Princess or Warrior?

Brace yourself for a ramble.

So last night, my darling two year old, MonkeyPants, decided to dive-bomb me from the pass through behind the couch and nailed me between the ribs with her knee, causing me a world of hurt.  This is something that she does often.  Her favorite thing is when I’m folding laundry on the bed.  She’ll come up behind me and dive over my shoulder, and I have to catch her with one hand or she’ll do a full roll and sometimes tumble off the bed. Of course she has to plant it JUST RIGHT or I also get a knee in the back of the head.  Now, I’m not complaining.  I can take a good beating and still keep a smile on my face, and I have to say that one thing I love the MOST about MonkeyPants is that she is WILD.  I love having a wild daughter.  I love wondering what she’ll come up with next and seeing her control of her body grow.  It’s incredible, because at two she can lay out her 7 year old brother flat and get him in an arm bar, and she’ll tousle with the dogs and cats and pretty much everything.  She once saw a video of Steve Irwin wrestling a crocodile and, with awe in her voice, pointed and said, “I DO THAT.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if some day she did.

And then this morning she picks out the FRILLIEST, PINKEST, most bedecked in bows and layers of ruffles, most princessy dress she owns and wanted me to do her hair with a pouffed up hair piece.  And I did it all, chuckling to myself because here’s the girl who quite possibly dislocated one of my ribs in a Tarzan-like performance last night wanting to be the perfect little princess, probably so she could sit on the dogs and yell at them in style.

But I have to wonder, why should these things not belong together perfectly?  Why can’t a girl be a crocodile hunter in a pink frilly frock?  (Of course there is the maneuverability problem.)  But honestly, why is it that these days there are so many anti-princess sites telling people not to tie their kids down to the princess ideal?  I get that you don’t want to force being a princess on a child, or portray it as the only or best option, but why is it that these days it seems like being a princess is the enemy?

If the goal is to let our children determine who they want to be without restriction, being a frilly pink crocodile-wrestling mountain exploring zoologist should be on the table.

Princesses don’t have to be helpless, simpering idiots.

After all, Leia was a princess and she was a better shot than Han or Luke!

Okay, okay, so I get that by and large in the Disney-style mainstream princess culture, pretty girls are helpless prisoners of their beauty, like Snow White, who have to be saved by someone else.  All they are good for is keeping things pretty.  But do we really want to send the message to our girls that being beautiful is the enemy?  That by seeking beauty you are limiting yourself?  That you should hate pink dresses and all they represent?

Someone else decided that pink and frilly meant demure and in need of masculine aid.  I want MonkeyPants to decide for herself what it means, and God help anyone who sees her in a pink dress and decides she’s delicate.  By Heaven, she will rain down punishment on them from above and get them in an arm bar and force them to admit that being feminine does not mean being weak.

And I love that about her.

I love her in a pink dress sitting on her brother’s shoulders and telling him he’s being Batman wrong.

There’s always been this debate about Xena the Warrior Princess and whether or not she’s a decent feminist role model because of the iron bikini.

I mean, screw that.

By choosing to be beautiful women are not objectifying themselves.  Beauty, delicateness, comfort, submission, providing for others, selflessness, none of these are qualities that we should desire to beat out of our daughters.  Princess or warrior is a false choice.

No woman is an object as long as she never allows herself to be made silent and stationary.

And putting a dress on MonkeyPants certainly doesn’t shut her up!

7 thoughts on “Princess or Warrior?

  1. I love this post – though I have to say that I think most of the anti-princess stuff is right on the money. (And money is *not* coincidental re. this: Disney and other corporations have made and are continuing to make one HELL of a lot of money from it.)

    When I was growing up, back in the early-mid 60s, girls were *supposed* to want to be helpless princesses who needed a prince – or knight in shining armor – to come along and rescue them from their dull, loveless lives and Take Care of them Forever.

    The thing is, life doesn’t exactly work that way.

