I heard it again yesterday.
“What do you want, princess?” cooed a mother in the Target checkout line. My eyelid started to twitch. I had to choke down a sigh. Because lately I’ve heard way, way too many women calling their daughters Princess.
Like, “Princess, which underwear do you want?”
I’ve also heard too many women refer to their daughters as princesses in person and online: “Oh, my princess won’t wear jeans,” one mom lamented. And then I saw the eye-searing portmanteau “twincesses,” and I nearly banged my head against the wall.
Moms of daughters, just stop it. Your daughter isn’t a princess. The Princess Industrial Complex notwithstanding, unless you’re the Duchess of Cambridge, your daughter isn’t actually the offspring of royalty born to untold riches and privilege.
You may love her; you may think she’s worth all the royalty in the world, but it doesn’t matter.
When I was a little girl, I played princess a lot. I had a special blue dress with feather edging; I wore my clunky heels and a pretend crown. My mother smiled indulgently.
But never did she actually refer to me as a princess. Princesses were for play. And despite what the Disney marketing would have you believe, they still are.
Here’s why: princesses are passive ornaments.
They’re dressed up in pretty clothes and paraded around at various function, including (according to Princess Kate’s calendar) school openings and horse races. Their clothes are selected to reflect the dignity of the throne; they don’t get to pick. Their days are planned for them. Is this really what you want for your daughter?
In addition to opening charity hospitals, princesses have one function: breeding.
Traditionally, princesses were pawned off on husbands that helped cement global alliances. Once wedded, their chief duty lie in the birthing bed, where they’d be expected to produce heirs, spares, and possibly as many children as possible.
Princesses weren’t given a choice in their selection of husbands. This is no “someday, my prince will come.” Princesses are passive, dependent on the men around them to make decisions, and used sexually in ways they don’t choose. It’s basically rape culture.
Princesses do come with untold riches, though — at least,most of them do. But is that really your highest goal for your daughter?
A princess may be able to crook her little finger and get whatever she desires, thanks to her money. A little girl who can do that’s called a spoiled brat.
She turns into the kids on My Super Sweet Sixteen who throw a tantrum because they got a Caddy instead of that Bentley.
Spread the metaphor outward and it gets even more creepy. If your kid’s the princess, who are the rest of us? Her loyal peasantry? And we all know that princesses get the best tabloid coverage, the best musical acts, and, you know, enough to eat.
You’re teaching your daughter that she’s at the tippy-top of a heap that doesn’t matter much, other than to make clever quips and look charmingly rustic. She’s the star of the show and the rest of us are peons.
Then there are the reams of servants. Every princess needs them, of course, to do her princess-y things and bring all those things she demands. If your daughter is the princess, who’s the legion of servants? That’s right: you.
When you call your daughter a princess, you put yourself in the role of those who fulfill every whim and fancy. Do you really want to move your position from parent to servant? Your authority goes kaput in the face of la princessa and her demands.
And if you’re not a servant, you’re the queen. Queen of what, might I ask? The nursery? Your petty kingdom won’t stand up to the real world, and you’re in for a lifetime of disappointment.
You’re the person annoying teachers for one more point, demanding coaches play Jessyyka in the best position, and cutting in front of everyone in the car line. Congratulations, your majesty! You’re an assh*le.
Maybe you think this is overblown. Princess is just a word, after all. But words have meaning. Princess connotes a girl who’s spoiled, who runs to her parents to solve her problems, who treats other people like peons, who’d rather break a heart than a nail.
When you call your daughter a princess, you call down all that baggage. Unfair? Maybe. But that’s the way the word works.
So call your kidlet “muffin.” Call her “sweetheart” or “lovey” or “dollface.” Call her “precious” or “baby-cakes” or “lovebug.” Call her “honey pie.”
But don’t call her “princess.”