We Can Be Princesses If We Want To: The Fairy Tale — And Real Life — Oppression Of Women By Women

For all the feminist complaints that fairy tale princesses are victims of the patriarchy, it’s really the women — rather than the men — in fairy tales that are mostly trying to control the princesses. The Evil Queen tries to murder Snow White in a fit of jealous rage. Cinderella’s wicked stepmother forces her into servitude. A wicked witch kidnaps Rapunzel and locks her in a tower. And on and on. It’s women telling other women what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t wear, what they can and can’t think. Which, funnily enough, is pretty much exactly what’s happening in real life within the movement that’s hellbent on demonizing fairy tale princesses: feminism.

While the term “feminism” simply means “political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” there are many within the movement’s current iteration who feel that this can only be achieved if all women follow a prescribed set of values and behaviors set forth by . . . feminists. Women don’t need men. All mothers must work outside the home. A “strong” woman is a “badass” warrior. And on an on.

It’s not that all — or even most — feminists feel this way. It’s just that this is the “feminism” covered most frequently by the media and therefore it’s the philosophy that has become, through osmosis, the “feminist” agenda. Women telling other women what to do. Just like in fairy tales.

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And, within this feminist prescription for how all women should behave, there is one literary trope that a woman should never — must never — seek to emulate: the fairy tale princess. Why? Because (according to “feminists”) princesses are the absolute epitome of patriarchal victimhood. But if fairy tale princesses are oppressed — and that’s debatable — their oppressors are, by and large, women. Just as real life women who want to be “good feminists” are, by and large, being bossed around, shamed, and bullied — not by men — but by other women.

What is it, though, that “feminists” take such issue with about fairy tale princesses? The largest issue, of course, is the fairy tale princess’s interest in matrimony. “I just wanted a princess who is perfectly content to be #TeamSingle,” writes Caitlin Flynn on Bustle. Princesses are always “blindly marrying the first person to come along and kiss them while they’re fast asleep,” scoffs Kayleigh Dray on Stylist. Sound familiar? “Feminist” mandate number one: women don’t need men.

But surely how important marriage is in your life is a matter of choice. A woman may not need a man (although women, in general, do need men, in the sense that there can be no future women without them), but surely she is allowed to want one? And surely most of us do feel that some kind of romantic partnership — be it with a man or a woman — is fulfilling and desirable. So why shouldn’t a princess — or a woman in real life — choose as her life’s lodestar a man of substance and worth?

Another “feminist” complaint about fairy tale princesses is that they are content to be homemakers. The story of Cinderella, claims Alyssa Rosenberg of Slate, promotes “a fetishization of housecleaning.” The New York Times writes Snow White off as nothing more than a “fervent housekeeper.” “Feminist” mandate number two: all mothers — or women in general — must work outside the home.

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But this, again, is clearly a matter of choice. Some women may only feel fulfilled if they go to work every day, but others may only feel fulfilled if they don’t. For some women — many women — keeping a smoothly running home and caring for their children is a joyful and rewarding occupation. Should the desire to be a homemaker automatically label you a “bad feminist?” Surely that can’t be right. Not if a woman’s ability to choose her occupation is to be equal to a man’s. So why shouldn’t a princess — or a woman in real life — take pride in her housework and devote her life to her children?

And then, eventually, it always comes down to “agency” with “feminists.” Fairy tale princesses are “passive” and wait around for a man to “solve all their problems.” The LA Times says princesses do nothing but “fiddle with their coiffures . . . and swoon.” Kit Steinkellner of Hello Giggles says Snow White just “sits around a wishing well waiting for her prince to come.” But it’s not so much that fairy tale princesses do nothing, it’s that they don’t do male things — like fighting, and heavy lifting. “Feminist” mandate number three: a strong woman is a badass warrior.

But, yet again, this is a matter of choice — or ability. Perhaps some women are weightlifters or blackbelts in karate, but most aren’t. In a fight, most women would lose to a man. The idea that a woman ought to pass up the help of a man when, say, a dragon is bearing down on her, or she’s been knocked out by a wicked witch, is ridiculous. She can choose to pass it up (although why she would is a mystery to me) but she doesn’t have to. Nor does she have to be the kind of person who relishes fighting the dragon, or riding into battle. It is perfectly acceptable for her to prefer to leave the heavy lifting to the men. So why shouldn’t a princess — or a woman in real life — turn to a man for the kinds of things that men are typically better at?

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In fairy tales — which “feminists” claim to hate — the princess must struggle against a controlling woman. And in reality, women — whom “feminists” claim to support — are constantly being told how to think, act, and feel by other women. You remember what happens to the female villains in fairy tales, right? 

Women are not a unit, moving in lockstep through a minefield of men. We are our own free and independent beings. We can choose to be alone or in a partnership. We can choose to work or to happily stay home. We can choose to carry our strength in our bodies, or in our hearts. We are women. We are princesses. We are free. Leave us alone.

4 thoughts on “We Can Be Princesses If We Want To: The Fairy Tale — And Real Life — Oppression Of Women By Women

    1. Yeah, no kidding. BTW, speaking of that article, who WAS that Hollywood producer you referenced in there, the one who brainstormed the Compliance Decree? The only ones I can think of are either Jeffrey Katzenberg or Harvey Weinstein.

