Don’t Call My Daughter A Princess. Just Don’t.

Written by BLUNTGuest

Today my daughter and I entered a dreary little shop that sells everything from cereal to high price hairdryers. The upstairs is devoted to toys. TOYS! They are of the dusty, oh-god-did-a-child-slave-laborer-make this sort, but lately my child has fixated on this upstairs plaza as a dream world that possesses the one thing she wants more than anything else in life: a hula hoop.

Where do you want to go? I asked her. I want to hula hoop! I sighed. I could think of no less enticing a location than the dusty corner shop. But it was not a large request.

My daughter’s hair has grown a lot since last fall, when she asked me to stop cutting it. It flops in her face like Cousin It’s if it isn’t brushed back. We buy barrettes to keep it out of her eyes.

My daughter has a small box labeled Bows in her closet. She loves them sometimes and is utterly indifferent to them at others. The same could be said of every other toy or object or person in her life; she is a two year old. This morning, she was indifferent, and as she finished her cereal I took a comb and swept her locks out of her eyes, using those convenient sliding bows to free her vision.

She had a blue bow on one side and a yellow on the other. We walked into the shop and the manager, who knows her fairly well said hello. Hello! I responded. I’m very nice. Ask anyone. I dislike people who aren’t instantly warm. I don’t understand them. I love a good hello.

Then he smiled at my two year old approvingly.

She has bows in her hair today, he said. They look nice. She’s a little princess.

Oh my GOD, there is that FUCKING word again.

This isn’t about Disney. (That’s another bone to pick.) It isn’t about gender neutrality and letting my daughter have soccer balls but not baby dolls (she has both.) This isn’t about frills, even, or the word “girly.”

Here’s the trouble: we don’t know precisely what it is about. I do know that I feel MURDEROUS when people call my child “princess.” It may have something to do with its happening 800 times a day. It may have something to do with there being no label that I’ve ever heard attached to boys. (Not that any child deserves to have an adult label them in any manner.) It may be that I am sick of people speaking mindlessly. What is a princess, anyway?

Let’s investigate:

According to Merriam Webster, a princess is the eldest daughter of a British sovereign —a title granted for life and used only after it has been specifically conferred by the sovereign.

The word’s use dates back to 1649.

It would be nice to be British royalty. This morning the coffee maker was cranky, two of our stove burners were broken and we had to leave a message for the super so my husband can make his morning tea while I make the morning oatmeal simultaneously. This morning I realized the paint on the radiator pole in my daughter’s bedroom was badly chipped and cracking and needed to be sanded before the heat comes on this fall.

I’d LOVE to ring a bell or do whatever it is that British royalty do to solve these problems. They don’t even know they have these problems, of course, as they are fixed without their knowledge. I’d love to receive messages on silver trays in bed and have the sheets washed before they get dirty and whatever else happens in the life of a royal.

HOWEVER, my daughter is not a British royal. Why, then are people calling her one?

Shoot, this is about Disney. Some asshole at the Disney Corporation decided a few years ago to capitalize on children’s natural desires to dress up in their parents’ clothing and so he commodified it. He sent out the Disney troops to make piles and miles of land-fill crap consisting of costumes.

Why on earth would you go to the trouble of crafting a costume from a necklace found here, a hat found there, if you could just go to the bloody story and plunk down $24.99 for a piece of cheap fabric trimmed with chiffon and tulle and a cheap golden crown and wand, entombed in more land-fill filling, off-gas producing vinyl? It defies common sense to make a child work so hard at pulling an outfit together when they can just buy it, for god’s sake.

Trillions of dollars later, we have plates. We have cups. We have Little Golden Books. We have the aforementioned costumes and their junky paraphernalia. And beyond the damage to the planet, we have conformity, in greater numbers than ever before. (Don’t fact-check me on this, I am an angry parent and it feels right. It is intuitively right.)

If you are a princess, in Disney speak, you are Arial, or Aurora, or Snow White or Cinderella or that annoying girl from Tangled. If you are a princess in mindless stranger speak, I don’t know what the hell you are.

