In Defense of Princess Culture

Let me preface this with the disclaimer that the following is my opinion and only my opinion and I realize sane, intelligent women can have other opinions on this topic. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Whatever. Here goes.

I was reading a blog the other day. In it, a mother talked about her daughter’s love of princess culture – the movies, the dresses, the stories, and all that goes with it. To paraphrase her, this particular mom was pretty disappointed in this. She “hates” the princess stories. She “really, really” does.

But she was sucking it up and supporting her daughter, anyway (kudos for that). Though it killed her to do so, this mother allowed her daughter to tiptoe through the magical world of castles and happy endings. 

But when she had to read the story of Cinderella to her daughter’s Kindergarten class, she (and this is where she lost me) adjusted the story to suit herself: Cinderella’s stepsisters? “Jealous and misunderstood.” The stepmother: “lonely, rather than cruel.” Cinderella’s prince? A “like-minded partner.”

Um …

My daughter also loves princess culture, as anyone who has met her is aware. She loves the dresses and the stories and the books and the PRINCES and the LOVE! It’s all so wonderful and magical! The funny thing is, when she was born, I had it in my mind she'd be a tomboy, following after her brother in dirty overalls and messy pigtails.

That is not how things played out. And at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

After seeing my daughter decked out in her princess best, someone asked me, “Were you into princesses when you were little, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said, realizing I really didn’t know. “I was never given the chance.”

I grew up with hand-me-downs and once-a-year trips to Walmart. I’d never really been presented with a princess dress. But thinking back, if I had been, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been STOKED.

Somewhere along the way, I’d come to believe princesses were a bad thing. Degrading to women; a symbol of being spoiled and superficial (thanks Paris Hilton); a precursor to those sad little girls in beauty pageants.

But is any of that actually true?

Because, ladies, have you watched Disney’s Snow White lately? That girl had someone try to KILL her, yo. And she got away and survived! And the whole time, she was really, really NICE about it.

And Cinderella? Talk about work ethic. Plus she had a good attitude, even when people were completely awful to her – she remained honest and sweet. And it was because of that goodness that she was rewarded with a happy ending.

So what’s so offensive about this? We don't want our daughters learning that if you work hard and are good and sweet, even in the face of difficult circumstances, you’ll find happiness?

I already know the rebuttal to this question: it’s the idea that a woman needs a prince to rescue her in order for her to be happy that women find so offensive.

To which I have one question:


Why is it offensive that a woman might need a man to be happy? I can tell you, I wouldn’t be happy without MY man. Does this make me weak? Or just honest with myself? I know, I know, there are a lot of women out there without men in their lives and they’re doing just fine. Great. Good for them. 

But why does that mean I should shield my daughter from the idea of finding love? I’m kind of hoping she finds a “prince” to take care of her one day. And these princess movies give me a great chance to talk to her about what kind of guy she should marry: namely someone who is courteous, gallant, willing to do anything for her; to protect her from the bad things in the world.

Which brings me to my next point: lonely stepmothers and misunderstood stepsisters?? I’m sorry but if you’re bullying someone and treating them like a slave, I don’t care WHY you’re doing it – you’re a bad guy. 

And I want my daughter to understand that there are BAD people out there in the world. If someone hurts her or treats her badly, I don’t want her to try understanding where they’re coming from. I want her running in the other direction.

And my final point: as far as role models go, do you have any better ideas!? 

Would you rather your daughter dress up as and admire Bratz dolls?

Or Katy Perry and Ke$ha? I’m racking my brain, scanning popular culture, trying to find a better avenue to direct my daughter down. There are options – but not a lot.

If my daughter knows all the words to every song in The Little Mermaid, so what? It’s better than her singing along with Rihanna’s latest ode to promiscuity. 

And if she hopes to someday find a gallant man to marry, awesome! I hope she finds him. And if she loves wearing princess dresses and crowns and jewels, guess what? Those dresses are pretty classy. She could do worse.

I have another daughter. She’s just learning how to be alive right now (dude, getting a toy into your mouth with brand new hands is HARD WORK.) but when she’s old enough to care, will I steer her in the same direction? No, I won’t. If she’s into pirates or animals or ninja spies, I will totally support her in that. And use that culture to teacher her the values I want her to learn.

But in the meantime, I ain't hating on the princesses and I don't think you should either.


  1. What's so awful about needing a man to be happy? There are plenty of single women who have NOT been chosen by a man who have every right to be happy as well, that's what.

    I think it's one path that can *contribute* to happiness. But when we tell our girls that the only way to grow up and be happy is for a man to love them, that *is* damaging to those of us who have never had that opportunity. Do you know how many pitying looks I got at BYU at 25--twenty-five, by all means an old maid at twenty-five there--because I wasn't dating anyone or married? It's as if your life is over, if a man doesn't love you. Well, screw that.

