I love princesses. Always have. Whether it’s a fairytale princess in a story book, a real princess in a glossy magazine, or my 3-year-old daughter’s make-believe princess that reigns over me on a daily basis — I love them all.
Many ask me if my obvious princess passion can coexist with all that I hope and want for my daughter. Can a world of tiaras and poufy dresses truly allow her to become a smart, confident woman?
Of course it can.
Because I want my daughter to know that being girly doesn’t make her weak or inferior. I want her to know that all women deserve to be taken seriously no matter what they look like (even those who wear ball gowns and glass slippers). I want her to know that strong women will always build each other up, not tear each other down.
Over the years, I’ve become baffled by those that attack the princess genre. In a world heaving with male-driven narratives, princesses (and the classic movies inspired by them) show girls that their stories deserve to be told, that their feelings matter, that their dreams have value, that being a girl is a wonderful, powerful thing– not a source of shame.
Feminist author Naomi Wolf once said, “Isn’t it interesting that when fables are filled with actual narratives of female power, assertion and heroism, they are still read as being about beauty and passivity?” It’s more than interesting. If we truly want our girls to live happily ever after, it’s something we must strive to change.
I adore the Disney princesses precisely because they remind girls that no matter what their circumstances (whether you’re trapped in a cottage, in a tower, or underwater, in a provincial village or by the confines of royal duty), it’s okay to want something more, to know that you are worthy of something more, and rather than downgrade your dreams to fit your reality, you must upgrade your convictions to match your destiny.
My daughter is what many politely term a ‘strong-willed’ child. (In the words of William Shakespeare, “She is but little, but she is fierce.”) And yet, when she wears her tiara and wields her wand, she becomes softer towards me, kinder towards everyone and more enchanted with everything around her.
Her royal power is not the kind that’s in your face; it’s not aggressive or combative, but thoughtful and self-assured. Don’t get me wrong – as a princess, she still speaks her mind – but she does so with rare empathy.
This not something I wasn’t to stop; it’s something I want to encourage. Because experts predict that successful leaders of the future will become much more empathetic, more diplomatic and more benevolent than they are now. They will become (dare I say it) much more princess-like.
Embracing princess power doesn’t mean our daughters will grow up to do nothing but sing catchy songs and talk to animals. It means instead of being forced to choose between gentle and strong, between compassion and courage — you combine them. As our modern world faces increasingly serious challenges, this style of leadership will become even more essential. And it will be the bravest women (and men) who break away from the status quo and become more princess-like on all fronts.
This is why little girls across the planet are so entranced by Frozen’s Elsa. Her natural power scares her at first, but when she takes a risk and allows her heart to rule her head, her entire kingdom prospers. Girls have responded to this on a global scale. They recognize the untapped power within themselves and want to start using it right away.
“Mommy,” my daughter asked me recently, “when is my magic going to come out? It’s taking a looong time.”
I looked at her quizzically. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“The magic in my heart,” she answered. “When is it going to come out of my wand?”
(From the mouths of babes.)
She was so certain that the question was when — not how or if. And who was I to tell her what is and isn’t possible?
Although many brush off princess stories as outdated or silly, at their ancient core is the idea that all women have the ability to connect to their own unique power. Cinderella’s transformation was not just from rags to riches; but when she stopped viewing herself as a lowly ash girl and saw the princess she always had been. When Rapunzel recognized the royal symbol on her tower wall and finally realized who she was, my adult heart pounded with an ancient recognition of my own.
Princess power is real. It is a call to action. One that tells us to stand tall, to be brave, to put on our crowns and use our “heart magic” for the greater good. When our daughters play princess, they are practicing for the future. They are teaching us to embrace the princess that has always been there.
And if we don’t convince them to grow out of it, they just might change the world.