That is my biggest problem with the label. You are some strange, undefined thing that apparently every other girl is too, if you are to believe the words of strangers who think they have a right to call you anything at all, which they do not. I repeat: they do not.

I whirled on the manager.

Do me a favor. Do the world a favor. Stop calling girls “princesses.” You don’t know the damage you may be doing. More importantly, I don’t know the damage you may be doing. I don’t even know what you mean, and my daughter doesn’t know what you mean except that somehow you approve of her more today because she is wearing bows that culturally signify her as a girl, and that makes the world a more controlled, defined place for you. Guess what? The world is not a neat and tidy place. It is not a place where all girls are one way. I am so sorry to make you anxious. But leave my daughter out of this society’s pathological need to label girls anything, anything at all. Leave my fucking daughter alone.

Anyone who knows me personally knows this is not only exactly what I said, but it is the abridged version. I had more. I told him he was free to ask her name, to tell her that he hoped she had a nice day, or that we enjoy the toys upstairs. What he was not free to do was call my daughter a fucking princess.

I am not waging war against all gender stereotypes. It’s too much to take on. I have no idea if the genders are different, and if so, to what extent it is biological. I just bought a book called Why Gender Matters, actually. I certainly want to know if there is science to help me understand and guide my daughter with any problems that may arise from her brain chemistry.

The human heart and mind is awash in riddles. Each person has a lifetime of dealing with her own riddles and the riddles of those she encounters intimately and casually. It is, to be trite, the human condition to be uncertain of another person’s identity, which encompasses everything from taste in music and movies to talents and dreams and whims, to kindnesses and cruelties.

We cannot appease our society’s anxiety over complexity by allowing people to continually address our daughters as “princesses.” We cannot allow our daughters to be confused by a meaningless, vague, thorny and insidious label. We must yell at shopkeepers who are brainwashed by a society that is pathologically terrified of letting girls out of the box.

When my daughter gets older, she will make lots of decisions that will reflect the light of the prism we call identity. She may be a makeup-wearer. She may be a soccer player or an introverted writer bent over notebooks in a research library. She may be a dancer or a doctor or a restaurant critic. She may be a street clown. She will work all sorts of odd jobs and stumble and fall and wonder who she is, the way the rest of us do. I don’t intend to allow her private ruminations to be short-circuited by meaningless, soul-gutting labels.

If she does, however, become the eldest daughter of a British sovereign, I expect her to get that heating pipe in our second bedroom fixed. And I’d love my tea on a tray by 7 am.

(This post first ran on Hungry Little Animal.)

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor and dancer in NYC. She has one very patient husband and one impatient three year old who has inspired her to write, although frequently not about children or motherhood. She worked as a part-time nanny in Manhattan for many years, which provided much joy and many punch lines. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Off The Shelf, Erma Bombeck Humor Writers, Mamapedia, Blunt Moms, Nanny Magazine and others. You can find her at hungrylittleanimal.blogspot.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hungrylittleanimal or Twitter at https://twitter.com/HLAnimal.

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BLUNTGuest

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40 Comments

    • Wow. I hope you don’t use the f word around your child. People can’t read your mind and they are just trying to make polite conversation. A simple (and warm) thank you would go a long way. I agree with Tristan, I see nothing wrong with it. Honestly I didn’t read all of the ranting in this post. I lost interest shortly after the f word.

  • Couldn’t agree more. In fact, when I found out that our second child was a girl, this became one of my most-often repeated sayings. DON’T CALL HER A PRINCESS. Thanks for saying what you did to the store manager. With any luck, you gave him something to think about, and he’ll pause before trotting out the tired princess label again.
    Michele recently posted…Katie’s First Weeks, An Illustrated NarrativeMy Profile

    • Couldn’t agree more!!!!! I loathe the idea of princesses, especially Cinderella. Why would I ever want my child to idolize a character who was an absolute wimp and couldn’t stand up for herself only to need to be rescued my a prince. Rescue your damn self!!!!