  2. I agree. I worried about my daughter growing up thinking she was a princess because I didn't want her to feel spoiled and not be able to do things for herself and expect someone else to do them for her. While I make sure she cleans her room and helps with the dishes and etc, the thing is - she is special! She should feel special! Why would I want to take that away from her? If she believes in her heart that she's a princess then more power to her. It's hard enough for a girl to keep her confidence as she grows up, she doesn't need her mom pushing her down or making her feel less than wonderful just because she likes a story or movie or certain princess.

  3. I understand where you're coming from Stacy, as a divorced single mother I think I am perfectly functional and happy without a man. But I also acknowledge that the biological and anthropological human condition lends to finding a lifelong mate. Further, I can get just plain lonely. No matter how amazing my girlfriends are, not matter how wonderful my daughter is, I still yearn for a soul mate. Romantic notion? Maybe. But I can't really argue with eons of genetic conditioning. Actually, I don't want to.

    Crystal, I am entirely in agreement with you regarding feminist tradition that teaches us that we should never be reliant upon a man. Real life just isn't that clean cut. That doesn't mean you should identify your personality or happiness through them, but they can certianly be an important part of the equation.

    Great blog post!

  4. Well said! I have four daughters and I totally agree.

  5. Love this post. I love the princess culture. And there is nothing wrong with a little girl desiring to be great.

  6. Love!!

    My complaint with princess stories is that Cinderella's Prince Charming is lame. He's not even the one that goes to look for her!

    But give me Prince Phillip or Prince Eric, men that fought evil and had courage to rescue not only the women they loved but their communities as well (because what would have happened if Ursula and Maleficent had not been defeated? Horrible thought!), and I'm just as excited as little girl.

    And this is one of my favorite quotes, which would be an amazing Relief Society or Young Women lesson one day,

    "The road to love may be barred by still many more dangers, which you alone will have to face. So arm yourself with this enchanted Shield of Virtue, and this mighty Sword of Truth, for these weapons of righteousness will triumph over evil."

    Arming yourself with virtue and truth to defend righteousness? Nothing damaging about my daughter learning that, yo. :D

  7. I don't have a daughter...yet, but I remember being a little girl and I loved princesses and princes and dress up and even tried to model my life after what a princess would do or how she would act. It kept me from acting like a ridiculous teenager and many embarrassing moments in my teenage life, which I am very grateful for.
    And even though my son is young now doesn't mean I don't want to teach him how to be honorable and courageous. Thank you for your post I will share it with all my friends. bravo!

  8. Love it. Personally, I'm a big fan of the newer "princes" that aren't actually princes to begin with. Flynn Ryder...Cristoff...they're just ordinary guys that love the princess for who she is! Most of the movie they don't even know she IS a princess...they're just helping her on her quest! As far as I can tell, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that message.

  9. Crystal,

    I am currently a pre-nursing student at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. I am taking a writing 122 class, and our main text book is The Structure of Argument. Your blog post "In Defense of Princess Culture" is published in one of the last chapters in the book, as I am sure you are well aware. In my class, our second essay assignment is an argument analysis, in which we were instructed to choose an essay from a handful of essays and do an analysis on it, essentially analyzing whether or not we thought that the author was effective in their argument. I am sure that by now, you probably know what I am leading up to, but, I chose your argument to analyze. I wrote that for your purpose, you were very effective in your argument. I wanted to tell you that I was writing about your post, but I also wanted to tell you that I think that it is really neat that your blog post/argument was published in a book that many writing 122 students use nationwide. I was wondering, how did that come about? Specifically, like did someone just email you one day and say "Hey I want to publish your blog post in this book that most college students will be using at one point or another?" On a side note, I too am a mother with a two year old daughter who adores My Little Pony and Princesses as well. I completely agree with you in that the other options for acceptable role models is quite limited. I have also read a few of your other posts; your writing is really interesting and at times humorous. It is enjoyable to read, but I have to disagree with you on one point. I don't think that you are an unexceptional mom at all, you seem like quite the opposite; an exceptional mother. Kudos! :)

    Natalie Boothe

    1. Hi Natalie,

      First off -- thank you! I'm glad you liked the blog. As to your question, I was approached by St. Martin's Press one day, out of the blue. They sent me an email saying they'd come across my blog and it would fit well with the Elements of Arguments textbook and could they please use it. I was all over that! I didn't receive any money for it and honestly, if I'd KNOWN it was going to end up in an Argument text book, I would've written it better (or so I tell myself). I wrote it as a funny blog for friends so the idea of college students analyzing my argument formulations makes me a bit nervous but even if I do come up short, I get to say I'm in a text book and that's cool enough to counter everything else. :)

    2. Crystal,

      My name is Robert Darkwood. Your essay is featured in the textbook we use at Fullerton College for English 103 Critical Reading & Writing. I thought it was really neat that a piece of writing could end up in the hands of so many people. Keep up the good work!

  10. Hi Crystal, can you please send me your email address at Macmillan Learning would like to request permission to reprint this again. Thanks!


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