Fotolia

8 Reasons Why Princess Culture Is Actually Feminist

By
Share
Ad failed to load

A recent study on the results of young children engaging in “princess culture” — specifically Disney-created princess dolls and media — has shown that, after a year, said engagement was associated with more female gender-stereotypical behavior. Sounds like everything “bad” we want to believe about our favorite childhood princesses has been verified, right? Well, I am a skeptic. In fact, I believe princess culture is actually feminist.

This study assumes that kids (or those in the study, who ranged from preschool to kindergarten-aged) will then go on to lose confidence in math and science, and avoid learning experiences that aren’t “typically feminine.” What I can't seem to take seriously and, in turn, what I consider to be the most disturbing part about the entire study, is that it calls out the exhibition of “female gender-stereotypical behavior” as negative.

I’d be worried if my kid wanted to drop out of school and, instead, find a prince to marry. I’d be worried if she perpetuated class stereotypes and her time playing was exclusively spent pretending to rule over indentured servants who were at her beck and call. I’d be worried if princess culture was the only thing she was learning, but it’s not. She’s exposed to a zillion other types of behaviors or aspirational occupations at home, in school, on the playground, and in books and (non-princess) movies. If we are worried that princess culture will swallow up our children, then we need to be doing a better job, as caregivers and role models, to balance the equation. Everything in moderation. Yes, even royalty.

Ad failed to load
GIPHY

We can talk about all the harm that our favorite, fictitious princesses are doing to future generations or even specific groups of kids, or we can simply focus on the good they are doing, like making this foster kid’s day by showing up at her adoption.

Is it really a princess doll or a movie like Cinderella, that encourages our girls to shy away from STEM subjects? Or, is it our refusal to acknowledge that we, as parents, are failing to offer up alternatives to the ancient fairy tale narratives, broadening our children’s view of the world and who they can be in it, while still allowing them to play with dolls and watch their favorite movies?

Ad failed to load

The best thing we can do when it comes to princesses (because, let’s face it, they’re not going anywhere) is teach our children (and, in particular, our daughters) that wearing a tiara comes with a certain amount of responsibility. That’s why I think these reasons prove princess culture is actually feminist:

Ad failed to load

Because There Is Nothing Unfeminist About Having Manners

GIPHY

Are most princesses (depicted in movies and books) saccharinely polite? Yes. Are we, as a society, finding it gross that princess characters are treating others the way they would want to be treated? Apparently.

Because Celebrating Femininity Is Still Feminist

GIPHY

How would we feel if a boy got bullied for acting “feminine.” Not great! So why are we chastising our girls if they have a proclivity towards historically feminine dress and behavior? To be a feminist in 2016 means, to me, not having to eschew ruffles or pink stuff. Feminism is not about holding anyone down, even if they don’t choose to lean in or lead. The respect of our choices, as long as they don’t compromise the freedoms of others, is at the core of feminism (as I define it).

Because You Can Be Princess And A Badass

GIPHY

Are we ever just one thing? I don’t know how all women feel, but I know I’m a pretty complicated individual who refuses to wear a singular label. That’s what’s inherently wrong with the argument against “princess culture.” It denies the co-existence of any other kind of personality traits or interests. Ask my little girl what else she likes to do, besides fantasizing about marrying into royalty, and she’ll hit you with such goals as writing a Star Wars movie and taking a job in the President’s Secret Service.

Ad failed to load

Because It Apparently Can Have a Positive Effect on Boys

GIPHY

The aforementioned study also found that boys who engaged with princess media were more helpful to others and had increased body positivity. Sounds like some feminism accidentally rubbed off on these little guys through princess character play. Oops. Seriously, how is this a bad thing?

Because It Encourages Imaginative Play

GIPHY

Since I’ve played with dolls, there has been a backlash against them. Well, certain kinds. You know, the ones with exaggerated hourglass figures, perfect symmetrical (and typically Anglo) features, flaxen hair and no undergarments. And rightfully so: playthings should reflect a diverse array of stories from all kinds of kids who play with them.

When Disney Princesses launched in 2000, they were met with the same reception (by grown-ups, who are not the target market for dolls). I completely agree that bombarding our girls with only one image, with the usually impossible to achieve body type as if it were the ideal, is destructive. But over the years, we’ve seen more of a variety. I’m glad there are dolls with more realistic body types and that are available in more variety of ethnicities.

Before my daughter turned two, she understood that her princess dolls were just that; things she could use to create fantastical stories that were, in no way, real life. Doll play can be the gateway to rich imaginative exploration, and it’s OK if things in our fantasies look like something out of a movie. Real life is hard. We all need an escape. I don’t think “keeping it real” is necessarily a good thing in imaginative play. Kids need to make up stories. At least, I did, and I see my kids getting so much enjoyment out of that kind of play. When explained to them, they don’t have any problem understanding that in the real world, few of us are swishing around in ball gowns under the protection of fairies.

Because Princess Culture May Be Rooted In Reality

GIPHY

Princess Grace. Princess Diana. Real life princesses who were the bomb. They led lives of purpose, and used their royal status to influence and inspire.

Ad failed to load

Because It Doesn’t Automatically Imply Subservience

GIPHY

I would ask my daughter, when she would tell me she’d want to grow up and marry a prince, if she knew anyone who actually did that and, of course, the answer was “no.” Just because real life doesn’t match your wildest dreams doesn’t mean you can’t fantasize. If anything, princess culture does a great job of distinguishing that there is a safe place to have wild romantic dreams, and no expectations that they’d come true. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; if anything it reinforces that nobody needs to wait around for Prince Charming.

Because It Is Evolving To Reflect The World

GIPHY

The princess media I grew up with (The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Snow White) is, arguably, no more. In the last decade, the depiction of a princess is definitely changing in mainstream media. Merida from Brave, Anna from Frozen and Moana from an upcoming feature release, are all princesses whose social status is almost an afterthought. They are young women whose greatest ally isn’t a knight in shining armor to rescue them or some established prince to snatch them from a life of poverty, but their own smarts and gumption and other women. It’s a bummer that it took this long, but at least my kids are part of a generation growing up with female characters whose stories aren’t stigmatizing them, based on their gender.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack