Why I Reject Princess Culture for My Black Girls — Even Princess Tiana

In 2009 Disney released The Princess and the Frog, making Princess Tiana the first black Disney princess.  I know many black parents rejoiced knowing that their daughters would finally have a princess that looks like them.  We finally got some representation in the Disney princess line up.  I know I almost had a fit when we watched the Main Street Parade at Disneyland and saw all the princesses except Tiana on the float.  However, they surprised us by putting her on her own float after all the other princess marched before her.
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Last year I was introducing longer books to my daughter, so I picked up A Stolen Jewel, the story that follows Princess Tiana after she becomes a princess, and after she marries Prince Naveen.

If you had issues with the film The Princess and the Frog, then you probably won’t find the extended storyline too comforting.  There are a  few things that upset me while reading this book.   Although Tiana has gained royalty in name, she has not gained any benefits from that royalty.  Tiana is still a struggling, working class, small business owner that, despite her royal status, still has to worry about the day to day operations of running a mom and pop restaurant.  I remember having an online conversation about it, and some felt that it was a good thing for Tiana to have earned her own.  She was independent, not relying on her new marriage for financial support.  She was a “new” princess.  But I was not happy with that.  I wanted Tiana to be a rich princess, like the others before her.  I wanted her to have a stress free life that included servants and royal chariots. I wanted her to be a REAL princess.  If she loved cooking, why couldn’t she own a chain of restaurants and have people working for her.  Why is she still scrambling around in the kitchen trying to get the meals prepared?  This whole princess philosophy made me think deeper about what I expect from a princess and what I want for my daughters regarding princess ideology.  So after digesting this story, I began to dig a little deeper into what it really means to be a princess and what values princess ideology represents.

The first questions that I want to raise is: Why is it that in a democratic society we are so obsessed with having an absolute monarchy for our little girls?

Besides the idea that princesses must wait for her savior prince and princesses are generally helpless, dainty girls  there are a few more reasons I cannot buy into the princess party:

  • Princess ideology says that young girls should focus on make up, jewels, nails and the like for beauty.  Most princess toys are focused on beauty.  Training a young generation of girls to be addicted to make up and beauty products.  I am a big believer in natural beauty and feeling comfortable without make-up, nail polish, etc. I am not saying I never wear makeup, but honestly I rarely do and I like it that way.  I want my girls to have confidence in natural beauty, and to have high self-esteem, but not vanity.
  • Princess ideology teaches girls to strive to be the “it” girl.  Most girls are commoners but everyone wants to be a princess, why is that?  Why not find happiness in being a commoner?  I feel like this is akin to everyone wanting to be a celebrity, a singer, a professional basketball player a rapper, etc.  There is merit to having high goals and dreams, but why not make being a regular person something cool? Some say playing a princess is just a fantasy and it helps children use their imagination.  However I’d rather see my girls playing doctor with Doc Mcstuffins than playing princess with Princess Tiana.
  • Princess ideology  teaches girls to value riches that are inherited or attained through marriage, not earned.  If your daughter has inherited a lot of wealth that is awesome.  But if they are like the 99% of Americans that are not living in mansions or castles, its a good idea to let them know that they need to work hard to achieve wealth, if they want it.  How about instead of playing princess, teach your daughter to play scientist, businesswoman, or president?
    I know princesses are a loved part of our American girls’ culture and everyone may not relate to my opinion, that is okay.  I am not saying I am totally anti-princess.  We still have a few princess books that we own and read. Also, I am not necessarily throwing out all the princess toys, but I do believe in challenging my own way of thinking about things.  This area of princess play is one I am constantly revising.  Even as I am typing this blog, my daughter just came up to me and said, “Mommy, you are the queen and I am the princess.”  Am I going to correct her? Not exactly.  I wont discourage her current playtime.  I will not throw away her princess toys and books that she currently has.  But I will gently suggest that we engage in other types of play.  Let’s pretend to be astronauts, politicians, or scuba divers.  We will read books about women who did great things throughout history, like Bessie Coleman.  I will encourage her to be more that a princess, put value in more than her physical appearance, and play with ideas that revolve around compassion, love, intelligence and service.  Overtime I think it will stick.

    Mommies what are your thoughts on girls and princess play, princess toys and princess movies?  Please share.

    Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and a lover of art, education and laughter.  She is the creator and author of ABC remix.