The Princess years and why they matter.
For most young girls, their first female role models often come in the form of a princess. We can argue the rights and wrongs of this forever but presently this is the situation we are in. Disney has a grip, not only of our children, but of the adults that bring them up and to try and break this bond will be a long and tricky one. And I personally think it will be more to do with what we add to a young child’s experience rather than what we take away.
The princess gives us a glimpse into the queen they will become
We can tell a lot about a girl by the princess she is drawn to as a child. My eldest is a Belle girl. She adored “Beauty and the Beast” when she was younger and adored Bella Swan in her formative years. She is an unassuming girl who has an inner strength of steel.
My younger daughter, on the other hand, was a little mermaid addict. She is fun, rebellious, and a dreamer. She lives in another world and dreams about faraway lands. One day, I even caught her combing her hair with a fork. She looks strong on the outside but inside wants someone to be by her side. She is extroverted, loud and playful, and we love her for that.
Why do we hate princess culture?
Princesses are part of our history, our upbringing, and our culture. It is in these princess years that our young girls dream, and fantasise about what is to come. It is in these years they learn to make sense of who they are and who they want to become.
So why are we so against Princess Culture?
When our children are young, we allow them to indulge and to be obsessed with pink and princesses if they want, or to be obsessed with cars and garages if they want (this was me). We allow them to develop, grow, and learn (or at least I hope we do). Then, at some point we, as the adults, step in with comments like, “that isn’t very ladylike”, or “girls don’t behave like that”, and “don’t you think you are a bit old for that?” We even say, “You need to get in the real world.”
The princess years matter
I was brought up believing it was wrong to think about myself, to be strong, and dare I say, be selfish, because that isn’t what girls do. If a girl is strong, it is wrong. If she is too sexual, it is wrong. If she is too weak, it is wrong. She has to be a “good girl”. But all this does is hold her back from who she really is. In my opinion, we rush the childhood of girls and expect them to be all sorted, ship shape and shining too early. And this is why the princess years matter.
We are cyclical
If we look at womanhood through the lens of ancient wisdom, women are always seen as cyclical creatures. Their bleed cycles link to the moon, their ebbs and flows charted through the moon cycle from waxing to waning, full to new. Her journey from maiden (new moon) to mother (full moon) to crone (waning moon) were intrinsically linked with the moon and all her power. We appear to have forgotten all this wisdom we have acclimated as amazing human beings, and all of these words appear to be ‘blasphemous’ in most circles. I believe that most of our issues as women are because we don’t honour these natural phases of our life.
We rush maidens
Each phase and stage comes with its own magic. We rush maidens to become women, we find so many ways to judge mothers and make them feel bad, and make women who mother in different ways wrong (there are many ways to be a mother). The poor crone (post-menopausal) gets a bad rep indeed. These wise women in ancient times were revered; now, we just put them on the scrap heap not honouring all they have done or achieved to date. When I look at the vicious comments aimed at young women in the media (take Miley Cyrus, for example), I find most of the comments come from women who are entering into their crone/wise women year which shows, I think, how devalued they feel. We don’t seem to honour this process anymore – the transition from maiden to crone – we don’t honour the cycles we live with and the impact that it has on us, and we certainly don’t honour the awesomeness within us.
The maiden years
The maiden or princess part of this journey is super important and one that should not be rushed, pressured, or criticized. During her maiden years (11-25 years old), a young girl is making all sorts of discoveries – discovering who she is, her body, her sexuality, the world around her, what she wants in life, and who she wants to be. At this stage she is open, alive, full of potential, and very prone to influence – good and bad. What happens to her during these maiden years and how she deals with it, will set her up as she moves into her mother years – the years where she will birth her life, her career, her future, her passion, her creativity, and children, if she chooses so. However, if she is rushed, cajoled, or led astray in the maiden years, she won’t grow into the amazing mother or queen she can become. This is why the princess years matter. You can’t become a mother without first being a maiden, and you can’t become a queen without first been a princess. Being a princess or maiden is part of the process. We scorn Snow White for her innocence, we curse Sleeping Beauty for her passivity, we abuse Miley Cyrus for her blatant sexuality, and we condemn Bella Swan for her sadness. We chastise maidens for doing things in a different way, for flaunting societal rules, not fitting the mould, being too pathetic, being too strong, and covieniently forgetting that what they are doing is finding themselves. If we curse the princess, we also curse the queen that she will become. In ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”, we see Snow White as a thoughtful grown up, caring leader. At the end of “The Twilight Saga”, we see Bella become the protector, and who knows what Miley Cyrus has yet to show the world? While we may not agree with some of the methods they use and the ways our maidens behave, I really don’t think we can judge until we see the queen they develop into.
The princess becomes queen
The princesses’ journey is about our young maiden learning to be a woman and learning to claim her sovereignty, her crown, and learning to become the mother or queen in the world she is meant to. Some will never get there, some will get there through innocence, some through fighting, some through making every mistake in the book, and some through twerking on stage. We must let each princess take her own journey, however much it feels off to us.
They cant become queens too early
Here is the problem I see with most personal development and inspirational programmes aimed at young people. We try and teach them to become queens too early. Instead of helping her enjoy her princess journey, we rush her to make decisions like a queen with all our knowing and years of experience that they don’t have. We talk about being strong, not needing anyone, and being “enough, just the way she is”, yet we deny them the experience of finding that out themselves. We also plan the journey for them saying what is right and wrong, ignoring the archetype which lies inside them, the person they are dying to express which leads to unhappy young girls, who take all sorts of unnecessary dark journeys because how they want to express themselves is not how the world tell them they must.
We have such a narrow gauge for what a girl should be
I want every young girl to be allowed to go on their journey from princess to queen in a way they want to with minimal damage. Our young girls are suffering not because of what they see in the media, or the pressure they are under, but because we, as a society, have such a narrow gauge for what a girl should be that only a few survive. The rest, well, they think there is something wrong with them, so they turn to role models who represent a part of what they feel. Kim Kardashian, Katie Price, Miley Cyrus, Bella Swan to name a few. While we may want them to turn to Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Shailene Woodley, some of them won’t because they just don’t resonate with them.
Support rather than judgment
As adults, we have an important job through this phase, but I think it is more one of guidance and support rather than judgment and control. It is one of curiosity rather than enforcement and most importantly I think it is one where we must allow girls to be who they want to be and break every mould if they must in their search for identity.