You’re Not a Princess, Dearie.

So my friend just sent me a link to this article on Daily Life about a girls’  school’s recruitment campaign:

I’m not a fan of it.

According to the Daily Life article, the campaign addresses middle-school girls, telling them “You’re Not a Princess”, “Don’t Wait for a Prince”, “Be able to Rescue Yourself”, “Life’s Not a Fairytale”, “Prepare for Real Life.”

That last one, sure, I can get behind. The rest of the slogans set my teeth on edge, for several reasons.

Firstly, the majority of fairytales are peopled with, and were once told by, clever, resourceful, creative, and ruthless peasant women, not princessess!


Even in the staid collections of the Brothers Grimm, there are lots and lots of fairytales with resourceful trickster heroines that get themselves into and out of trouble.

These girls – and not just girls, older women and mothers too – are dirt-poor peasants, who sometimes, as a result of their machinations, manage to become princesses, or just as often, queens, as a social, sexual, and financial reward for their adventures.


I for one would love to see some of the traditional oral and  literary tales that features gutsy, amoral heroines come back into our use of the word “fairytale”.

Secondly, how empowering is this message really? Does it actually situate the girl at the heart of the adventure?

“Be able to Rescue Yourself” puts the girl in the traditional role of victim, with the reversal only as the second part of the story. This is a slight improvement, but there are better models of narrative (in fairytales themselves!)

What about “Cause the Trouble in the First Place?” “Rescue the Other Girls”? “Capture the Golden Apple First”? “Convince the Sausage to Jump into the Pot”?

Also, thank-you self-congratulatory grown-ups for letting the women of tomorrow know they have the option to reject the option of waiting for a prince. BE MORE PATRONISING.

Assuring girls that they don’t need to wait for a prince has the effect of reminding them that that’s supposed to be their default … maybe give them some credit for the fact that of course that wasn’t their life plan.

Finally, I can’t help but feel unconvinced by the fact that it is a Catholic school behind the ads. Is a school controlled by an institution that is anti-safe-sex and anti-reproductive-freedom and anti-women-in-power REALLY very likely to be the best place for a young woman to learn and grow?

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3 Responses to You’re Not a Princess, Dearie.

  1. “Convince the Sausage to Jump into the Pot”?? I’m not sure the catholics would be pro that…

  2. tjwhi1Tim White says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I guess such slogans are part selling a kind of middle of the road feminism – the kind that doesn’t actually disturb the status quo too much – that makes schools appear more progressive but that won’t upset rich parents. The idea that the original sources of these tales was deeper and darker and, therefore, more destabilising is deserving of much more exploration.

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