      • This is a very relative notion. For example, in My Little Pony being a princess is a very important and complementary status. Then again, in MLP a pony become a princess by working hard, learn a lot, making a lot of friends and defeating apocaliptic villans (Yes, I used the words “apocaliptic” and “My Little Pony” in the same sentence. Deal with it.) when in real life and in Disney films someone become a princess by borning in the royalty or marryng with royalty. The big question is “What do the term princess means to your children?”

  • I agree that there is never such a label put on little boys. As the mom of two girls, (3 and 6) I also feel that way about putting labels on my kids. Great post!

  • Love this article I agree 100%! I know i will have to have this same polite version of this conversation with my husband’s customers when I come off of maternity leave and start helping out at his business again.

  • Its 12am & I read this article that makes my angry. Usually ambivalent to inane blog posts I read at night because my 3-month old keeps me awake, this one hits a nerve. Why? Not because I disagree that gender stereotypes are archaic & confining. I agree they can be. For both sexes. Trust me, I’ve taken my little boy out plenty of times wrapped in a pink blanket and been complimented on how cute ‘she’ is. I don’t really care. He IS cute. And the unsuspecting person who complimented him didn’t set out to wage a war with me. This article makes me angry simply because the woman writing it is rude. In front of her daughter. And proud of it. But here’s the thing. Disney doesn’t teach your daughter anything. You do. So what you just taught your 2-year old is that its OK to be rude to another human being. As for me: my daughter IS a princess. No, she isn’t the daughter of a British monarch. She isn’t the annoying girl in Tangled or the hapless Cinderella. (Pause to admit she does believe she’s Sophia the 1st). She thinks she’s a princess because she’s seen princesses on TV (along with lions and tigers and pigs and trains and cars and mice and cats and lego people) and just prefers them to the other things. I didn’t push her into wanting to be a princess. Her toys included just as many cars and trains as they did books and dolls. She just gravitated to the dolls and books over the cars and trains. And finally, one day she asked me for a Tiara. So instead of raving at Mattell & dissing Disney I decided that for my daughter, being a princess would mean what I want it to mean. So, my daughter the Princess says please and thank you. My daughter the Princess loves her family. My daughter the Princess eats her dinner and puts away her toys. My daughter the Princess is good & smart & loving. Why? Not because Disney told her so, but because her mother taught her so. By example. And if one day someone calls her a princess, I’ll be happy that I’m not encumbering her with stereotypes but creating a world where she can be whatever and whoever she wants to be. Even a princess.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, as it affords me the opportunity to make an additional point (or four.)
      1. When a woman discusses having an intellectual confrontation with a person, readers often assume she was “rude.” This rarely happens to men, and if it does, NEVER to men to who are defending their daughters from a dangerous social mind game. Men are consistently applauded when they take a public stance against a culture of mindless oppression of their beloved girls; women, alas, are often called names and condescended to in more violent and insidious ways when they dare cross a line and are anything but perfectly polite. It is particularly disheartening when a woman engages in this condescension. One woman keeping another woman “in line” by telling her that it is rude to speak her mind is just heart-breaking. Thank you for reminding me of just how far we have to go in our struggle that there are women so quick to assume another woman is out of line when she speaks her mind.
      2. Why do people assume a woman was “rude” if she speaks pointedly? I was, in fact, my usual polite self. Often articulate extemporaneous speech can be perceived as aggressive, especially in women. And is then labelled “rude.” Again, thank you for reminding us all that we are in many ways no better off than fifty years ago in our attitude toward women.
      3. I never said I was proud of the interaction. What I was , in fact, was resigned to my obligation. I do make it a point to show my daughter that her mother is available for a reality check and will protect her boundaries when she is taken aback by a confusing label assigned to her by a stranger. One day, she will have a strong sense of her right to her body and her identity. Then I will indeed be proud of my contribution to that sense. I can think of nothing more neglectful than allowing a stranger to hurt my child and NOT showing her that she is worth more than a mindless label.
      4. I make it a point to avoid rudeness, especially when I have something very important to say. I would never diminish the value of my words by undermining them with anything less than sterling politeness.
      Again, thank you for helping me bring up these important additional points. Always very grateful for those opportunities!
      Leslie Kendall Dye recently posted…Quick ChangeMy Profile

