Dispatch From the Front Line of the “You Are Not a Princess” Wars

HuffPo’s story about Mercy Academy’s pro-women ad campaign hits home.

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On Wednesday, the Huffington Post published this story about a “pro-women” advertising campaign from a Kentucky-based all-girls prep school. Mercy Academy’s “You Are Not a Princess” campaign, which AdWeek featured earlier this week, challenges the young ladies of the world to “be more than just the fairest of them all” and warns them: “don’t wait for a prince” and “life’s not a fairytale.” This is the latest blow struck in the princess wars, which I have been fighting in my own home.

If you ask my 6-year-old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she will reply, with pure glee in her eyes, “a princess.” This is nothing new. She’s been saying this consistently for the last three years, and it drives my wife and me out-of-our-minds crazy. We explain to her that “a princess” is not a career. We tell her that you can’t just “be” a princess. I say, “But you can be anything that you want to be.” And she replies, “Yes, Daddy, I know. That’s why I want to be a princess!”


princeI’m not exactly sure where this princess obsession comes from. My daughter has seen a few Disney princess movies over the years, sure. But thanks to having a brother in the house, who is one year older, the television viewing tends to be a bit more unisex. He wants to watch Star Wars. She wants to watch Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings. We settle on The Lorax and The Croods.

She wants all of her birthday parties to be princess parties, or at least some variation on a princess party (I think her request for Year 7 is “a princess luau birthday party”). And hey, it’s her birthday. What are we supposed to do? This year, we gave her the requested princess party, but I wrote a song called “More Than a Princess” (you can watch it below, though I warn you that I can play the piano much better than I can sing) as a feeble effort to combat her princess obsession. I’m sure she’ll be very embarrassed by it when we show it at her princess wedding:

When it comes to books, we are big borrowers from the local library, where the kids can pick out some of their own books and we choose some for them as well. Most recently, we picked up a copy of Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa.

From it, I read my daughter the intriguing tale of Sacagawea. She couldn’t have been less interested. But the crappy little princess book that she picked up at a yard sale for a dime in 2011 and that literally concludes with “…and they lived happily ever after,” a few pages after the princess marries her prince? Oh, that book she will read. Over. And. Over. Again. Am I supposed to throw it away, as if it’s a copy of Hustler found in a 14-year-old boy’s room?

We bought her the “girl” Legos (after she showed zero interest in the standard set), but she doesn’t play with them. And now my son builds giant pink Lego towers and then shoots them to smithereens with his X-Wing Fighter as my daughter plays princess with her dolls in the background.

The Princess Wars are in full force these days. The Christian Science Monitor ran a story asking if the “Disney Princess divide” would be the “next mommy wars.” And earler this year, this graphic made the viral rounds on the Internet:


Great advice. Though maybe we’re making too much of a fuss about this princess stuff. Maybe lots of smart, powerful, successful women of today wanted to be princesses when they grew up. My daughter is bright and kind. She has a wickedly offbeat sense of humor. She’s better at math and spelling than her older brother, who is, himself, smart as a whip. She’ll be fine.

So, what do you think? Are we anti-princess parents overreacting? Should we let our daughters be? Is this just a phase, or are the Princess Wars worth fighting?

More Than a Princess
By Victor Fiorillo

Cinderella is just a story
Rapunzel’s make believe
But you are real
And so much more than a princess.

You’re strong, you’re kind, you’re curious
creative and so smart
Rapunzel may have magic hair
but you were perfect
perfect from the start.

Ariel was the Little Mermaid
and Belle she had her Beast
but you’re the best
and so much more than a princess.

You’re strong, you’re kind, you’re curious
creative and so smart,
Belle may have the prettiest gowns
but you’ve been perfect
perfect from the start.

Jasmine was in Aladdin
Tiana had the Prince and the Frog
but you’re a real girl
and so much more than a princess.

You’re strong, you’re kind, you’re curious
creative and so smart.
You didn’t need Walt Disney’s help
you were perfect
perfect from the start.


Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.

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  • TLF

    I have two daughters, ages 16 and 14. They both went through the princess phase. We had every Disney store princess costume and nightgown they made. I’m proud to say, they’ve outgrown it and are well on their way to being strong, confident, independent young women. I think you have to let them explore their interests and not make them feel “less than” for having interests that don’t line up with where we’d like them to be.

