Growing up, I dreamed of being a pretty princess who was rescued by a handsome prince. I watched enough movies and read enough books to know that a real princess was delicate, lady-like, in need of rescuing, and incredibly beautiful. A princess didn’t take matters into her own hands, didn’t save the world, and didn’t take care of herself. A prince did all those things for her. So I grew up emulating that model of waiting for a prince to take care of me and sweep me off my feet. Sure I went to college, but deep down inside I figured I was there mostly so I could meet my prince and then have him take care of me after we were married. I had plenty of talents, plenty of abilities, and a strong enough personality to make a difference in the world, but I wasn’t interested in any of that stuff. Adults had always said that a man didn’t want/like a women who would compete with him, was stronger than him (in any way), or could make more money than him… so I decided I would be none of those things so that my prince would still want me when he found me.
Are you seeing the HUGE problems here yet?
Not only had fairy tales taught me what was acceptable, but also the patriarchal teachings of IFB Christians had reinforced the princess and prince mindset. Then, in high school, I discovered Vision Forum and the mindset referred to as “Quiverfull.” Vision Forum promoted the princess and prince views as Biblical, made it clear that woman’s place was at home raising lots and lots of kids while doing all she can to make her beloved prince happy. They made it all sound so romantic, so heroic even, as if this great duty was all you could ever want to do if you were a true Christian and truly a feminine woman. The Botkin sisters are a huge voice for this movement. They are beautiful, well-articulated, and seem like real princesses… but they have little to no actual life experience, and yet they write books and blog about how young women should live. Their words are honey-coated poison for young women everywhere, as are the words of all those involved in quiverfull or Vision Forum teaching. As someone who embraced those teachings, albeit relatively briefly, I can say from experience that what they teach is harmful. It was harmful to me and stunted my personal growth for several years, and I’ve read a lot of other women’s accounts of how their lives were damaged by such teachings.
Back to the princess and prince thing.
Recently I’ve been very excited about the retelling of stories like Rapunzel, Snow White, and even Alice in Wonderland. Disney’s “Tangled” was particularly nice. Turns out the Botkin sisters wrote an email to Rapunzel telling her what she should and shouldn’t have done (from an uber patriarchal, conservative Christian perspective, of course). Please read it here: Our Response to Rapunzel. Then follow up here, looking at the comments section in particular: Tangled is Amoral?
Reality doesn’t allow you to put everything into neat boxes of Right and Wrong. Reality is full of grey areas where there is no clear cut choice. And in reality, parents aren’t always right, you do have to follow your heart, and the bad guys just might not be who you think they are. Oh, and don’t forget, in reality girls have to learn to take care of themselves because a magic prince isn’t going to ride in and save you. It’s not fair to the men of the world to view them as such, with all those expectations and demands. Sometimes people need saving, regardless of their gender, and who saves them isn’t gender-specific so it shouldn’t be portrayed that way. People need to be able to be independent and strong, able to take care of themselves as well as others. All people.
I learned all of this the hard way. I found a “prince” who swept me off my feet and promised to “save” me. It was all a lie, but being the naive princess I bought it and got burned. I didn’t have the confidence in myself that I needed until it was too late, and I had to use that confidence to walk away and save myself. If I ever am blessed with a daughter, I will be sure to teach her something other than the tangled up mess of lies about womanhood, being a princess, and waiting for a prince to save her. Please don’t buy into the lies yourself or teach them to your daughters. Fairy tales are nice, but don’t pretend they are reality.