Author Rightly Asks Tween Girls To Consider The ‘Bad’ Women Of History

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Disney princess

It’s no coincidence that the role models traditionally put before girls are passive, complacent, conventional princesses who just wait around for prince charming all day. It’s also hardly a secret that little boys are socially permitted to admire an array of even violent figures regardless of the figure’s moral center. But when it comes to girls, their protagonists and heroines must first be deemed “good” — and we all know that very few of those women made history, as is the point of editor and publisher Shirin Yim Bridges. The author has compiled an awesome-looking tween collection entitled The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames that reminds girls that powerful queens and princesses came long before Disney.

Bridges tells NPR that she was inspired to compile a previous collection about princesses after watching her niece take to the Disney Princess franchise. She openly takes “issue” with a lot of the aforementioned “messages” that Disney often inundates girls with and told her niece that history was brimming with many princesses who did more than wait around for their nails to dry. But when she went to seek out these stories, she found that they were not available in child-accessible formats.

Later, she noticed that her niece was developing a taste for darker, more “macabre” tales which she finds evident in the tween fascination with Twilight. But with this particular dastardly collection of women who are remembered fondly as “Bloody Mary” and “Serpent Of The Nile,” Bridges was hoping to marry that tween fascination for the dark with powerful women who often don’t make the Disney-sanctioned narrative because of their transgressions.

The NPR host, Michel Martin, describes such notable women as Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette, and Cixi as “not exactly exemplars of sugar and spice of everything nice.” And Bridges says that’s exactly the point:

“We never debate whether it’s important to teacher our children about powerful men, even if those powerful men were not saintly. If a man is powerful and if he has affected history, we believe that our children should learn about him. But women who are powerful and have affected history, their stories don’t get told because they weren’t ‘good ‘enough. And I think that’s first of all, unfair, and second of all, gives children who are growing up nowadays a very biased view of what has been happening in history.”

Taking a peek into real-life princesses who weren’t all conventionally beautiful, but also changed the course of entire nations complicates the likes of Snow White and Belle in all the right ways. After all,  Cleopatra reportedly spoke six different languages as a child. And what’s Sleeping Beauty doing? Sleeping — with perfect hair.