Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Princess Saves Herself

First off, I want to say that I am not what you'd label a "feminist" in today's sense of the word. While I believe in and advocate for equal rights for women, there are key political issues that are backed by large feminist groups that I don't agree with because of moral and religious beliefs that I have, which many say make me not a "true feminist". So I guess I'm more like a quasi-feminist? Anyways, that being said, I am a full supporter of female empowerment, at all ages. "Girl power", as my generation would call it, had many great examples of this. At a young age, the Spice Girls were really my first introduction to this movement. (They even sang "girl power!" it in their songs!)

One thing that always used to bug me as a child was that the Princes were always saving the Princesses. I was quite the tomboy and didn't like the idea of someone else "saving me". I was raised to be a strong, tough girl, who wouldn't let a boy show her up for anything; I was always working to prove that "anything you can do, I can do better." So I guess maybe this is something I've always thought about, but never really articulated. Why do they always show women as being "damsels in distress"? Why is a knight-in-shining-armor always the one slaying a dragon to save the girl or providing a life saving smooch to wake her from an eternal sleep? Long have we seen this story played out over and over again. Shouldn't girls be taught that they can save themselves? Shouldn't they grow up knowing that they are strong, tough, smart, and capable of conquering their own dragons or saving their own kingdoms?

Yes, they should! They should know the greatness they are capable of. They should have great examples of women like Joan of Arc or Queen Victoria or Mary, Queen of Scots, who all fought in different ways and saved their countries on their own! (My mom is going to flip when she sees the Mary reference...she loves her! See Mom? I do listen to you!) I saw this ad campaign (below) put out by an all-girls Catholic school and thought it was absolutely amazing! It's actually what inspired this whole blog to come to fruition, though these are things I've been feeling for years and years now. 

"Don't wait for a prince. Be able to rescue yourself."

I love this! Other ads they had featured sayings like "You’re not a princess. But you can still rule the world,” and “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Be more than just the fairest of them all.” What awesome messages for young girls to have!

I'm a huge fan of Disney (who isn't right!?) and while I love all the movies, I'm over the tired tale of women always needing to be rescued. In recent years, they've really started to change the typical "princess" character into a stronger role model for young girls to look up to. It got me thinking of a couple examples that I loved growing up and a rather new one that I think exemplifies the kind of representation we need to see more of. 

My favorite Princess growing up was Belle. Not just because she was our ONLY brown eyed, brown haired princess, but because she liked to read, she was smart, a little sassy, and the whole story wasn't about her being saved by a prince she fell in love with at first sight. No, she was different.  Sure, at one point, the Beast saves her from a pack of wolves, but the movie isn't based on her being saved. Actually, quite the opposite. She saves the Prince! Had Belle not saw through the Beast's appearance, past his poor manners, and fallen in love with him before the last petal of the rose dropped, he'd have been doomed to live the rest of his life in "Beast form", instead of returning to his [human] Prince self. She's a great example of strength, persistence, and seeing people for who they really are.

Okay, sure. She's NOT an actual Princess, but she seems to always be included with the lot. I loved Mulan. When this came out, I was borderline obsessed. At this age, I was at the height of my tomboy years and I loved that fact that Mulan proved she was better than all the boys. She kicked butt! Not only that, but she did what she knew was right, even if it wasn't acceptable by other people's standards. She fought for her family and proved that a women could fight with the best of 'em. In the end, Mulan saves General Li Shang (her future husband), the Emperor of China, and lots of other people from being killed and was rewarded with the (non-noble) title of "Imperial Consul". Again, she's no damsel-in-distress.

Last but not least, we have Merida, a Princess from Scotland. The first Disney (Pixar) princess to not have a love interest and not fall in love at the end of the film. She fights to not be "won" by suitors at a tournament, proves that she's better than the boys at the archery contest and ultimately goes on a journey to save the day. She really breaks the mold with the standard Princess and has garnered a lot of praise for the statements made in this film. 

The main point is this: you don't need anyone else to rescue you. YOU are a strong, intelligent, and capable girl! You don't need someone else to save the day. We are not helpless, pathetic, frail creatures trapped in a tower dungeon. We are fighters. In the world we're in today, we have to be. It doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't want our own "Prince Charming", but we don't need him to save us from distress. Having (or not having) that relationship does not dictate who we are as individuals. It doesn't make us who we are; we do. Our relationships do not define us, we define us. Who we are as people, our actions and our voices, are what make us US. And this princess saves herself. 

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