Raising a Feminist Fairy Princess

Raising a feminist fairy princess | www.toiletsarentforturtles.com

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?


Raising a feminist fairy princess | www.toiletsarentforturtles.com

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.”


Raising a feminist fairy princess | www.toiletsarentforturtles.comWhen 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.

Badass Princesses

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.”

Raising a feminist fairy princess | www.toiletsarentforturtles.com

“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.


Raising a feminist fairy princess | www.toiletsarentforturtles.com

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT.



An edited version of this article was first published on Kidspot.






  • My daughter is similar to your in that she loves to wear dresses of all types. We have a few Disney dresses that we are allowed to wear at home…but NEVER anywhere else. I have never encouraged her to be a princess or shown her princess movies, yet she has developed this fascination on her own. I am convinced that this part of their development & relates directly to their identity formation and the realisation that they are girls. Too many girls go through this ‘phase’ for it to be a coincidence. I just find it SO fascinating xx

    • It’s fascinating but also scary! I really thought I’d be able to control the Princessification at least somewhat… but now I realise it’s got nothing to do with me, it’s her journey, her identity, and I’m just along for the ride 🙂

  • “Like you could rule the world.” I love that – totally stealing to use with my sometime princess!
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  • YEP, I’ve got one of these. Her Barbie annual is her bible, and I have to qualify everything with ‘yes, you can be a princess fairy barbie girl’, but you can also be an engineer, too, if you want to be. Here’s the riot grrrl fairy princesses, and the mammas who raise them xx

  • Oh man. I love this. DITTO. Unisex everything, no frills, no tutus, YES MY DAUGHTER IS PRETTY BUT SHE’S ALSO INTELLIGENT AND CREATIVE AND AMAZING and all of that, and she is the girliest girl that ever girled in the history of girliness. Which is just who she is. For now. And if it’s still who she is in ten, twenty, fifty years, I’ll still love her hard. And hope that she’s still fierce, too.
    Emily recently posted…Youse pedants are gonna love this postMy Profile

  • I have a little boy and I already have had already had to tick someone off for telling him not to cry like a little girl! Language is so important when they are this young and impressionable.

  • As a little girl I thought Ariel was badass. She was this mermaid who was so interested in the world above her own and even though her father forbid it she still did it. To little me that took guts! Of course I realise there’s more to it, like the fact she falls for a guy she only saw for about 20 minutes in total before selling her voice for legs to be with him. I kinda didn’t think about that part much!

    • My daughter loves Ariel too, she is pretty badass in her rebellion against her father! But loses massive points when she gives up her very essence just to be with a handsome dude… I’ve been explaining that bit quite slowly!

  • Great post – and a relief to read something from someone who grapples with similar issues to me as a parent. I have a newish blog and think and write about the same sort of things, but it can feel quite lonely sometimes as so many people out there have a very different perspective on parenting girls. I really respect their right to a different point of view but it is good to find like-minded bloggers and to know I’m not alone in thinking about these issues. Lovely writing – keep it up x
    Oh Dolly Dosh recently posted…To buy or not to buy: the lure of a Disney Princess bookMy Profile

    • Thanks for visiting! I often feel a bit stuck in the middle – getting judged my some hardline feminists for allowing my daughter to wear Princess crap, and being judged on the other side by people who think I’m making a big deal out of nothing for worrying about it!

  • I’m so pleased to read this post – I have a new-ish blog and write about very similar issues and sometimes feel rather lonely! – there are so many people out there who take a very different stance, particularly when raising girls. I really respect their right to a different point of view as parents but it is a relief to encounter people who feel as I do. Great post, real issues which deserve careful thought… Please keep writing x

  • Well, my little girl was a big tomboy who refused anything to do with tulle or pink. I love that stuff (because I’ve never grown up really). Her 4 older brothers probably influenced her. I have one photo of her in a fairy costume and she looks mightily pee-ed off. Now she’s nineteen and very feminine but a definite feminist. I agree Rach. Give them the choice. I wouldn’t have dared say anything like “you throw like a girl” around her either. It would have given my boys the wrong impression. Besides, Bella could slog a ball so hard it wasn’t funny.

  • Good write up really great work.
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  • My little girl is only 18months and I’m not pushing anything on her at the moment, like you I want her to make her choices. Yes I got her a cabbage patch doll for Christmas, but I also got her a Little Tikes car, she likes to cuddle the doll (but prefers soft toys) but she loves the car. I have no problem with that. I don’t want to push her to be ‘gender-less’ but I don’t want to tell her she has to like pink because she’s a girl.

