Raising a Feminist Fairy Princess
Little Miss is now four, and for the past year or so has been obsessed with all things princessy. She wears pink, she wears tulle. She prances around in flouncy dresses and skirts, and insists on sporting a plastic tiara to the most inappropriate of occasions (like, every occasion, every day).
My Feminist Fairy Princess
As a feminist, it’s a bit of a shock to my system. Before she was born we had planned for our home to be a Princess Free Zone. We bought gender-neutral newborn clothes, and made sure we had as many trucks as dolls in the house. Her baby and toddler clothes were practical and made for playing, with not a frill or bow in sight. But then, right before she turned three, we entered the Age of the Princess.
I don’t know where it came from – certainly not from me. Anyone who knows me knows I am far from a girly-girl. I hate pink. I rarely wear dresses. I swear and burp and tell dirty jokes that would make a sailor blush. And yet here we are. Little Miss is now four, and has been a card-carrying member of Princesses R Us for a quarter of her young life.
I cringe ever so slightly, every time she enters the room dressed from head to toe in a fairy costume, or an Elsa dress, or a non-branded, highly-flammable, plain old Kmart princess gown. It hurts my eyes, as well as my sensibilities. Isn’t this everything I swore to avoid? The frills, the saccharine, the submissive gender roles?
Her life, her choice
But while it might make me feel a little queasy, part of being a feminist is embracing and honouring women’s choices. My daughter has chosen the Path of the Princess – for now at least – and it’s not my place to quash her dream just because I don’t happen to agree with it. It’s my job to support her, encourage her, and guide her to be the best fucking princess she can possibly be.
“Do I look pretty mumma, do I look like a real princess?” she asks me, from underneath fluttering eyelashes.
“You look incredible,” I tell her, “like you could rule the world.”
When she calls for a Brave Knight (the Stuntman) to come and rescue her, we talk about how it’s fun to pretend, but that princesses don’t really need to be rescued – they’re strong and clever enough to save themselves. When she wants to just “sit and look pretty, like a princess”, I ask her if she doesn’t think sitting around like a doll is a bit boring, and suggest that we go on an adventure and do something fun, because princesses do that too.
While there are a lot of aspects of the Disney Princess Pack that I despise, many have characteristics that can be viewed as feminist traits.
Thanks to badass princesses like Elsa, Anna, Mulan, Merida and Belle, my daughter knows that princesses can be just as clever and strong and tough as any man. They can make their own decisions, and live the life they choose. These strong princesses each have their own skills and talents, and show bravery and courage when faced with adversity. They don’t need a man to make them happy, and don’t take kindly to being told what to do.
Watch your language
To keep my Fairy Princess on the feminist track, I don’t focus on her being beautiful or pretty – I make sure she knows she’s funny, kind, clever, strong, creative, fast, and talented. And loud. SO LOUD!!
I use the same adjectives with my daughter as with my son. (Why are they both so freaking loud???) But I also don’t not tell her she’s beautiful. It’s OK to be beautiful, beauty is not something to be ashamed of. Taking pride in your appearance is not breaking the feminist oath.
If we’re reading a book that features a male Doctor (or Vet, or Engineer, or Construction worker), I make a point of reminding her that women can have those jobs too. Sometimes our bedtime stories are articles I find on A Mighty Girl, about women and girls who have done, or are doing, amazing things to change the world. Little Miss and the Stuntman both love to hear stories about how people can change the world. They don’t give a shit about gender at their ages – people are just people. And people who do really cool things are just really cool people.
I’m conscious to avoid saying crap like “you throw like a girl”, or “that’s not very ladylike” – and call that rubbish out when I hear it. Buying swimming goggles the other day, the saleswoman handed my son a blue pair and my daughter a pink pair, saying, “blue is for boys, pink is for girls.”
“Well that’s a bit silly,” I interrupted, “girls and boys can have any colour they like. What colour do you want kids?”
When Little Miss chose the pink ones anyway the saleswoman smirked condescendingly at me… because she entirely missed the point. It’s not that I don’t want my daughter to wear pink, I just want her to know that she doesn’t have to wear pink; she has choices. (My son gave me some relief by choosing the yellow ones).
For me, feminism is about having the choice to do whatever the fuck you want, regardless of your gender.
So when you see me in the supermarket, juggling a six-pack of beer, a full shopping basket, and struggling to hold up the train of my tiny Fairy Princess’ gown… just know that we’re not letting down the sisterhood – she’s actually a badass feminist in training.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT.
An edited version of this article was first published on Kidspot.