Childrearing

What Makes A Princess Different From A Fairy Or A Ballerina? She’s Rich

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One of the most perplexing things to a lot of parents I know is why their little girls gravitate towards the sparkles of a crown and scepter rather than donning dairy wings or simply requesting a tutu. All three represent highly feminized ideals for girls, and yet the push for princess accessories or gowns is the strongest, both in terms of revenue and popularity. Mothers, the defining factor comes down to stuff. A princess has far more sparkly chachkis to her name than any other archetype. First and foremost, a princess is known for her wealth.

Plastic aside, little girls know that the fake diamonds, a string of pearls, and a crown are all supposed to simulate real royal jewelry. And while not all princess are exactly rolling in it (see Pocahontas or Mulan), the truth is that the highest grossing princesses are: Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel top the list of all time most popular Disney princesses — ladies who don’t necessarily start out rich, but eventually marry rich.

This becomes problematic for a lot of parents in that an icon that could represent power for a lot of girls is also conflated with blatant materialism. “Girl power,” even when I was a little girl in the Spice Girl heyday of the 90s, has since been hijacked to equate independence with fevered consumerism. An accumulation of possessions with self-worth. Autonomy with diva-ness.

It’s no wonder at all that words like “spoiled” and “pampered princess” end up slapped up on everything from T-shirts to purses, as if little girls need to convey their independence by assuring everyone how much stuff they own.

This tactic segways easily into depictions of independent women that aren’t necessarily for kids, like Sex and The City — a show that my friends and I started watching when we were 13 years old. I was drawn to the stories of such unfettered women who weren’t only funny and quick-witted, but also had such varied paths: Carrie was the most glamorous writer I had ever seen, Miranda was a no nonsense lawyer, Samantha always seemed to know where the fun parties were, and Charlotte wanted nothing more than to be a mother. For young girls, this undeniably covers a lot of the spectrum in terms of aspirations and roles.

But make no mistake, independence, a big part of what drove that show, was juxtaposed with clothes, bags, and shoes. Carrie’s autonomy was nearly always asserted in what she bought, and very rarely with traits of her character — a thought that for mothers hoping to encourage authenticity in their daughters can be nauseating.