Every time I hear a variation on “every woman wants to be treated like a princess!” a little piece of me dies.
I read a riff on that theme just a few days ago, and have spent the time between then and now pondering why that expression makes me nuts, and not being able to come up with as clear an answer as I would like. I just can’t shake this topic, though, so here go some muddy thoughts.
I already reap some of the ‘princess’-y perks.
Wear a beautiful dress and glitzy jewelry and have every look at you? Yeah…I’m a singer. That’s what I do for work. I love attention as much as the next person (probably more), and I have been accused of having some mild diva tendencies. But the thing about divas is they got attention and deference because of their accomplishments. In my case, I have worked my tail off training my voice to be very loud and very high. So feel free to compliment my tiara and buy me roses, but please don’t do it because I’m princess-esque. Do it because I’m me. Which leads me to…
Adoration is not what I am going for
I keep thinking of Dorothy Day, who I am sure is as shocked as I am that she is appearing in a post about princesses. I am reminded of her quote “Don’t call me a saint – I don’t’ want to be dismissed that easily”. Regardless of what rehabilitation Disney has tried to give to the princess image, I have trouble associating any adjectives of substance – strong, diligent, wise – with the term “princess”. And when they are adored, which I also read recently is something all women want, the doesn‘t seem real to me. I’ve written many times that to love and be loved is messy, gritty stuff. Adoration is flat, fairy tale stuff. Give me the messy reality every day. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.
I wasn’t raised that way
Daddy’s Little Girl I am not. (This is the part where I get diagnosed as an unredeemed princess who wasn’t well formed). My parents didn’t fawn over me or spoil me. They loved me fiercely. Both of them, particularly my father, treated me like someone with limitless potential to achieve whatever she wanted to, who didn’t need anything handed to her and who could get whatever she wanted. Rather than a perpetually doting Daddy, he has been a great collaborator in the adventure of life. I can do without the sentimentality I’d rather have the support.
[This probably comes as no surprise to women of my generation who “speak this language” but I was Jem over Barbie, all the way. You?]
What does a princess do anyway?
Sit around and be admired? BORING. Frankly I have too much to do. And if part of being a prissy princess is to say no to things, you can count me out. I don’t want to play it safe. I don’t want to refuse adventure or responsibility. I want to take responsibility for my own life, and I don’t mind admitting that I want to take responsibility so that I can take the credit. Princess is out, but Queen is looking better every day.
Other people decide who is a princess
In reality, birth or marriage make someone a princess. But, the pseudo-egalitarian masses insist, all women can be princesses! Even then, what defines a princess other than how people treat her? I try so hard not to rely on the opinion of others, why would I claim a title that leaves me dependent on the flattery and solicitude of others? Again, I’m not opposed to flattery or attention per se, but let it be for things I have actually accomplished.
Don’t tell me what all women want
Here we get to the foundation of my dissatisfaction with the “All women want to be treated like a princess” argument. All my life I have been made to feel like I am doing womanhood wrong. Without a doubt, my personality is masculine (enneagram 8 much?) and I wasted years trying to be more “feminine” while knowing that my personality was too strong to subdue. Maybe I’m the exception, and maybe I’m a deviant, but I’m still a woman and am sick of being told how I should feel and what I should want.
Flor San Roman says
I want to be challenged and to challenge without feeling ashamed for it. No idea where “princess” is supposed to fit in that.
Thanks for articulating some really bamboozling concepts. Helps me sort out a few contradictory internal things. These are important to know for each of us simply so we know who we are, but I’m also finding it an issue I have to grapple if I want to get somewhere with this latent vocation of mine. So… yeah I’ll be looking to you every now and then when I feel confounded. };>
Glad to be a consultant in times of confoundedness (confoundion?)!
Jeanne Cregan says
As usual you hit me at the right time— I am reading up a little bit on raising girls in the princess culture- At 6 years old her role models are a bunch of princesses that do nothing as you say but be adored— and she feels at the ripe old age of 6 that she is too old for princesses and has started to pass those things down to Fiona and she has moved on to Barbies in trashy outfits– it doesn’t get any better- after I read up a little more on the princess thing I’ll let you know what I learn!!
Gah! I do not envy you right now. I am sure that everything will turn out ok, but you have your work cut out for you battling the princess/Barbie culture. If anyone is up to it, it’s you. 🙂
Love it, love it, love it. It sounds like your parents struck the perfect balance with you. Back in the day I sometimes declared that I didn’t like the idea of being a princess, or even a queen (since I imagined British style royalty) I wanted to be an empress with real, autocrat power!
I think that we as a culture like the idea of princesses precisely because they are so non-threatening. The worst thing a pretty little princess does is pout.
Ha! Empress sounds just perfect. Thanks for adding to my thoughts, as you always do. The non-threatening piece is key.
I want to be Cinderella. I understand both sides of this maybe because I don’t get dressed up for a living and get attention, and my parents didn’t support my endless potential. So I would love to be treated like a Princess. Although I’ll try to avoid my baby girl’s entrance into the princess/Barbie culture because I want her to discover femininity the natural way and not have society’s idea of womanhood shoved down her throat. Admittedly I have no idea how I will do this but I will try. Hopefully I’m not to jaded and masculine so i might set a positive example. When I finally find a man that treats me like a Princess I will never let him go.i think all woman want to be treated like a Princess and at the same time I agree with you on all your points. Maybe all woman want to be treated like the queen but respected like the king. Maybe when my daughter wants to be a Princess I’ll convince her to be the queen because she gets respect and is strong, teaching her values. What do u think?