    Ps – she hates when I put her green shorts on her, but loves her pink ones. She’s 18months so she doesn’t even know she’s ‘meant’ to like pink yet. Kids will choose what they like, just like your daughter and her flippers 🙂
    lu @ looking for mama me recently posted…The lies we tellMy Profile

  • This is a great post! I have just discovered you through the #teamibot that I sometimes link up to (mainly depending on my headspace!)
    I have a nearly 15yo son and twin daughters who are 11 in two weeks. I don’t think we have ever actually actively made deliberate choices regarding feminism etc. We have always had dolls and trucks etc in the house. My girls know they can be and do anything they choose if they set their mind to it and work hard. In exactly the same way that our son gets this encouragement. We have never stopped our girls from doing traditionally “male” things like say cricket all three of our kids play. There are some prat boys on their team who at the tender age of 8 and 9 are well frankly little arses about the girls playing and really get stuck into them if they make a mistake and when it is one of the boys on the team doing the same thing they pat them on the back and say its ok! Though looking at their fathers let’s just say that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
    I have however, drawn the line at one of my daughters playing rugby league. I know she can and I know I shouldn’t stop her but well she has already had to have plastic surgery on her lip to stitch it back together from playing in the back yard and more stitches to her chin so frankly a broken nose isn’t that far from the realms of possibility for her and she has such a pretty face! I know I should let her play if she wants but I just can’t. But our son on the other hand he is playing footy and loves every minute of it. He nearly took up dancing a few years ago with his sister’s though I am almost 100% certain this had a lot more to do with all the girls that were at dancing than actually wanting to learn how to dance!
    It is such a difficult world to navigate as a feminist with daughter’s wanting them to grow up to be whatever it is they want to be and be willing to accept their choices what ever they may be.
    Loved this post so I am off to discover more of your writing!
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  • You’re doing an awesome job Rachel! Badass mum and badass daughter.
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  • Great post. I must say we pushed the Mulan princess, because Mulan was timely when our daughter was young, she’s the only Asian princess (and our kids are adopted from China) and she is a beautiful badass! When Elsa and Anna came along we enjoyed our son’s renditions of ‘Let it go’, has he donned an old dress-up of his sister’s and sang (ok screeched) to his heart’s content. Our poor son does suffer at the hands of his sister who loves to practise her make-up techniques on him and then dress him in old dance costumes. We have plenty of photos for his 21st.

    • Mulan is a beautiful badass! Nice fir Disney to allow a *tiny* bit of diversity in too… My son gets used as a doll too sometimes, he quite enjoys it!

  • I know exactly what you’re going through. My eldest daughter was in the princess phase from the day she turned three and I think she dressed as either cinderella, snow white or Elsa for that entire year. I thought my second daughter would be different. She preferred shorts over dresses and had an aversion to pink and then something just happened. She now will only wear a skirt or dress – with sparkles – and sports a tiara every day. It irks me when they ask if they’re pretty or if one says I’m more beautiful-er than you. We watch language in our house to and ensure we tell the girls that they’re not only pretty, but they’re strong and capable too. Great post.
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  • I’ve got three girls and one boy and they’ve all been so different when it comes to the ‘girly’ thing. All the girls had a stage where they loved pink and dresses and heaven forbid I suggest they wear a pair of shorts! But now practicality is key and I love seeing their style emerge. My littlest girl will often team a princess dress with sneakers and that’s my favourite — pretty and practical. 😉
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…“Don’t take my wings!” The tale of the boxed butterfly #IBOTMy Profile

  • I love this post and how rad is your daughter in that pic! The whole colour thing (blue for boys, pink for girls) hurts my brain. It’s a colour and it’s a choice and really who cares who wants what colour.
    Karin @ Calm to Conniption recently posted…A Spiderman Party For A Boy Who Is Four!My Profile

  • Hell yes! You know I agree with every word- all about choices!
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  • At the moment, in our house full of boys, there’s a battle about being strongest. Every day I need to reiterate that there are many ways people can be strong and not every boy is stronger than every girl.
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  • I have 3 boys and am quick to react to “cry like a girl” “girls can’t do that”.
    Good on you for embacing & educating Princess Power in your own feminist way.

  • I hate it when i hear ‘run like a girl’ or ‘sook like a girl’. SERIOUSLY – boys sook just as much and girls can run just as fast. Very annoying and condesending
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  • Love this post, and yes I teach my kids that they can have, do, be anything regardless of their sex. It gets tough as not every parent teaches acceptance such as this!
    Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me recently posted…What I did the day before I left Las VegasMy Profile

  • Heck yeah! I’m loving my four year old daughter’s development at the moment and it’s much the same I think. She likes princesses and gets a bit caught up girl colours and boy colours (though Elsa and Frozen have had a surprising effect on the status of the colour blue I’m happy to say. Now she says it’s a Frozen colour, not a boy colour!). I didn’t teach her that, but her fellows at daycare evidently did (the wider world’s influence starts so young these days!). But when I tell her fairy stories I often change them up to be a bit more modern. She especially likes Little Red Riding Hood, in which (in my version), LRRH doesn’t get eaten, but instead takes to the wolf with a poker until he vomits up granny (gotta have a bit of gross!) and runs away begging for mercy. And I have heard her, while she’s playing princesses, say that castles and towers are stupid and she will fly a dragon instead! So I think I’m getting it right…

    Great post, found it on #IBOT 🙂
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  • Oh I love this post! Such a great message you are sending to your kids 🙂

  • I love that you’re telling her that princesses can save themselves and are strong 🙂 My friend’s daughter is a bad ass princess. She rocks her tiara with a pair of nunchucks and boots and is always the rescuer in any play situation!
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  • We haven’t entered the princess stage here yet, although mine is about to turn 3 so it might be around the corner. I was the same buying neutral stuff and no frills or lace or floral {yuck} yet we seem to have a decent amount of pink clothes now. I think it’s important to raise girls to know they can be whatever they want to be {and gender roles shit me to tears}. #teamIBOT
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