Spinning The Princess Tales

I have a confession to make here and now. I did not always steer my little girl away from Disney Princesses as I do now. In fact, when I was pregnant and in the months following her birth her room and closet was showered in all things Disney Princess. Clothes, décor and lots of books.

I had always considered myself to be a feminist type, but as with a lot of women, the issues plaguing girls and women in the world came into focus for me slowly. As I grew older and became disenfranchised with how far women had come I began to see things in a much clearer light. And of course, those feminist instincts and realities came into their sharpest focus as my children started to develop their own personalities and entered preschool.

Motherhood was like putting on a pair of glasses that brought the world into focus after a long time of seeing things through a cloudy fog.

It was hard when I realized that the messages being sent to my daughter via the Disney princesses were not actually the messages I wanted her to have. Not that they are “bad” exactly, it’s just that they basically sell girls short. Plain and simple. There’s so much more out there for girls and women than what they see in the Disney fairy Tales. But for me, my daughter already had these stories in her life. I couldn’t very well come in one day and say “No more Princesses!” to my 3 year old. And then what? Toss all her beloved books and toys?

No, of course not.

So how does one reconcile those Disney Princesses with the actual messages we want for our daughters? Easily actually, it’s all about perspective.

A few years back I was given the book “The Woman with the Alabaster Jar.”  (If you are a fan of the DiVinci Code or any of the interesting theories about the feminine side of religion and spirituality you’ll love this book). In this book there was a section where the author theorizes about the hidden messages in traditional fairy tales. I realized that if you slightly change your perspective, you’ll see a little something different in these stories.

Take Sleeping Beauty. Here is a woman whose kingdom depends on her so much that they practically cease to exist when she falls into a coma. Her power is so strong that the prince jumps through hoops and fights evil dragons just to bring her back. In Snow White the entire forest mourns Snow White and is so lost without her kindness and without her there to be in charge (let’s face it, Snow White was the head of that house AND forest) they simply sit by her glass bedside until the prince (who is so desperate to find her he has searched high and low and put his entire life on hold to do so) FINALLY finds her and brings her back to life. In Cinderella the kingdom was in such desperate need of a good princess, one who could someday be queen and help rule the kingdom, the prince went door to door until he found her.

These are the spins that were put into these tales in the book. And I love them. The little things we can add or spin when telling our daughters these stories can make all the difference. When you’re reading Snow White, add that the wicked witch wasn’t just jealous of Snow White’s beauty. She was jealous of the fact that someday Snow White would be queen and rule the kingdom with strong but gentle hand. She would rule the kingdom well, and would be beloved by everyone because she would be fair and work hard to rule the kingdom… and the evil queen couldn’t have THAT. Basically the kingdoms in these stories were nothing without these women there to rule them.

Maybe next time you watch Enchanted with your SheHero point out that the princess doesn’t always have to choose the handsome prince. Sometimes she can choose the moody somewhat cynical lawyer, who’s not a prince at all. And while you’re at it point out that Giselle's “Happily Ever After” doesn’t just include the cynical lawyer and his daughter, but her own fashion design business as well…

You can also read your kids the original versions of these tales, which are much more darker. The true moral of Cinderella (in my mind) is more about bullying and the repercussions of true ugliness (in the original the stepsisters eyes are poked out by birds for their cruelty). And in the Little Mermaid (the original) the beautiful Mermaid gives up everything for the man she thinks she loves, only to find he doesn’t love her back and then she loses her life. The true moral? Never change who you are for anyone. Ever.

With a little imagination you can find a way to spin and tell these tales with a different message than the messages we traditionally take from the Disney cartoons so many of our SheHeroes love, despite our own feelings…

What do you think? Do you reconcile the princess stories or outright ban them in your house?

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