When a five-year-old girl said to me, “Princesses aren’t strong,” I tried to explain – of course they are! And even when I got home from a long day of teaching, I was still thinking about it. A princess is a girl growing into a woman who will be Queen. And what does a Queen do? A Queen rules, makes tough decisions with compassion, fairness, and strength, all with the eyes of the entire kingdom on her, judging her and her every choice. But envisioning a realistic response that a five-year-old girl might actually say to the question, What does a Queen do, I realized that in so many fairy tales, Queens are only seen as wicked, as witches (a term that literally and traditionally means Wise) even. Classic fairy tales and movies rarely show the princess becoming a Queen, or even a responsible adult woman. In the princess collection, a princess must never age. It’s as if the princess is trapped in her state of innocence, “purity,” and distress forever. Even the first princess, Snow White, whose original Disney movie came out in 1937 is still, in 2018, a Princess. When will she ascend her throne? To be fair, Disney seems to be taking steps to rectify this with stories like Frozen where Elsa does indeed become a Queen.
Traditionally, in these stories, The Queen, the woman with power, is always against the princess who will one day take her place, enforcing the notion that women must compete with each other, not just for the man (looking at you, evil stepsisters) but for power. The Queen cannot be confident or secure in herself or her powers but must be always jealous and hateful towards other women, especially those of the next generation. The typical absence of mothers in these stories makes this all the more poignant.
It is time for the princesses of this world to ascend their thrones as the Queens they’re ready to become, one by one, lifting each other up, mentoring and supporting one another.