Last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory featured my character, Melissa Rauch’s character, and Kaley Cuoco’s character dressed up as different Disney princesses. I was Snow White (since I’m the brunette), Melissa was Cinderella, and Kaley was Sleeping Beauty.
This would be a good time to tell you that I never once for Halloween or Purim ever dressed as a princess. I don’t remember having any particular fondness for fairy tales or the color pink. I despised the color purple and much as I enjoyed jewelry and trying out my mom’s makeup and even wearing my favorite robe (which happened to be pink) around the house, there is not one picture of me dressed like any sort of princess, Disney or otherwise.
I did, however, really enjoy being “character” females for dress-up holidays; most notably, my mother loved to dress me as a “gypsy.” I am hoping this isn’t perceived as racist in this culture of political correctness, but basically, “gypsy” meant fun fabrics, brightly colored belts, lots of layers, a bandana, and a darkening of a mole near red lips. I loved Japanese kimonos as a child, and once I went to a costume party in a kimono and traditional wooden Japanese shoes.
I think that even as a child, I liked the more complicated and rich colors and textures of historical women over the serene and “beautiful” princesses most girls seemed to favor. It’s no wonder that as a teenager, I admired Simone de Beauvoir, Winona Ryder’s character in “Beetlejuice,” and Gloria Steinem. As an adult, I look to Hilary Clinton, Zooey Deschanel’s quirkiest characters on-screen, and Neko Case as women I think embody incredibly appealing character traits, talent, and strength. I appreciate “classic” beauty in women as well as in men, and I understand the appeal of “beautiful,” but in terms of what I want to be like and aim for, I like to stick with the complicated and unusual, rather than the mainstream, I guess. (When you’re labeled a “character actress” from the age of 11 because of your “ethnic” nose and chin, it’s a good thing to embrace it!)
There have been several very interesting and captivating articles in the past few years on some of the “brainier” mommy websites about various and sundry issues: raising a “tomboy” in a “princess culture,” being a feminist but raising a daughter who loves being a “princess,” raising sons who enjoy dressing up “like girls,” and possibly the most thought-provoking are the articles implying that embracing “princess culture” is genetically ingrained in girls.
I am sure I will get tons of “hate posts” about this, because women get very uppity when you imply that their princess daughter is being brainwashed by the patriarchy and corporate children’s television, but I guess the complicated character-driven feminist in me just can’t resist. I also know that your daughter is the exception: she’s the one who dresses as a princess and wields a sword, and you make sure to balance things out with lots of wrestling, etc. I know: every princess is the exception to the following…
As a scientist, as a feminist who has never shaved her legs, as a person who believes in gender equality, and as a person who has never personally understood “princess culture,” I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing genetically favorable about the color pink. There are arguments that an emphasis on strong masculine and feminine iconography is genetically favorable and biologically “normal” in a culture of heterosexuality and patriarchy. It could also be argued that the mythical images of adorned and perpetually in-need-of-rescue princesses are consistent with a patriarchal misogyny that is not healthy for men, women, boys, or girls.
And yes, there have been some more recent attempts at big budget animated films highlighting “strong” females, but ultimately, what we see in our culture is an emphasis on the more old-school princesses along with an apologetic denigration of boy-culture and masculine men.
I’m sure by now most of you are rolling your eyes at me and so I will leave you with the following thoughts. Not all girls like to dress up as princesses. Much of what we think of as “princess culture” comes from historical misogyny, the overwhelming inundation of commercials, children’s television shows, and marketing which advertisers give us no choice but to process and consume. In addition, just because a girl doesn’t like all of that princess stuff doesn’t mean she can’t be feminine or enjoy her biological tendencies to nurture and be nurtured.
I apologize that I have thoroughly cerebral-ized last night’s episode. Being female is fantastic, and it’s also confusing, especially in this era. Thank you to all of the women who have come before me and allowed me to open my big mouth and speak my feminist peace. It’s because of you that we have the right to embrace or reject the princess culture at all.