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May 23, 2012

Subverting The Princess Myth

Princess_Leia_Organa_Large_Blaster_PoseWow that's a heavy title. I should say up front that I make no claim to wisdom. Or street smarts, common sense, book learnin', or even being a good guesser. This is not a How To. Merely a hope to.

We have a little tiny princess at home. A fit in a walnut shell pocket princess. A "princess ballerina" as she puts it. Never a ballerina princess. Who wants to be princess of just ballerinas, I guess. 

I fought for a while against this princess crap. But the forces of the universe . . .oh, those forces. Mostly advertising, other little girls whose mothers seem to be all for the princess motif, and family members who either always wanted a little girl or who have Instagrammed their memories of their own girlhoods into hazy yellowed images of themselves as perfect princesses. Beautiful, graceful, loved and admired by all and wanted by every prince in the neighborhood. Precious few of our family members meet these criteria by the way.

These forces conspired against me to create the tiny being whose title suggests her great worth to the kingdom in years to come will be to marry a prince from a kingdom equally as or even more powerful than our own. Thus bringing honor to our house. Also, if you believe most of what you see, she won't be able to do shit for herself when she's in danger or captured or in danger of being captured.

So I went to work. I started telling her new stories. Stories about princesses who faced down witches, defeated dragons, knew martial arts, and worked at steel mills or as firefighters. Stories about princesses who liked dirt and spiders. Stories about a princess who constantly had to ride (or fly or teleport depending on the setting) to the rescue of her younger brother, the prince. There are even times when this terribly young and diminutive princess has to bail out her entirely too trusting and incompetent family. 

Sometimes the princess is caught unawares and captured and has to think her way out. Other times it's straight up, mano-a-mano princess on witch magic fisticuffs.

From there we took on real life. Times when she was frightened I would ask if she was a princess. She always says yes. Then we'd talk about how princesses are brave. How bravery means doing the things that scare you. Or we'd talk about how princesses are noble. How they help others who need it and how they never ever bully. It seemed to take, at least with her little brother. He loves to dress up as a princess and he looks great in a dress. Not what I was aiming for originally, but you know, beggars can't be choosers.

I think, or maybe I just hope, that it's taking with her too. At the last parent teacher conference, her teacher told me that a boy in my daughter's class tried to cut another kid in line, and that she told him to cut the shit. Or words to that effect.

When she talks about being a princess she is often a terrible beautiful princess full of bravery and wrath and more than a little nit of bossiness. All will love her, and despair. 

We keep working, all the time. We talk about how being a princess means being able to do things for yourself. It means being being independent. It means being compassionate. It means being brave. It means trying new things, speaking up for yourself, and speaking up for others. It means not waiting for someone else to make things better but trying to make things better on your own. A lot of times, it means being a lot like her mother.

We've got a long way to go, I know. We don't even have to deal with potential Prince Charmings yet. I'm hoping when that day comes they'll find that the princess they're chasing is part dragon, part warrior,and all her own person. A king can dream. 




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