When Did Princess Become a Bad Word?

I’ve seen the following advice recently shared on a few of the sites that focus on women’s issues, and my reaction is the same every time, “Why? Why can’t I call my daughter a princess? When did princess become a bad word?”

My opinion is probably not going to be all that popular and is likely going to sit wrong with some of the folks with whom I usually agree. But if it takes me not calling my daughter a princess in order for her to be a successful woman in life, well, there’s a lot riding on that one word, don’t you think?

I was recently invited to sit on a panel at the National Association of Business Women of New Mexico. The topic was how women succeed in male-dominated fields, and my two companions on the panel were Susan Zubiate Grace, who owns a local running store, and Jessica Eaves Mathews, a lawyer and serial entrepreneur. Jessica is also the author of a soon-to-be-released book, Wonder Women: How Western Women Will Save The World. One topic that took up a great portion of the time during our panel discussion was the idea that up until now, women have been expected to and have had to be willing to leave a good portion of themselves at the door of their office every morning in order to succeed and have an equal playing field with their male counterparts – no blatant femininity, no conversations about worrying about sick children or about changing diapers, no mention of dieting or an appointment to visit a colorist or manicurist.

This is the reason many women choose to be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses – that desire to be themselves – all of themselves, the parts beyond businesswoman – the mother, the wife, the girly-girl, the tomboy, the artist, the baker, the gardener. And if we, as women are ever going to get to the place where we create a new environment, a new way to build an economy that embraces the totality of being a woman, it seems rather counter-intuitive to begin saying that we can’t call our daughters princesses. In fact, I think the biggest thing we can do to inhibit confidence and the willingness to embrace male-dominated fields like math and science and engineering is to teach a young girl that if she is going to be good at those things, she’d better put her imagination, her whimsy away.

ballerina princessI believe that because of the experience I’ve had raising my own daughter, Rachel. I called her princess. A lot. For the longest time when she was little, she was so completely enamored with all of the Disney princesses (as well as Mickey Mouse) that it was all she wanted to talk about or pretend to be. She wanted the books read to her again and again. And when we went away with friends on a skiing vacation, they brought along the videotape (yes, I’m dating myself) of the new movie, Beauty and the Beast, and our poor friends were forced to watch that movie over and over for three solid days. Rachel cried every time when the Beast died. And then wanted to watch it again.

I didn’t just call her princess. I sewed her a Cinderella dress for Halloween one year. It was silky powder blue with white lace and took me a ridiculous number of hours to put together. But it was worth it, because she wore that dress for Halloween and to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Between her Cinderella dress and a ballerina set I found at a garage sale, Rachel spent a great deal of her time in that fantastic world of princesses, castles and dancers complete with all the whimsy and drama that goes along with it.

IMG_0216 IMG_0049And, then just as soon as her deep fascination with princesses started, it ended. She discovered rock climbing at the age of nine and begged to join the climbing team along with her brother who was two years younger. It was an unconventional sport, and she took to it with enthusiasm and a fierce drive to be the best. She not only joined the team but competed with climbers her age from across several states to earn a bid to nationals that first year she started climbing.

She went on to compete at a national level all the way through high school, earning a rank as high as sixth in the nation. She was fierce, fearless, tough, competitive, and an amazing athlete. Sponsors for several climbing gear companies approached her about sponsoring her competitions and climbing gear and trips. She definitely grew out of the princess phase, but she never lost her whimsy, she imagination, her belief in a world where better things were possible.36951_1518430328064_1453700448_31335349_6117802_n

She’s currently a senior in college earning an art degree and already supports herself as a graphic artist. She painted the art that hangs on the walls of our office, and she worked at one time for me, creating digital images for the mobile apps we were developing. It never occurred to Rachel that she might not be good enough at math or science to enter one of those fields. Instead, she did what we’d always encouraged her to do – follow her passion, and work hard.

If I remember correctly, most of those princess stories have the ladies facing down evil, running through forests, climbing towers, and they manage to do it all in a dress.

What is it actually that we want to teach our daughters? For me it is this: be brave enough to embrace and develop your entire self. Until we are okay teaching our daughters that, we’ll perpetuate women having to leave a large portion of their true selves at the door every day at the office.

Published by Lisa Abeyta

Entrepreneur and passionate foodie.

7 thoughts on “When Did Princess Become a Bad Word?

  1. I called my niece a princess for most of my time raising her, since she was 8 (she is now 18). I think that the traits of the kind of successful woman you seem to be are also a match for the traits of the kind of mother who is addressing all the right issues and all the wrong issues in a child’s mind, which will always be more important than any other issues like the entitlement mentality, which usually emerge as a result of lazy parenting, and a lack of the addressing of important issues. I think as long as your husband is also equally onboard with this constant checking on her mentality, she’ll be just fine being called a princess. If this happens, she is more likely to grow up being a Taylor Swift as opposed to a Miley Cyrus. If she doesn’t learn to be a girly girl at the proper age, she could end up being a tomboyish emo, which could then most-likely attract the kind of crowd that could bring on same-sex interest, which is a road that has no u-turns. I believe that the idea that she is a “prize” to be pursued and won by a championing male *at the proper age* will be one handled by you as a parent appropriately and in a timely fashion. I also believe that Disney movies may instill improper and unbalanced views in her mind regarding relationships and marriage, not to mention other improper sexual content (not that these are the only issues with Disney movies bringing bad content before children’s eyes). My main issue with how the “princessing” of preteen girls is often handled is that, due to diminishing moral value in today’s parenting, some times new parents don’t realize that if their girls learn to wear make-up at too early an age without realizing that this can and will lead to attracting boys, then they will be open to the early influence of boys who, due to advances in technology increasing the availability of porn these days, have most likely already begun blooming, usually already having discovered themselves sexually, activating themselves at the age of 10 or so. This has been the case with my niece, whose parents weren’t onboard with my constant checking of her mentality. She now dresses inappropriately for worship. :/


    1. We were talking the other day abut Marissa Mayer, and how often she wears a cardigan instead of a suit jacket. She looks like a woman, not a woman trying to fit into a man’s role. I love that.

      As to your worries, there are a lot of unhealthy, bad influences out there for children, but I’ve always believed that communication is key. It doesn’t mean our kids will turn out exactly as we planned at all; it means they’ll still come home to dinner and talk to us no matter who they choose to become.


  2. Amen.
    A little while ago my husband and I were talking about the sexualization of Merida (from Brave) in order to make her fit the “Disney Princess” persona (if you haven’t heard, Google it…they completely changed the character). While I totally agreed with the complaints that were made (“She’s supposed to be courageous, headstrong tomboy, and they turned her into a PRINCESS!”), my husband made a good point when he said, “When did it suddenly become bad for little girls to like princesses?”

    In response, I ended up writing this blog post: http://nopageleftblank.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/gender-insignificant/

    Long story short, I think we put too much emphasis on trying to control what our children like because we think it somehow defines who they will BECOME.


  3. Reblogged this on What's APPeningĀ® and commented:
    Maybe you’ve seen it – the poster that gives parents “better” words to use with their daughters with the instruction to not call them princesses. Our CEO, Lisa Abeyta, shares why she thinks advice has it all wrong.


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