I have a secret to share with you, my lovely readers. I’ve written before about how I’ve never really grown up, how I still love children’s books and dressing up and regressing into Disney films and musicals on a Sunday afternoon. But that’s not the worst of my regressions. My big secret is that, somewhere deep inside, hidden away from all judgement and ridicule, a very big part of my heart will always want to be a princess.
Yes, yes, you read that right. I want to be a princess. I want to fall for a stranger in a forest glen surrounded by my animal friends, to dance around a ballroom with a beast before dropping my slipper on the palace steps, to ride in a pony and trap with Prince Eric, and see the world on a magic carpet with a street rat who looks suspiciously like Tom Cruise but with all the extremeties of his features ironed out and NONE of the crazy. (And breathe!) I want to run around the village in floating peasant dresses and attend balls in enormous pouffy gowns, be presented with a library (can you imagine? I’m sorry, Marilyn/Lorelei, I see what you’re getting at, but I’d rather have books than diamonds any day!), to be tuneful and graceful and beautiful…
…gold of sunshine in her hair
lips that shame the red, red rose…
…you get the picture.
My favourite childhood Disney princess was Aurora, and I distinctly remember my friend Lottie and I bonding early on in our acquaintance, dancing around the kitchen with a broom and a mop, singing Once Upon a Dream. I never associated with her physical features and I MUCH prefered Cinderella’s dress, but I wanted to be like Aurora, to be gentle and kind, graceful and musical, to dance through forest glens and sing the birds to my side… I can’t say I much cared for Prince Phillip, but I did like Samson, his horse.
Later I fell for Ariel with her trove of collected treasures (possibly the start of my red hair obsession!) and Belle with her books… I associated with these dreamers, lost in past objects and fairy stories much as I felt to be, clinging to something or somewhere else. Very slightly stubborn, but again gentle-natured, kind and graceful. In these latter princesses there was an emphasis on their intelligence, their unwillingness to settle for a life in Daddy’s palace, for the local sleazeball (oh how I loved Gaston though!) or for any of the pompous, arrogant suitors neighbouring kingdoms sent for the Sultan’s approval.
And I thought this was feminism. I thought it was about shaking off the shackles of what was expected of you as “female” and seeking your own adventure, following your own path, choosing your own man. I believed feminism was about choice.
Turns out I was wrong. Feminism, it seems, is about refusing little girls the escapism of pink and pretty and dresses and wanting to be a princess – because this alone preconditions them to a life beneath the glass ceiling.
Feminism is about confiscating dolls, because they force a nurturing stereotype, and because even if you give children warrior dolls, it seems, they would rather marry them off to the next-door neighbour’s Action Men.
Feminism is about forcing little girls down non-traditional routes – even if they want to cook, clean and raise the kids – because to play mother is to go against the cause.
And if all this is feminism, I want out.
As a woman, I want the choice as to whether or not to be a wife, a mother, a career woman – or all of these things. I do not want my femininity to be called into question if I don’t have maternal instincts, but neither do I want to be labeled anti-feminist for cooing over a baby in a pretty pink outfit or giving my neice an old bridesmaid dress to play princesses in. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I want it all. “It all” includes the family, the home, and the “happy ever after”.
If feminism means no more dressing up in my Laura Ashley frocks to watch period dramas, no more dancing around the living room while Deborah Kerr teaches Yul Brynner to polka, no more catching myself singing out loud in public places, then I’m through with it. I don’t want to overcome the oppression of men only to find myself limited by oppressive women. I want equality, not seniority, independence, not sovereignty.
I want choice.
(If you’re wondering what inspired this post read this article from the TimesOnline)