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The Triumph of the Tiara: Why It's Okay For Little Girls to Play Princess
You know what’s really super easy and fun? Making parenting
decisions before you are a parent. My husband and I were anti-princess before
our daughter was even considering sleeping in a tiara as she may or may not
have done recently. The princess thing was, we knew, weird and anti-feminist
and disenfranchising, and our kid was going to be busy working on long
division, not waiting for a prince to come. Well, hmm. A few years later, we
find ourselves engaged in the battle of the ballgown. Luckily for us, Naomi
Wolf, of all people, says the princess thing is okay.
As Wolf writes in her great piece for the IHT Magazine, feminists have long seen fairy tale princess narratives as forms “of hypnotism, designed to seduce women into marriage and passivity...[but] If you look closely, the princess archetype is not about passivity and decorativeness: It is about power and the recognition of the true self.” It's certainly true of all the mini-princesses I know that their interests lie in the princessiness itself, and never in the prince. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure they know about princes at all.
So it rings true when Wolf equates princesses with action figures – role models that are both powerful and magical. The article includes a thorough exigesis of today’s princesses, namely, the inspirational Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton, both of whom embody the stories we like to tell about ourselves: that a commoner can become royalty, and that a princess can help the world through good works (and great dresses). Kate Middleton is pretty and fancy enough for any little girl to get into, and yet she seems smart and kind, too. Even Disney princesses get a pass; “They are busy being the heroines of their own lives.” As Wolf puts it, “Today’s princesses are visibly juggling a lot of balls, just like the rest of us working wives and single or married mothers.”
So just because every little girl you know is leaping around in a pink sparkly gown doesn’t mean she’s prepping for a life of dancing and kissing princes, in Wolf’s words, “it just means, sensibly enough for her, that she wants to take over the world.”
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