My thinking on the whole princess thing has evolved. In the last four years, it’s gone from, “Hell no–keep that shit out of my house,” to “Well…just a little princess-play can’t hurt,” to “Let me introduce you to my daughters, Cinderella and Rapunzel.”
I remember, months before the twins were born, we had accrued a mountain of pink, frilly hand-me-downs from friends and family. As the due date got closer, my wife and I tried to organize the mound by separating it into bins based on size. In doing so, we had a chance to cull the worn out, shit-stained, or just butt ugly clothes.
Most of the clothes were in good shape, and cute enough, so we didn’t have to consign much to the rag bag. But there was one rule I insisted on following: anything with the word “Princess” on it went to charity or to the “paint” section of the garage.
I know princess narratives have become more empowering to girls in the last few decades, but the message of the classic princess stories is “Be kind, graceful, selfless, patient, compliant, and–most importantly–beautiful, and all your dreams will come true.” Of course, “all your dreams” equals “having a handsome rich guy sweep you off of your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life.
I want my girls to have bigger dreams than that. Furthermore, it seems like when parents call their girls “Princess,” those parents aren’t necessarily encouraging them to be selfless and kind, but rather teaching them that they’re entitled to whatever they want because they’re cute and special. And, although I believe that my own girls are cute and special and deserve everything, the last thing I want is to let them know it.
Yet somehow, despite my objections, the princess trope made its way into my kids’ consciousness and into my house. It started with party favors and gifts from well-meaning friends who, in most cases, weren’t trying to totally undermine my feminist buzzkill convictions.