  1. Fully agreed there. Besides, a lot of the feminists currently probably would have loathed Ariel for getting pregnant, keeping the baby, and trying to raise her, preferring she’d have an abortion (used Ariel mostly because she’s the only DP to have actually become a mother per Return to the Sea. Had any other DP become a mother, even Belle, I’d list them). Heck, a lot of the feminists seem to outright hate the concept of marriage (which unfortunately had been pushed into films like Beauty and the Beast [I’d argue that’s the worst one because Belle actually rejected Gaston in a very rude and admittedly cruel manner, despite being free to say no and not have a proverbial gun to her head at the time. At least the other DPs, even Merida who’s even worse, had an arranged marriage as an excuse for their otherwise appalling behavior.], Aladdin [though to be fair to Jasmine, marriage in the Islamic community actually IS a nightmare, if the Taliban’s actions to women are of any indication like throwing acid into the faces of girls who dare go to school, so I can’t exactly say I blame her for going to extremes to avoid getting married, especially to the likes of Achmed], Pocahontas [that movie was a bit infamous for effectively portraying adultery in a sympathetic light], heck, even Mulan [who to her credit at least attempted to become a bride for the sake of her parents].). Oh, and also lie or at best mislead people about how much suffering women had before, say, the 1960s (I had one professor who claimed that women weren’t even allowed to be literate until they “took power” on the college campuses during that time, and another professor even claimed that Christianity “invented” misogyny in a Chaucer course.). Actually, on the note of marriage, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog treated marriage in a positive light, with there being a nearly two-decade gap between the two movies, with most DP movies, IF they mention Marriage at all, generally demonizing the concept. I personally blame Jeffrey Katzenberg and his insistence on forcing in a far-left feminist agenda into Beauty and the Beast as a result of critics of The Little Mermaid for that mess.

    And quite frankly, even ignoring the DP angle (and it’s bad enough that even people who should know better like the guys who work at Disney like Don Hahn or Linda Woolverton make this claim about them) I always got annoyed whenever people use the term “didn’t do anything” as a reason to condemn characters. I’ve been irritated for example when critics of Misty from Pokémon claim she “did nothing”, including in Johto. Sure, maybe you could claim she wasn’t given much of an opportunity to pursue her goal (though if you ask me, she certainly made better strides in her goal in Johto than Ash did in the entire run he had, at least we got a general sense of what she needed to reach to accomplish her goal, while with Ash we didn’t even get general details of how to become a Pokémon Master barring gyms until DP years later.), but to say she did absolutely nothing is a bald-faced lie. I’d even say the same about Brock, who at least did rarely engage in stuff directly relating to his profession about Pokémon Breeding.

    And yeah, in older fairy tales, the main villains tended to be women controlling other women. As a matter of fact, depending on whether you go by the Beaumont version or the Villeuneuve version, the original Beauty and the Beast had either Belle’s sisters as the main villains a’la Drizella and Anastasia Tremaine, or the enchantress who was responsible for the Beast being cursed into that state. There was no male villain at all, much less one who was a rival suitor (probably the closest to a male villain in the original tale was Belle’s father, and even he was ultimately more of a victim than an actual villain). Linda Woolverton added that bit in so she could do a take that against her former boyfriends. On that note, I also get annoyed when she and Paige O’Hara claimed that Belle was “forced by men” to go to the Beast originally, when in reality, Belle in the original tale CHOSE to go largely due to blaming herself for the situation (since it was her request for a rose that got her dad in trouble with the Beast in the first place), and besides which, if ANYONE forced her to go, it was her sisters due to refusing to go in her father’s stead. Instead of letting Belle have an actual foil for the moral of the tale that highlights her inner beauty, Linda Woolverton instead decided to just do a dumb blonde/brainy brunette dichotomy with the triplets who fawned over Gaston, even though the latter showed absolutely NO indication whatsoever that they had ANY actual inner ugliness barring their crush on Gaston (for goodness sakes, they weren’t even jealous of Belle being Gaston’s chosen bride to be in the movie, and if anything were more shocked and disturbed that Belle refused Gaston, and even helped set up the wedding without even knowing Gaston was the groom based on their sudden shift in reaction to Gaston revealing himself as the groom. Heck, if anything, the movie implies that THEY’RE stupid for even supporting marriage at all.). That they looked like they actually could surpass Belle in terms of outer beauty even individually, let alone together, thanks to their Barbie-like physiques, doesn’t help matters either.

    Heck, it’s not just DPs that get this kind of crap flung at them. Princess Peach from the Mario franchise often gets bashed for letting Bowser kidnap her, at best implying she deliberately lets him get kidnapped, and at worst implying she’s USELESS because of her getting kidnapped loads of times.

    BTW, you might want to consider doing a blog post comparing Princess Fiona from Shrek with, say, the Disney Princesses, since Wikipedia’s article for her at the very least implied that she was meant to be a deconstruction of the Disney Princesses (which shouldn’t be surprising since Jeffrey Katzenberg helmed the movie).

  2. It’s just that this is the “feminism” covered most frequently by the media…..

    Exactly. When Bush was involved in Iraq, the news had 24/7 coverage of the US Peace Movement. When Obama took over and kept troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and was blasting heck out of Yeman et al using drones, the Peace Movement disappeared from the media, much to the chagrin of it’s prominent members. The media, meaning the people who control it at the highest levels are setting the country’s priorities and are the true power behind the throne of third wave feminism. One of the most prominent, of course is the man who controls Disney as well as ABC. Bob Iger.

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