Tag Archives: kids

Kickass Princesses, Part 2

30 Jun

This article originally appeared in Bad Reputation – a feminist pop-culture adventure on 18 June 2012.

When I think about everything about womanhood that hamstrung me with fear when I was thirteen it all came down, really, to princesses. I didn’t think I had to work hard to be a woman (which is scary but obviously eventually achievable). I thought I had to somehow magically – through superhuman psychic effort – transform into a princess instead. That’s how I’d get fallen in love with. That’s how I’d get along. That’s how the world would welcome me.

– Caitlin Moran, How to be a Woman

Welcome to part two of Kickass Princesses – a look at some subversive female protagonists in children’s literature. You can read Part 1 here.

The more children’s books I read and the more princesses I come to know, the more I realise that ‘kickass’ probably wasn’t the best term to use. Some of these characters do kick ass, but the main feature is turning out to be simply that they make unconventional princesses.

As the archetype of a fairytale princess is so ingrained, it takes looking at a wide variety of ‘unprincessy’ examples to unpick exactly what some of our starting assumptions are. A closer look at the ‘unconventional’ princesses here, and in my previous post, reveals that these women and girls have agency, interests, and are more than just a beautiful, delicate, unsullied physical appearance. Sometimes they aren’t even beautiful at all. What they are – what, we realise, makes them ‘unprincessy’ – is often simply the fact that they are two-dimensional characters.

Ouch. This stereotype needs subverting roughly forever ago. On with the show…

The Ordinary Princess

The Ordinary Princess book cover Continue reading


Kickass Princesses, Part 1

19 Apr

This article originally appeared in Bad Reputation – a feminist pop-culture adventure on 28 March 2012.

Fairy tales! We all like fairy tales, right? They have both an air of comfort and adventure about them, and – as they’re something we first came into contact with as young children – there’s also an almost familial fondness for some of them. As they come from the oral tradition, folk/fairy tales have adapted slightly with each retelling to suit the world around them – but as Treasury Islands recently pointed out, the writing–down stage of most tales we know (i.e. when they became a little more set in stone) happened in deeply misogynistic times – and this carries through in even our most beloved fairy tales.

In the world of children’s books there’s a double-whammy of bad female role models and massive under-representation. There’s only one female character to every 1.6 male characters. One of the few regular traditional roles for girls in children’s literature is that of the princess, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the traditional princess trope doesn’t give girls many positive or useful goals to aim for: look pretty, be born into or marry into hereditary privilege and… uh… that’s it. Happily ever after. Forever. Are you bored yet? I am.

Picture of a children's toy tiara covered in glitterYet plenty of little girls are still obsessed with princesses and being a princess. It might not appeal much to the grown-ups, but the trope remains strong – as does the lure of pretty things. (Personally, I still have to suppress a twinge of jealousy when I see a kid going by in a really good princess dress – with the layers of skirt and the faux-stays bodice and WHERE WERE THEY WHEN I WAS SMALL, HUH? – but it’s fine. I’m not jealous. I’m writing this wearing a £3 Claire’s Accessories tiara so it’s all OK.) Continue reading