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The Princess Culture Effect

As the parent of two girls, I have had my share of princess things in my house. The movies, the dress- up clothes, the dolls, the books, the shoes, pink, pink and more pink, plus countless things with glitter! I was faced with the challenge of raising well-rounded, confident, kind and empowered little girls in a world surrounded with all things pretty.

Many parents would argue that being obsessed with princesses is “bad” for little girls, and so they don’t allow princess “stuff” in their house. They say that princess culture teaches girls that beauty is all that matters and the only thing girls have to do is find a prince to marry to be happy.

I believe this perspective could have a negative impact on girls’ sense of self. The child might feel ashamed for liking pretty things or of being feminine. By banning all things related to princess culture, parents could mistakenly communicate that there is something wrong with being a girl. Some parents can be so focused on making sure their daughters do not play with any “girl” toys that their daughters begin to feel bad about themselves because they think girl things are wrong.

A Stronger Perspective

I decided that rather than discourage my daughters’ love of princesses, I would embrace it and point out the empowering and positive aspects of them. Most Disney princesses are survivors of horrible situations. Situations that would clearly be life-altering for anyone. They are usually motherless, abused, held captive, bullied, deprived/poor, alone, neglected, grief stricken, kidnapped and/or deceived!

Any of these things would cause most people to be bitter, depressed, anxious, traumatized or suicidal. But instead, these princesses are portrayed as resilient, hopeful, heroic, determined, optimistic, kind, forgiving, independent and brave. All traits that I wished to teach my daughters.

Consider the following examples.

Cinderella

Motherless, then fatherless, abused and neglected by step-mother, and bullied by step sisters.
Character traits: Resilient, optimistic, hopeful, resourceful, kind and independent.

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Motherless, she and her father were both bullied and then each of them was kidnapped.
Character traits: Heroic (trying to save her father), brave, compassionate, forgiving, assertive, intelligent, confident and loves to read.

Rapunzel (Tangled)

Kidnapped, held captive and deceived.
Character traits: Determined, brave, intelligent, resourceful, optimistic, loves to read and creative.

Tiana (Princess and the Frog)

Fatherless, deprived/poor and trapped (in a frog’s body).
Character traits: Hard working, determined, independent and became a business owner (entrepreneurial).

Princesses are Confident

Look at how amazing princesses are! They developed coping skills and resiliency in the face of so much adversity. The ability to overcome adversity is what many children need. Princesses are much more than beauty and romance; they are multifaceted, strong, young women.

My daughters have out grown princesses now, and although they still love to get dressed up on occasion, they are also athletic, intelligent and creative. They have developed the ability to cope with rotten situations and are becoming more independent every day.

As they were navigating their preschool and early elementary world, we discussed the character traits of their beloved princesses and the pretty dresses became secondary:

  • “Wow, she is so brave and she has a pretty dress!”
  • “How amazing that she was able to forgive someone and move on with her life!”
  • “Look at that, she survived that horrible situation and is so kind to others!”

Raising awareness of the princesses’ character traits and talking about them with your daughter is a great way to help her focus on something other than the sparkles and fluffy dresses.

Princesses can be a symbol of empowerment. In the face of adversity, princesses are kind, smart, brave, forgiving, hard-working and they focus on good things. They just also happen to wear pretty dresses!

Care to voice your thoughts or opinions? Share them in the comments section below.

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