      • Thanks for the feedback Leslie. Maybe what I was referring to was the phrase ‘leave my fucking daughter alone’. Possibly it was a rhetorical use of the word. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Nowhere in your original post did you mention that you had an ‘intellectual confrontation’ of ‘sterling politeness’. In fact, you expressly mentioned that the exchange was an ‘abridged version’. Maybe people who know you would know better. I don’t, so I didn’t. Maybe I perceived that as a ‘furious slang-infused rant’. My bad. I was also not judging women. I would say the same to a man. As i do to my husband, who consistently insists that ‘labels’ are prohibitive. You don’t know me. So you don’t know. Me? I’m a successful woman with a successful husband & 2 beautiful children – a boy and a girl. My girl is a princess. She’s also a monkey. And a dog. And just this morning, she was an airplane. My son, is almost always dressed in pink. Hand-me-downs. I don’t even notice. Not only do I think women and men are equal, I’m proud of the fact that I believe that they are. Please don’t assume otherwise, just as I shouldn’t assume otherwise by your use of rhetorical slang words. And finally, when we put our opinions out there, we should accept that people will have different opinions. Both you and me. I actually read some other posts and enjoyed them. Which doesn’t change my opinion in the least about this one.

      • I guess I have to disagree.. I don’t think its the word princess that is the problem..I raised 3 wonderful, independent, intelligent,strong, successful, take no shit girls and they will ALWAYS be my princesses…they know it and revel in it.
        Its the people that use the word princess and expect that their child should be treated like the fictional characters. Give them a role model as a parent and teach them how to treat others with respect and kindness. They can still be a princess and be strong, successful, well adjusted adults.

      • Most people in my world consider you rude just for using the f word, which you say you did several times. From the way you wrote this it sounds like you were rude. And I only know you from this article.

    • Thank you.I actually couldn’t believe what I was reading. I don’t care what my girls want to be in life.I care that their happy,healthy(mentally & physically) and that they bring joy to others. Not please others,there’s a difference.My oldest was a race car driver for a year.I don’t blame NASCAR.I blame her fascination with cars and going really fast. She was three,I don’t believe that is NASCAR’s target audience. My now three year old wants to be a ballerina. She has in fact,never seen the nutcracker!This mother needs to stop influencing her children to be rude and angry.Take a breath and enjoy her little girl.It goes by too fast.

    • Thanks. I was going to reply but you beat me to it. The greater lesson here is, indeed, the lack of tolerance afforded another, well- intended human being and the negative impact on an impressionable little girl. I’ve raised 5 daughters and 6 sons, all of them strong, self- sufficient, independent thinkers. People make all kinds of assumptions and rarely have malicious intent. I’ve taught my children to respond with respect to another’s dignity while remembering that they are never the sum of what another person might inadvertently assume them to be. True self confidence doesn’t need to barrel around, dukes up and ready, looking like hell to be offended. As one of those appalling princesses being ranted about would say, for the love of God, let it go!!!!

      • Td, Thank you. Oh so very well said. Thank you for allowing me to leave this post satisfied that there are people left in this world who understand that a kindness well intended is simply that.

  • I too am very opposed to the term Princess. For a couple of reasons

    My family name is Prince. We were brought up Princes and have many jokes about it. Just because my daughter has a different surname doesn’t mean she isn’t a Prince. She always will be and her being called a princess is incredibly infuriating on this alone. However, not many people can be annoyed about it for this reason.

    2. To me the term, no matter how and what we do as parents, exemplifies that pretty, passive girls (not women) are the desired, the perfect and better than everyone else. That wishing to be a princess leads to the expectation to be treated like one, to demand without expectation to give, to see the world as less than you without compassion or a level headed nature. It says that looks and status matter and that is the LAST thing I want for my daughter.

    I want her to dream of all the things she can do, people she can be, places she can visit, people she can love and help and how she can find out who she is. Very few of those things fit the perception in society, TV and reality about princesses. Disney, to me plays a very small role in this.

