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Why My (Possibly Hypothetical) Little Girl is Not a Princess

May 20, 2013

As I’ve blogged before, we don’t know if this little gremlin in my ute is a boy or girl yet.  It’s kind of nice to not know, I think, because we aren’t projecting a lot of stereotypes, personality traits, or expectations onto the baby.  We are prepared for every possibility because we really know so little about our child. I think it’s more of a discover-as-you-go experience this way than if you know your baby’s gender, because it’s human nature to let your mind fill in blanks and create an idea of what the baby will look like and what their personality might be.  That is not to say I don’t have hopes and aspirations for this kid.  I really want a child who loves to read.  If it’s a boy I would love to see him be an Eagle Scout like his grandpa.  I see him or her golfing with Dad.  I want to encourage creativity.  But in the end, I know my job is to support my child in whatever their natural abilities and talents are, even if that’s something foreign or unappealing to me, like fencing or dub step.

One thing I know for sure.  If we have a daughter, she will not be called “Princess.”  Every other piece of clothing for little girls has pink sparkly tiaras on it.  Little girls now go to church in Disney princess costumes.  Every birthday party is princess-themed.  Our country is obsessed with the pretty, young Duchess who might one day be Queen.  Bibs say, “Daddy’s Little Princess.”  It’s infectious.  It’s not my taste, in the first place, but I also think it’s a dangerous message for little girls.

ImageThe title of Princess implies a perfection and a superiority.  If you don’t agree, consider this definition of Princess:  “A woman regarded as pre-eminent in a particular sphere or group.”  It’s a title that puts you above others.  That goes against everything I have come to believe in as a Christian.  I want my daughter to know humility and to put others before herself, to treat others with respect and kindness, and to live humbly.

I think the reason Princess culture appeals to little girls is the same reason Harry Potter captured the imaginations of millions of children.  It’s the idea that you could possibly be chosen.  Maybe you’re not ordinary.  Maybe you’re incredibly special.  Maybe you’ll ascend a throne or get whisked off to Hogwarts by a house elf.  I feel like it gives your kids false hope to imply that it’s their destiny to be great.  Of course, they can be great working at Target and they are special because God made them that way.  But the “If you can dream it, you can do it,” message we love to promote in America is untrue.  As Julia Ormond’s character said in Mad Men,

Not every little girl gets to do what they want. The world could not support that many ballerinas.

Another definition of Princess is “a spoiled or arrogant young woman.”  I think it’s obvious why this is negative.  It has the same obnoxious quality about it as Diva, another favorite of girls’ clothing manufacturers.

In storybook culture, the goal of every princess seems to be to find a prince, or be rescued by one.  I’m not an extreme feminist, maybe a middling one, but this whole idea is pretty repugnant to me.  Fairy tale princesses are not in control of their own fates. They are at the mercy of magic and “true love.”  Fact: the stories we tell our kids influence them.  I prefer my kids to understand that things like discipline, hard work, and a good attitude are what get you where you want to go.  So maybe I’ll have more of an Aesop house than a Disney house.

Princesses are without exception beautiful.  I think most people mean it as a compliment when they call a little girl a Princess.  However, I don’t want my daughter thinking her value is in her appearance.  I plan to praise my girl for being smart, for being tough, for being generous, for being funny.  I want her to feel confident about her looks, but to feel that the rest of her is so much more important.

Ask yourself this.  Fast forward 15 years.  That sweet five year old is now 20 and wearing sweatpants with Princess written down the leg – or across her butt – in rhinestones.  Still cute? What associations do you have with a woman who has a Princess decal in the back window of her car?  Is she a confident, empowered, successful woman, or is she an indulged, annoying, materialistic little girl?  The same term that is endearing on a Kindergartner appears unattractive and immature on a grown woman.

I know the argument by some parents might be, “I’m not teaching my daughter that she’s better than anyone else.  She’s a princess in the eyes of God like every other little girl!”  Well, ok.  But if every girl is a princess, then none are.  Just like when every kid on every tee ball team gets a trophy, no matter how they performed.  It’s meaningless at best.

My little girl will have lots of titles in her lifetime.  Daughter, Friend, Child of God… maybe Sister, Wife, Mother, Doctor, or Councilwoman one day.  But never Princess.  Not on my watch.

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