I’m 31 years old. I love the color pink. I love boy bands. And I love Disney princesses.
You know what else I love? Kicking ass, taking names, and smashing the patriarchy. That’s right, I’m a progressive, intersectional feminist. But being a feminist hasn’t squashed my love of makeup and sparkles, baking chocolate chip cookies for friends, and watching romantic comedies starring Reese Witherspoon. I know this shocks many of you.
In her book, The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess, writer Devorah Blachor talks about the challenge of being a feminist who has a daughter who embraces all things girly: tutus, princesses and pink. I have seen this conundrum many times in my Facebook feed, my friends, who strongly identify as feminists, are wringing their hands over their young daughters’ penchant for all things stereotypically girly. I know it’s not funny, but I laugh anyway. Because I’m an example of that princess-loving feminist, and I can assure you it’s not a problem.
“I would never have a pink-worshipping, frilly-dress-wearing, princess-obsessed daughter,” Blachor writes of herself. The universe always has a sense of humor doesn’t it? I admit, I didn’t really like the color pink until adulthood. I don’t remember what my favorite color was as a child (as a teen it was baby blue, because that was Justin Timberlake’s favorite color and obviously it had to become mine too) but I remember being around 25 and deciding that pink was the color for me. And not just baby pink, or princess pink. HOT PINK. The pinker, the better. I played with Barbies until I was about 13 years old. My favorite store when I was a little girl was “Barbie on Madison,” a special section of the toy store FAO Schwartz. It was the Barbie doll Mecca and my dad used to take me on special occasions.
I had all kind of Barbie dolls, black and white, long hair and longer hair. I loved styling their hair (some may even have lost their hair due to my love of the curling iron), picking out elaborately planned ensembles and having super fancy parties where the boys were only occasionally invited. At these soirees, they would talk about things like makeup, movies, and what boys they thought were cute. If the boys were invited, they would kiss passionately and then go home alone. I was creating my own little rom-coms at age seven. But even then, my Barbies had jobs like CEOS, doctors, and presidents. But my president didn’t wear a pantsuit, she wore a sparkly ball gown.
Like many other girls who came of age in the late 90s, I was introduced to the intersection of feminism and femininity by the Spice Girls. I still love the Spice Girls. They were five young women who were aware of their attractiveness, in control of their sexuality, and they told men to sit the fuck down and get out of their way. They never apologized for being women, and their whole “Girl Power” platform taught an entire generation of girls (who are now grown women) that they could take over the world in a Gucci dress, leopard print booty shorts, or Adidas sneakers and baggy track pants. They were unapologetically female, and they turned the male dominated pop industry on its ear. The Spice Girls took over the world. I wanted to be as sexy and cool and powerful as they were. I still do, honestly.
It is frustrating to been seen as unfeminist because I choose to indulge in things that are seen as overly feminine. Enjoying the movie Snow White doesn’t make me less of a feminist. Believing that I’ll find my happily ever after is my way of coping with the shitshow that is dating as a single mom. Coveting my BFF’s adult tutu collection is just me finding ways to keep fashion fun. I shave my legs because I don’t like body hair, not because I’m indoctrinated by the patriarchy. Same thing with my underarms. I shave to please myself, nobody else. I wear makeup sometimes, but not because I’m trying to impress men.
There are some seriously cool princesses out there, Tiana had a job, and she clearly wore the pants in her castle. Rapunzel turned down Flynn Rider’s proposal because she wanted time to have her own life. Snow White got the Dwarfs to wash their damn hands before dinner, which is more than most of us mom can say about our children. I’m raising a son by myself, and the only way I can teach him that women are equals and individuals is to be myself and not try to fit myself into anyone’s idea of what a “good” feminist is.
So, for all of those mom’s like Blachor who are raising little girls who love fairies and princesses, fear not. Maybe they will grow out of their love for all things girly. Or maybe, like me, they’ll be afraid of it during adolescence and only wear the color blue, jeans, and sneakers. Maybe they’ll claim and proclaim their femininity as adults. But the one thing that will remain? They will always be feminists because you showed them what feminism is.
Feminists believe in equality and opportunity. We like pink and purple tutus, or wearing all black, or baggy jeans. We like t-shirts and stiletto heels. We have long hair, short hair, shaved and unshaved armpits. We are nurses and engineers, aestheticians and astronauts, teachers and journalists. We played with Barbies and Legos, jump ropes and baseballs. There is no box that we fit in, and isn’t that the point?