I am a staunch, unapologetic feminist. I know that statement may be off-putting. You probably assume I am a bra-burning, man-hating buzzkill — and in some ways, I am. Bras suck. But I am also happily married to a man. I enjoy the company of *gasp* men, and I get it. It’s #NotAllMen. But that doesn’t stop me from fighting for what is right and women’s rights, and it doesn’t stop me from instilling those values in my daughter: my smart, sassy, energetic and enigmatic little girl.
Of course, the moment I learned I was having a girl, I was terrified. I know how hard it is to be a woman — even now, in the 21st century. I fought back against gender stereotypes. I bought her blocks, history books and “boys clothes.” I encouraged her to play with dinosaurs and stare at the stars. And I vowed I would never, ever call my daughter a princess. The term was a degrading. She was more than a pretty face. But she had other thoughts. My daughter had other plans, and instead of shunning tiaras and tutus, she embraced them. By the time she was 3, I was Prince Charming, and she was an unnamed maiden laid out on our kitchen floor.
At first, this bothered me. At lot. I was furious that my daughter saw girls and women in this manner. But I soon came to realize that princesses weren’t the problem. I was. Because there is nothing wrong with playing pretend. There is nothing wrong with make believe, and there is nothing wrong with little dreams.
Princesses aren’t inherently bad.
Many people disagree with me. They believe princess culture teaches girls to be fragile and delicate. It trains girls to be subservient and coy, and they believe the entire concept is toxic. Princesses are “damsels in distress.” And I get where they are coming from. I truly do. Most Disney movies portray their female characters in questionable positions. The princesses in these flicks are almost always docile and need to be rescued by a strong, valiant male — and that? That can send mixed messages.
It can be confusing at best.
But me? My daughter likes these movies. She enjoys watching them, so instead of banning them from our household, I use them as conversation pieces. We talk about the characters’ courage and inner strength. We talk about what it means to have power (and be empowered), and we discuss what the aforementioned princess can — and should — have done differently. We also talk about how real princesses embody various traits, i.e., Belle may have fallen in love with her captor (the Beast) but the entire film wasn’t about their strange romance. Belle was an strong woman, one who walked through town with her nose in a book and couldn’t care less what others thought. She was smart, witty and loving and displayed numerous acts bravery and, at one point, she even sacrifices her freedom to save her dad’s, and that is regal. That is royal. That is the essence of stately nobility.
You see, good princesses are wise, strong, confident, humble, selfless and self-assured. They can love or be loved, or they can shy away from tradition. They can pave their own way, and they are leaders. Princesses carry themselves with poise and authority. What’s more, they are special.
Calling my daughter a princess is distinctive. It is my way of letting her know she is important in her own way.
Of course, I don’t just I call her princess, nor do my compliments remain superficial. I compliment her intelligence and her keen sense of compassion and empathy. I tell her she is sweet and smart, silly and sassy. I tell her she is funny. I tell her she is witty. I let her know she is both gentle and strong, and I compliment all aspects of her mind, body and being because I want her to be confident. I want her to be self-assured, and I want her to be empowered — and yes, being a “princess” can be empowering.
So before you shun me or my daughter for her nickname and my words, remember: People — and yes, even princesses — are what you make of them. Plus, this feisty feminist grew up dressing up and watching Disney, and I turned out just fine.
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