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Is The Princess Problem Even A Problem?

Illustration for article titled Is The Princess Problem Even A Problem?

Today, the Times of London has a piece by Sarah Ebner which asks, "Is the princess stereotype harming our daughters?" Coincidentally, this morning we got an email from a reader with this screenshot from the Dutch Boy paint web site.


Every few weeks, we deal with the Princess Problem. We wish there were fewer pink toys. We see commercials told like fairy tales; women wear tiaras to get married and some even choose Disney bridal gowns. As Hortense mentioned in May, this year alone, Disney believes it will make nearly 4 billion dollars internationally off of its "Disney Princesses" brand. For years, the Disney princesses were white and passive. Ebner writes:

Snow White, for example, in the film first shown in 1937, is cleaning the dwarves' cottage within minutes of arriving, while the key to Sleeping Beauty is her waiting to be brought back to life by a Prince's kiss.


Of course, more "modern" gals like Mulan, Ariel in The Little Mermaid , Belle, and Pocahontas may act differently in the movies, but when marketed as Princesses? It's just about being pretty. While Disney will finally present its first black princess this Christmas, Sarah Ebner notes that young girls are being set up in a dangerous way:

The Women and Work Commission, reporting on the gender and opportunities gap, found that while girls are outperforming boys at school and at university, they still earn less than men - and the pay gap may be widening. One of the main reasons for this, says the Commission, is that little girls spend too much time in the Wendy house, playing with dolls or pretending to be nurses while their little brothers want to be Bob the Builder.

From an early age, girls are being socialised, it seems, for the caring, soft "feminine jobs" that perpetuate gender stereotypes, job segregation, and lower pay rates.

It certainly is a problem if little girls are steeped in fairy tale culture, worshipping heroines who don't do much else except sing to woodland creatures and wear big dresses and jewels. Not everyone can be Paris Hilton.

Dr. Melanie Waters, lecturer in English literature and specialist in feminist theory at Northumbria University, absolutely has a problem with the princess culture. "[Princess dolls] are promoting a very narrow and prescriptive view of femininity, and one that ought to be outmoded in the 21st century," she tells Ebner. "I think they are regressive. They encourage girls to be passive, and to nurture. There's an aggressive focus on beauty, hair accessories and other images that promote the idea that girls should be concerned with their appearance".


On the other hand, whenever we post about princesses, people inevitably comment that they watched just as many Disney movies as the next gal and managed to be a functioning member of society. And in Ebner's piece, Lizzie Gorham says: "Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is my favorite princess because she marries a handsome prince and because her dress is pink. I like the Princess dresses and the stories. And I want to marry a prince." But Lizzie is three. Tastes and attitudes change, children grow into adults, and can be encouraged to shed ideals, beliefs and fantasies (Santa Claus, digging to China) formed years before. Perhaps the overwhelming princess-ization of toys and media for girls is a problem, but can be solved by a good education, complete with teachings of critical thought and tossing aside of unrealistic expectations.

Is The Princess Sterotype Harming Our Daughters? [Times Of London]

Earlier: Fairy Tale Heroines Return To Dark Roots In Modern Setting
How About An Animated Movie With A Female Lead Who Isn't A Princess?
Addressing The Princess Problem
Disney Pushes Princess "Lifestyle" In Ladymag Form
Researchers: Disney Movies "Elevate" Heterosexuality


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As I noted in a previous thread, my 4-year-old daughter has a deep and abiding love of planes, rocks, dinosaurs, and cars, while at the same time being surrounded in pink, Disney fantasy. I think as long as girls are exposed to everything, without precondition, they can grow up to make up their own mind about what they like and don't like.