The "princess debate" rages on in the media. Is all this targeted princess marketing good or bad for our girls? In her article, Rebecca Hain claims that "the princess culture always reduces girls' interests to being pretty and finding romance." Hains further states that because we find a sea of princesses everywhere, the princess culture "actually limits young girls' imaginations."
Can our girls really love pink and still be strong?
In another article, writer Peggy Orenstein concludes that "princesses are in fact a sign of progress, an indication that girls can embrace their predilection for pink without compromising strength or ambition; that at long last they can have it all."
What does a real expert have to say about princesses?
To resolve the princess debate in my own mind, I turned to an expert on the subject: my almost-three-year-old granddaughter. Her uncatagorical opinion on the debate was simply, "We need princesses." Since she didn't elaborate further, I was left to my own devices. Was she right? As something of a self-proclaimed feminist, could I accept my granddaughter's assertion that we need princesses? And if so, why do we need them?
Cinderella and Snow White vs. Belle and Anna
Clearly we don't need princesses if our focus on them is based only on their beauty, clothes, and perfection, accompanied by a relentless drive to find themselves a handsome prince. Focusing only on those things about princesses really does limit our imaginations. Cinderella and Snow White are more of the helpless variety of princesses. The kind of princesses I grew up with.
Today's princesses have much more sass and attitude; a combination of grit and grace, if you will. Princess Belle faced down a scary beast, selflessly rescued her father and stood up to the shallow townspeople. Tough as nails Princess Anna possessed the kind of true love that saved her sister. In the end, Anna realized that her prince's looks were truly only skin deep and that lurking in his chest beat an evil and narcissistic heart. So she chose instead a simple but genuine ice man who had been raised by trolls. Neither Belle nor Anna were damsels in distress in need of rescue.
The Urban Dictionary defines a princess as someone who "carries herself with poise and dignity and makes choices based on what's right, rather than how she feels. She is...selfless...thinks of others...is gentle and generous." Today's princesses are also brave and smart. Not bad qualities for girls of any age to emulate. Given the ubiquitous nature of princesses, let's use them wisely to help us teach our daughters to focus less on self and more on caring about others. Let's use princesses to teach our daughters about strength and resilience.
Dr. Suess once proclaimed, "Life is a great balancing act." And I think he's right. My little granddaughter loves Elsa and Anna, but she loves Doc McStuffins and Thomas the Tank Engine just as much. She lives in a world of race cars and crowns. Nothing limits her imagination. She is growing up believing she can have it all. And who knows? Maybe she can.
As long as our daughters and granddaughters realize that the best princesses are not defined by outward beauty and perfection, but by inner kindness and strength, perhaps we really do need princesses. Maybe we should all learn to relax about the whole princess thing and just have fun with it.