belle, and don't even get me started on all the Tinkerbell movies that now exist)

My main point is, why is it so wrong as a little girl to think that you're a princess? Worthy of attention and caring, worthy of help when you need it, and empowered enough to make your own choices and to change your life when things aren't going your way. That's what most of the princesses do, they make their own life choices, change their situation, and deal with being madly in love at the same time.

Message to this girls school: Please teach your students that they are royalty. A princess is not to be sneered at, they are a treasure to be revered. Princesses can solve problems and stop wars and overcome impossible circumstances and rule the world, with or without a Prince. I see nothing wrong with that. Maybe you should teach your students that they are princesses. I think you could get away with the exact same message.

Here's a new campaign. "You're a Princess, look at what all these princesses could do with situations more difficult than yours, we'll teach you what to know to be empowered. Now get out there and kick some ass!"

Too long? Not catchy enough?

Sigh, enough said. 

Here's a link to Disney Princesses with beards. If I have one regret about  being born a girl, it's that I can't grow a gorgeous flowing beard as depicted here. Only during November though, the rest of the year I couldn't care less and I appreciate having one less thing I need to shave. Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment