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This Princess Will Not Need Rescuing

by Alex Iwashyna

in Cultural Norms (that are abnormal), Is It Just Me?, My Daughter

Princess time

Get your crown on.

When my daughter wants to play princesses, we play princesses. I’m not against girly things today even though I grew up pushing away more typical feminine concepts. I hated the color pink. I never cried. I cursed. I stayed out too late. I went too far. I hung with “the guys.” In fact, I aimed to out-do men most of the time. I wasn’t a tomboy. I just wasn’t ever going to admit my arm hurt when I played punch-each-other-in-the-arm with the boy who outweighed me by 100 pound. And I’d have the bruises to prove it.

Over the years, I let myself be the woman who wears pink but prefers red. The woman who cries at Hallmark commercials and with friends but still hates romantic comedies. I understand that I can be who I am even if it’s hard and doesn’t fit neatly in a box. So when I became a mom to a daughter who loves tutus and purple, I became a mom who wears princess dresses.

But when my daughter says to her brother and me, Let’s play Mario and Luigi, and I’m the princess in the tower, I shudder. I don’t want her to be a bystander in her story, and I know enough about girls and culture and princesses to know this is fear-realized of allowing so much tulle in my home.

Princess waiting

I don’t want her waiting for a prince charming.

She’s a princess, but she’s powerless in this story. She is locked away, and her brother and I have to save her. The gentle, loving, sweet princesses must be rescued. This story isn’t just in video games like Mario Brothers. It’s told over and over in bits and pieces, in books and movies. It’s why I fought so hard against pink and tears and romantic comedies and anything typically girly. I didn’t want to get trapped so I believed if I was the exact opposite, I would be free. I didn’t realize that doing the opposite of something made me just as imprisoned.

But after a few minutes of running around attacking bad guy Koopa Troopas, I walk over to her and whisper: Come on out, Princess. Fight the bad guys with us. Save yourself.

Princesses

The door isn’t locked and you’re stronger than you think.

And she runs forward all arms and legs and giggles and karate chops.

Because it’s not the dress and the crown and the jewels and the shoes and the movies and the games and the makeup and the shaving and the colors and the emotions that keep her in tower. It’s us not learning and teaching there are alternate endings and middles and beginnings to every story. It’s us not fighting for the right to fall wherever we are on that gender spectrum.

My daughter is a princess, but she will not need rescuing.

Masked Princess Crusader

Masked Princess Crusader

To learn more about the Damsel in Distress trope, which is particularly popular in video games, check out Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency’s blog post and youtube video on it. Video games will never look the same and that’s a good thing. I don’t know if I would’ve seen the opportunity if I hadn’t been following her blog.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Laverne May 6, 2013 1

Alex what a powerful and loving piece. I am the mother of two daughters, both love their pink and purple, dress up and princesses. While I did not follow the same path you did I was always proud to be a girl and when it came to many things I was certainly not going to be out done by any boy. I worry too about my daughters vision of what they need and what they can do too. What a fantastic moment one you ceased and rewrote the ending. I loved it!
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Tracie May 6, 2013 2

I love how you have embraced the things she loves (princess play), but have altered the story so she can be a very real part of the heroic moment. That is awesome.
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Kir May 6, 2013 3

I love this, I think it might be the way that I feel when Gio picks a PINK balloon or chooses the Hello Kitty fruit snacks. Something inside me says, I want you to be strong and soft…I want you to fight but care.

While I don’t have a daughter, I know how you feel. Your daughter will not need rescuing because she has your internal spirit…just because it’s PINK means that she has empathy for the dragon’s ass she’ll kick. ;)
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Moe Daniels May 6, 2013 4

Great post, Alex. Have you heard this song? It’s one of my kids’ favorites, and I thought of it immediately when reading this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9KvA2eWjwY

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Kimberly May 6, 2013 5

Fuck. Yes.
This is what we need to teach our little girls. We are just as powerful as any dude and that doesn’t matter if we are wearing pink or purple…definitely purple because that is the best colour in the universe.
I’m proud of you for teaching her these values. Stepping out Momma. Stepping out.
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Becky May 6, 2013 6

This is one my faves. I admit, I am very pleased to see my girly-girls knock out the bad guys while wearing their princess costumes too.
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Lillian May 7, 2013 7

It’s so empowering when you get to write your own story. Great post!
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Chara May 7, 2013 8

Yes! Yes! THIS! THIS!

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Walt May 8, 2013 9

Bulleye. Many marriages crash and burn because women marry “the prince of their dreams” only to find out he’s flesh and blood. It seems like we agree on raising a daughter. I was reading a Cosmo when she was a little baby and I took it to heart. She’s 13 now and I’m raising her to be Fun, Fearless and Female. Dependant on no one man or woman.

So far, so good.
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Bradley Robb May 9, 2013 10

Damn right.

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Nagzilla May 10, 2013 11

Thank you. I was much like you, and somehow my daughter ended up much like yours, preferring dresses and pink. She has also been taught how to be a self-rescuing princess. We need more of those.

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