    People don’t have to agree with me but it’s incredibly important to me. Now to convince my parent in laws. At least to not say it around me and to understand that any clothing that implies I’m a princess is going to the op shop. She can have and play with princesses, that’s fine. It’s her choice. But I will not accept other people saying it simply because she is wearing a dress and looks pretty to them!!

  • I agree with the majority of what you wrote. It brought to mind some friends of ours. They have 1 child, a daughter who is 8. My blood boils when I even think of this. They constantly call her princess…. everything is … the princess wants to do this, the princess ate this… ugh… and the “princess” seems to be fed by being called this. She has a haughty attitude. Being called this seems to be more than just an affectionate term. She expects to be called this. She acts like the dictionary definition. They have created a monster. It angers me, but also saddens me. They do not deny her of any wants. If they say no, she still gets what she wants. She is beyond spoiled. All of this aside, the term now just enrages me. They do not know the disservice they are doing to her and what affects this will have in the future. I just had to vent. A harmless word, term….. not so harmless!!!

  • I am old and can be direct, but may have mellowed somewhat over the years. I rarely comment in the social media environment, but this one struck a chord. I do agree with not labelling people (especially based om gender), but joh, you sound really grumpy. You say like a warm welcome? I would be scared to death of you and I would certainly not even make eye contact with your kid for fear that some of her mom’s hidden anger will erupt… why not take it in your stride and LIVE the example that you value other things than being a princess — and give people some freedom to contribute to you kid’s experiences. It is also not always out of place to celebrate that someone is really cute at two…

  • Wow can’t believe how you girls, young ladies, mothers or what ever it is you prefer to be addressed have ranted over a precious child be referred to as princess. Give me a break do realize how many children hear nothing but negative foul mouthed words? Be thrilled your children are hearing positive kind an amazing words spoken to them I say come on throw a little chill in your day. Personally I don’t refer to children as “kids” an would appreciate others not to use the words kids I had one daughter she in turns has 3 boys and I believe they are my grandchildren and by no means are they grandkids, yuk please they are not farm animals though baby kids are the cutest Ever. May the remaining part of your week be lovely.

  • Good Lord relax! You’ll realize how ridiculous it is to focus on princess when you’re older and your daughter is older. Call her princess if it makes her feel happy. But also called her a brave warrior, fierce warlord, brainiac, sporty spice, whatever. Whatever makes her smile. Then move on.

  • What is the name of the shop? I would like to send the poor man a card of encouragement. Seriously, I would be under the table in a fetal position had someone attacked me, throwing around the F-Bomb in front of a small child, in my own place of business where you and your daughter were welcomed. Your desire to refrain from stereotypes is great- the way you handled it is appalling! Is this how you want your daughter to react when someone says something nice to her? When the teacher unwittingly calls her a princess and she responds just like her Mum? Decorum people! Class, love and respect for others will go a lot further with children than hate, self absorption, and yelling. So many better ways to handle your disdain for the “princess” title. And now can we have the name of that shop you visited?

  • I dont have too many thoughts on the whole of society and oppresion
    of women and all of the high emotions on these topics.

    I still find these conversations interesting though. I am mom the three girls. The older two have made it to adult hood strong independant and they really dont care much about not being in the royal bloodline. They live driving distance to the palace too. It hasnt affected them.
    My youngest is now 8. She has been a super hero fan her while life. She always had some nice princes and other types of costumes (dance costumes passed down from her big sisters) she also loves her spider man and she adors her supergirl costumes. She loves football, basket and she enjoys painting her nails doing her hair and playing makeup sometimes.

    I dont get annoyed at others for not knowing her. I have thought as to how to explain politely to some that she isnt a “tomboy”. She is indescribable to me. She is still making who she is. There isnt a label for her. She WANTS to be a ninja and learn how to protect her family and friends. So, she is now a purple belt and on her way to blak belt. I simply describe her as independent. If someone wants to know more about her it wouldnt take long to find out ahe isnt a princess or a tomboy.
    What are some of the names for boy that preferbabu dolls and cooking and cleaning?????? They have no labels for the boys. Well, i guess we do have labels for them but the few labels there are for boys are derogatory.