  • Ang

    We are worried about this? I have two daughters under 6. They both love to pretend to be princesses. I, on the otherhand, am the furthest thing from the “fairytale”. I don’t know what name brands are, I work full-time and I could care less about jewerly.. But they are little and they are having fun and I don’t care. Mommy works and they see that, for now I want them to be kids and not worry about all of the other crap they will encournter at 11, 14 and 18 and so on. Plus, in every one of those Disney Princess movies, there’s a great lesson. BRAVE is a princess and the lesson in that movie is spectacular. If we could get passed the nonsense of why everything has to have a meaning that what really is there, which is simple really.. they are being 6. why do we care so much about whether or not they like princess books or a book that you want them to read? They will learn soon enough that the world isn’t a fairytale. Why tell them now?

  • Melynda

    As a former girl-child myself, I can firmly attest to the fact that little girls outgrow the “I wanna be a princess!” phase. I’m pretty sure I outgrew it by the time I was 8. It would be nice if family-oriented movie makers could be bothered to find something else for their female characters other than princesses, but that’s the way it is, I guess. Nobody’s really trying much harder. Girls are either princesses, princesses disguised as not-princesses, insipid girls who can only function while chasing after a boyfriend, etc. So other role models for little girls would be WONDERFUL, but its hardly something they’re going to believe much longer and considering that they’ll just grow up to become attached to their smartphones and computers and usually lose all sense of imagination, what does it hurt as long as it doesn’t become delusion?

  • Markangelo

    But this article led off with a Coco Chanel ad ?

    a wish to die


    Achilles great Warrior was a heel
    shot an Amazon with a point of steel
    Sealed his fate in the deal
    through a horse & a breast unwealed

    Hector,s replacement in the Battle of Troy
    took off her Helmet, she was not a boy
    This thing he was trying to destroy
    Ares sells to children as a toy.

  • M

    For crying out loud get over it! Your girl is a BABY, you don’t have to tell her being a princess is not a career, if she has any brain cells she will figure this out some time before she graduates high school. Let her be and imagine being WHATEVER she wants for the time being I mean come on, unless she professes she wants to grow up to be a drug dealer or something it’s FINE. DO NOT limit her world of imagination and creativity by ruling out princesses. This is just as cruel as telling a little girl she can’t want to be president or a doctor or a scientist or any of those things people used to girls they can not be. She will learn soon enough that life is not a fairy tale, that prince charming is a heartbreaker, that a tierra is not usually considered acceptable work attire. You will miss those days when she was innocent and wanted to be a princess when she grows up and finds out how cruel the world can be, when she is hurting because of one of life’s disappointments and you can’t kiss it and make it all better. Among the things I wanted to be as a child was: A princesses, a ballerina, a vetranarian, a singer a teacher and even a boxer. These days I’m an accountant. Yes, I grew up and joined the real world, just as all want to be princesses do. There is plenty of time for your daughter to experience REAL LIFE but, childhood fantasies only last so long–Let her HAVE them, even if they include frills and fairy tales. I’m no less intelligent, strong minded and independent today be cause I played princess as a little girl an your daughter won’t be either. I took my one chance to get away with wearing a tiara at my wedding, I never quite grew out of being a girly girl and I don’t apologize for that! It’s who I AM, I think I was just wired that way, I don’t think it was because I watched a Disney movie or two as a child. I have plenty of friends who watched those movies too–not all of them are like me. It may be a phase she’s going through or it might just be who she IS. Would you suppress your daughter’s desire to wear a football jersey or cut her hair short? If not, you have no right suppressing her desire to wear a frilly dress and curls–it’s just as bad and just as damaging to a girl who just wants to be loved and accepted for who she is. If who she is right now is a princess, let it be. If who she is right now is a pro quarter back, let it be! Life is short, let go, love your child, tell her she can do anything–Marry a Prince or win the Nobel prize in physics, do not limit her to doing one or the other–PERIOD. Make sure she knows you love and support her NO MATTER what and chill out for %#! $ sake!