(or, You Can Have My Tiara When You Pry it From My Cold, Dead Hands)
Not a very princess-y subtitle, to be sure, but it aptly describes how keenly I feel about princesses and how vital I think they are to the world.
So, as I mentioned recently, April 22-28, 2012 marks National Princess Week in the United States. Of course, it’s merely a corporate tie-in, and judging by my most recent trip to Target, an underwhelming one at that. So, being the general fangirl that I am, I have decided to respond by taking things to the nth degree. So if Disney and Target aren’t celebrating what makes princesses great (apart from their massive selling power), then I will do it myself.
It’s becoming popular to say that princesses are antiquated, anti-feminist, and a lot of other “anti-” words. Mothers refuse to give their daughters princess dolls or allow them to play princess, in the hopes that these children will grow up to want to do something more than wait around for and rely on a Prince Charming that will never come. As I have no children, I can’t offer an opinion on their parenting style, but at the same time I feel that these women are doing exactly what they accuse others (and the “princess mindset”) of doing: limiting girls’ options and telling them what they can or cannot do. (For the record, I believe feminism isn’t set back by letting girls wear pretty dresses and sequins when they pretend they rule the world. Feminism is set back by imposing limits on what’s “feminist.”)
And that is why the world needs princesses. As Naomi Wolf wrote for the New York Times:
It is about power and the recognition of the true self. Little girls are obsessed with princesses for the same reason little boys are obsessed with action heroes. What other female role model can issue a sentence and have the world at her feet? What other female figure can command an army, break open a treasury, or even, as in images of Kate Middleton or of Diana Spencer, simply bestow, with her presence, a sense of magic, excitement and healing?
I know I’m decades older than the average girl playing princess, but in an age where the most popular and well-known American women in my age group are self-centered starlets sleeping around, partying around, dressing like trash, and generally making a mess of their life in full view of the public eye, could I be blamed for looking across the Atlantic for women to emulate who live their lives with class and compassion?
In her book A Little Princess (which actually serves as both a well-written children’s story and a handbook for those who want to act as a princess in their everyday lives), Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote, “It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.” It’s fun to put on fancy dresses and sparkly gems (goodness knows I put on my costume jewelry and tiara to “get in the mood” for writing this post), but to spend every day in jeans and a t-shirt and still try to be my most poised, most gracious and kindest self (or as some call it, “wearing your invisible tiara”) is a lifestyle that takes work but has its rewards in the end.
Furthermore, while I do enjoy clothes shopping, I don’t believe in rampant materialism, being a clothes-horse, or being so obsessed with beauty and fabulousness that it interferes with one’s ability to be kind and giving: I believe that true beauty comes from within. Regardless of how you look physically or how you dress, having a quiet and gentle spirit is like the light from within a cathedral that makes the stained glass windows worth looking at.
In conclusion, the world needs princesses because we live in a world where women have been told they have to choose between being powerful or being kind, between being taken seriously or being feminine. Where a politician cannot, a princess shows that it’s possible to do all of the above, and to do it while wearing a ball gown and tiara. (If you’ve never worn a ball gown, they are ridiculously hard to do anything in but stand around and look pretty.) With one word, they can inspire or tear down, and they can use the spotlight that comes with their title to divert attention to worthy causes that would otherwise go unnoticed. We mere mortals may not have as bright a spotlight, but we can still do what we can, where we can, and the modern princess is the perfect example to follow.
PS I’ve got some more princess content planned this week – stay tuned!