The Quandary of a High Femme Feminist

[As I’ve said, I’ll be using this blog to talk about random stuff that’s on my mind in addition to Thalia’s Musings stuff. Welcome to the first such post.]

Can I tell you guys a secret?

I don’t hate princesses.

I’m not talking about Kate, Diana, and Grace. I’m talking about the romanticized idea of a princess in popular media. The mythical concept of Princess that never has and never will exist in reality. I love outrageous, opulent ball gowns. Being born to wealth and power sounds like a beautiful dream. A castle seems pretty cool compared to my tiny apartment. There’s something very appealing about being thought “the fairest in the land.” And I effin’ love pink and purple.

I can hear the freakouts already. Herp patriarchy! Derp weak dependent submissive women! Hurr durr pink and purple!!!

Calm down. I believe young girls should be taught to make their own way in the world. That they should be just as conditioned as boys to become assertive, self-confident adults who take on the world themselves and don’t sit around waiting for someone to hand it to them. That their sense of worth should be in themselves, not in a potential or current romantic partner.

But what the hell does any of that have to do with pink and purple?

That frilly pink or purple ball gown I dream of wearing? Maybe I want to acquire it with a fortune of my own making. That castle in the sky? Maybe I want to storm it in shining armor and wear my ball gown at a celebration for my victory. Or maybe I was born in the castle because my mom is a queen in a long line of matriarchs. O Noes! Princesses = patriarchy!!!! :O Well, guess what. It’s my queendom. It exists in my mind.

I can make it whatever I want.

If I want “princess” to mean a woman who holds great power and uses it for good, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman who prefers a sword to a scepter, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman who prefers a pen to a sword, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman who wanted power and worked for it and claimed it, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman whose power was granted to her at birth because she bears the blood of hundreds of powerful women before her, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman who doesn’t need a prince, but goes out and wins one because she wants one, it can. If I want “princess” to mean a woman who goes out and wins another princess, it can.

So when you see me in my pink ruffles, don’t assume I’m less driven and ambitious than the woman in a pantsuit. When you see my twirly floral miniskirts, don’t assume I’m waiting for a prince to call me pretty (or call me, period). And someday when I have a daughter and I call her my beautiful princess, don’t assume that I don’t also call her smart, strong, creative, hard-working, compassionate, and brave.

Because that’s my idea of a princess. And if I choose, I can be all of those things while decked out in pink and purple.

10 responses to “The Quandary of a High Femme Feminist”

  1. I’m not sure how I stumbled on this old post of yours, but it’s responding to a framing of princess culture critiques that I find problematic (the framing, not the response). Somehow in the blog-o-sphere, it seems like the princess culture critique mutated into princesses-are-bad-full-stop when I don’t think that’s what the initial critiques were saying. This is impressionistic, so my chronology could be off, but what I remember is the initial critiques were embedded in the dialog of larger issues with how girls and women are absent and present in kid’s early childhood media. The main issue wasn’t a problem with the princesses themselves–and it certainly wasn’t with anyone LIKING princesses–it was about the problems that come when the princess image so strongly dominates the images presented to little girls. I really adore Peggy Orenstein’s succinct boiling down of the issue to the question of “when does get to become have to?” because I think it’s the best summary. I’m a sparkly, high-femme feminist, too, and I loved stories about princesses and playing princess when I was younger (pre-princess culture, which started as an intentional thing in the late 90s). But I look at my daughter’s board books and it is FREAKING hard to find books that portray an imaginary world that includes girls/women at all, much less as non-princesses. We have some good books with girls in “I love my mama” type stories, but as equivalents to the images of cavemen and pirates? Nope. It’s like no wonder so many girls like princesses… if they want to see themselves reflected in fantastic stories, princesses are the main game in town. But would all these girls really gravitate to princesses if they had the wide range of girl/woman images available to them that boys do? So that to me is the issue. Not that princesses are bad (although some specific princess instances are not so great… I do not love how Disney princess culture has brought back Disney’s versions of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White!) and definitely not that people who like princesses are bad feminists.

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