Little Girls Should Grow Up to Be Princesses

Little Girls Should Grow Up to Be Princesses

Why do we perpetuate this idea?

I don’t understand the whole wanting-to-be-a-princess thing.

Sure, I understand what the concept of a princess. She lives happily ever after with the prince and has servants and wears floating dresses and shiny crowns. It sounds kind of dull.

Then why do so many girls want to be princesses? Moreover, why do so many women still want to be princesses?

In fairytales, a princess marries a prince. She is usually a poor but beautiful girl who toils away laboriously until her prince comes to save her, presumably because she is so beautiful. He takes her away, and she never again has a care in the world. Meanwhile, he lavishes her with jewels and clothes.

The definition of princess has certainly been repurposed in America. It seems that whenever a concept is removed from its source—England, presumably—it becomes that much more of a monstrosity.

In the modern, adult American conception of a princess, women cannot be princesses without men. Men rescue women who are imprisoned by their lonely singlehood, and woo them into marriage. The go-to vernacular for describing an American woman’s courtship generally includes the phrase, “He treated me like a princess.” This implies that he makes her feel beautiful, and he pampers her because she--and her beauty--requires it.

This sort of prince/princess scenario is dangerous. First, the woman has to hate her singlehood because in the princess scenario, she needs a situation-- her singledom-- from which to be rescued. Second, the man wants to rescue the woman because her beauty: her most important and singular (unless you count goodness, which is an added bonus) feature. The man cannot show his affection unless it is with things of calculable value—jewelry, clothing—that are used to enhance the woman’s already substantial good looks.

Basically, the princess thing is about women being valued for their looks.

The completely ludicrous thing is that we tell every little girl that she is a princess. I understand that little girls need to recognize that men should always treat them well, and the princess trope is a way to illustrate that fact. Simultaneously, however, telling a little girl she is a princess takes away her agency because she'll need a man to save her. It takes away her value as a thinker; her beauty will be her ticket to happiness.

If a little girl wants to be a princess and only a princess—and not president or a doctor or a college professor—when she grows up, we have failed her as an autonomous, thinking person.