    So, the points in this article and the following comments have all made me stop and think. Everyone here has valid points.
    Great article. Thank you!

    One exame of someone calling
    my youngest “princess”. We were walking around the Chinese Theater doing the touristy thing. There were adults all over the streets dressed up in every costume imaginable lol think about society now. Haha
    My daughter was 4 at the time and had developed a love for Spiderman. I think she planned to marry Peter Parker.

    Spider man came swinging out of no where. Patted my daughter on the head and called her princess.
    She was sad and then angry. After a while i noticed she was sulking. I asked why and she told me how mad she is and cant understad why Spiderman would call her princess.
    It didnt make sense to her.

    We went across the street and she got to pose with her favorite transformers and then even Spock from the original Star Trek.
    Then we found the real spider man (much better) he didnt call her princess or anything. He spoke with her respectfully and posed for pics.
    All was back to normal.

    I learned that day how words and labels can affect out kids. I also learned how to see it from their POV and continue to listen to her. Let her be who he wants to be and teach her to be polite and not worry so much about other people’s
    Labels.

    • Typing on my phone! Horribly dificult to edit in the tiny dialouge box. my apologies for such terrible writing.
      Label me typo queen.

  • I think the person who wrote this article is a very angry person probably about some emotional issues in her own childhood that have never been resolved. And could probably do with some counselling.

  • I totally agree. I HATE when someone calls me, my daughter or any girl a “princess”, whether in a positive or negative light. When used negatively (don’t be such a princess), it tells a girl that she her unwanted or unappealing behaviour is strictly feminine. As such, if she could be less feminine she would be a better or more likeable person. Then someone turns around and uses the same label to praise her femininity (looks).

    When a boy is told he is acting like a “prince”, he is being charming, gallant, heroic. Positive message. When he is told he looks like a prince, this is also a positive message. No mixed messages here.

    We also use the word “princess” as an insult to boys when they are acting in ways that are considered feminine, and undesireable.

    I think the message is clear. When someone calls me a “princess”, I can’t be sure is they are being insulting, patronizing or complimentary. So just dont do it. And don’t do it to my daughters. Tell them they are being silly or hysterical. Tell them you like their barrettes, or the colour of their shoes. But DO NOT CALL THEM PRINCESSES!!!!!!

  • I completely feel the same way. Labeling kids and restricting them from acting instinctively, now conditioning them to fit a profile given to them by society is horrid for children. Boys get the same which is why you often see them so angry. They are told to act tough and repress their emotions. Guess what? That turns into anger and possibly violence. Why do you think little girls laugh and play and boys are burning ants, breaking stuff, squishing frogs and blowing stuff up? It is to release that pent up stress from not being allowed to simply be whom they were born to be. Girls on the other hand lose out on so much life has to offer, fitting themselves into a nice little box such as Princess. This type of social condition hurts kids more than people will ever realize as hey.. guess what? They were conditioned too and actually believe these rules.

  • Yes. Yes . And Yes!! I totally agree with you! Labeling and boxing children into a stereotype? Why? No one should be telling a child who they should be, who they are, and what they should look like. Let them enjoy figuring all of that out themselves. Great post!

    • Totally agree, like seriously 😒 give me a frilly dress, a tiara, some people to work for for me and I’ll let you call me princess. but as long as that doesn’t happen, Don’t call me princess. I’m not another one of those highly spoiled brats or one of those Disney attraction machines.

  • You could have handled that in a kind and caring way. (Note id be saying the same thing to a man or woman- that treatment of another humanbeing is not ok) That poor man will now think that you are a grade A jerk whenever he sees you walk into his store. I would be ashamed to have treated someone in that way.
    Furthermore what kind of mother uses the f-word in front of her child, yet is offended by the word princess?
    If you don’t want your child to be called princess handle it with grace and kindness don’t spew more negativity into the world. You are teaching your daughter a far worse lesson by spewing hatred onto a total stranger who was merely trying to be kind.
    Is the word princess ok? That’s up to the mom or dad… I get why parents choose not to ascribe to the princess mantra. But I have never understood teaching a child venomous hatred.