    What burns me about the current iteration of prI ciuldincess cr*ap (besides the materialistic, moneymaking angle) is the way in which large parts of the evangelical subculture have embraced it as The Way Women Should Be. And their view of it does NOT allow for croc wrestling, or for any kind of independent thought and action on the part of girls and women.

    Myself, I think all the princess/chivalry stuff is poisonous, at least, in the way it’s being presented in society at large as well as in many white evangelical church circles. It *does* force stereotypes and stereotypical behavior on kids – witness the to-do back when “Brave” was released, wherein the main character was slammed as being a lesbian because she was independent, liked to ride her horse and practice archery, and hated having to be dolled up for a bunch of doltish “princes.” (She looked to be all of 13 at most, which just adds irony upon irony to that whole mess.)

    I’m re-watching the 00s reboot of Battlestar Galactica right now, and oh, how I wish I could have been free to be like Starbuck when I was younger! (In terms of the character’s strengths, not in her flaws.)

    • I agree, a lot of the anti-princess stuff is completely valid. Women shouldn’t feel that they HAVE to be pretty to be loved or they HAVE to be submissive to show respect or on and on. (Especially in Christian cultures, which as you know make men the shepherd and women the sheep- NO THANK YOU!) But I feel like the pendulum ends up swinging in the other direction- where women fear that if they are pretty they won’t be taken seriously. It reminds me of this one time where I joked about being a sci-fi geek and a man told me that I couldn’t call myself a geek just because I watched Battlestar Galactica and I had to *prove* that I was a nerd. As if there are credentials. Because pretty girls can’t be nerds, right? Pretty girls also have to try harder to prove that they can run businesses, or earned their PhDs, and on and on. And I know you know all of this, of course.

      It’s just… when did we as women accept the fact that we ought to hate some aspects of ourselves in order to not be what society tells us? It’s this dirty conundrum where we hate being objectified so we objectify ourselves into something else. I like having pretty hair! Wearing makeup! Wearing heels! I ENJOY it, and not because society told me to but because I enjoy being someone desirable- and that does NOT mean I need my husband to fix the toilet when it isn’t flushing!

      Blah, blah, blah. HA! I’ll shut up now. :)

  2. P.S.: your lovely Monkeypants is playing dress-up, and I think she *knows* that it’s fun and a game. That’s wonderful.

    But it’s not the real message of the Princess Marketing Machine, imo.

    • If only the message was that it is all a game! MonkeyPants definitely knows, and my older daughter Princess knows too, but I’ve seen a lot of kids get the wrong message. (And I’ve seen parents reinforce it. “Princesses don’t talk back to the King.” Oh, that kind of stuff is VILE.)

      • yes, it is VILE.

        As for women not being taken seriously because they’re pretty (or aren’t, which *also* happens a lot), I think most women of my generation could write volumes.

        The sad thing was that if you weren’t pretty, you got slammed for it every bit as much as if you were, or at least, I did. Wear glasses from an early age? well…

        I’ve never felt terribly comfortable in skirts, with the exception of below-the-knew, Indian cotton types (airy and practical, too) and just can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard other women act surprised when they saw me in a skirt (which was quite rare). Why should it be wrong for a person who feels more comfortable in pants to *have* to wear skirts, anyway? (and so on.)

        I think to a degree that the princess thing is a reaction to the unisex look that was predominant during the 70s and 80s, but it really is sending such ugly messages.

  3. Was Xena a Warrior Princess? :)

    Though in my memory, she was a lot more warrior than princess.

    Great post — I don’t envy parents today — especially those of young girls as they try to navigate the treacherous waters of societally-enforced gender stereotyping. It’s great to see young kids with the confidence (and support) to be what they want to be!

    • It’s very cool to sit back and just see what they become. I don’t believe that a parent’s role is to create their kids and shape what they become. From the moment they are born they are their own person, I think of my role as more a guardian and an adviser.

      And I know my kids will grow up to fascinate me even more than they already do.

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