A few months ago I was talking with my friend’s two little girls, 4 and 6. I’m not sure how we got to the topic but the youngest pipes up that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. So I asked her, what do princesses do? She didn’t have an answer for me. So I asked her, wouldn’t she rather have a job where she helps people, like a doctor, or be a lawyer like me. At that stage the eldest declares that she wants to help people.
I tell this story because it is an all too common one. Most little girls, at some point in their childhood, want to be a princess. Society has taught them that this is something they should strive for. Some women never grow out of it and declare they want to “feel like a princess” on their wedding day. My retort is that I want to be the damn Queen and run the show and not be a measly princess, but truly I wouldn’t want either. I admit it, I watched the Royal Wedding. Even still I don’t envy Kate’s position. Diana made being a princess into a legitimate gig in my opinion, but only because she refused to act like a “proper” princess.
The problem with “princess culture” is that it teaches little girls to wait for a strong man to rescue them and it teaches little boys that it is their job to take care poor, defenceless women. It is no surprise that when these little boys grown up they want to tell women what to do with their bodies; children in our society grow up with this notion that a woman needs a man to take care of her. Anti-choice attitudes are merely a manifestation of the culture of princes and princesses.
Many of you may know of Melissa from Pigtail Pals, the mom who is trying to “redefine girly” so that it isn’t all pink and frills and princesses. I love what she is doing. She is empowering her daughter to step outside princess culture and dream big. She has a clothing line designed for little girls featuring jobs like astronaut, doctor, scientist, among many others. The whole point is to stop little girls from only wanting to be a princess, waiting for a man to rescue her, and to “rescue” herself. The more little girls, and little boys, who are reached by this sort of campaign the more likely it is that we will eradicate anti-choice attitudes. But we must start young. We are never going to convince the hardcore antis that they are wrong. Even if they have doubts, they are so beholden to their position, they are likely to take it to the grave. We must grow pro-choicers from birth. It doesn’t have to be explicit, discussing abortion with them. If we impart on all children that the most important thing is bodily autonomy and that women and men are equal, pro-choice attitudes will flow naturally.
I don’t ever remember discussing abortion with my parents, but I always remember growing up truly believing that I could be anything that I wanted to be. Heck, I still believe that. It is because I grew up knowing I was equal and knowing the only thing stopping me from getting what I wanted was me, I respect a woman’s right to choose. Children need to be taught to be anti-choice but they can be pro-choice naturally if we just empower them. As adults, we need to challenge princess culture. Clearly not aggressively with children, but by doing what I did. Asking little girls what a princess does, and offer a suggestion for a job that empowers them. Little girls want to be empowered but we as a society must help them when they are little.
Let’s go slay the princesses, ladies.