While at the playground with my son I watched a father with his four year old daughter. At one point she said she was a ninja, and a few minutes later she said she was a princess. The dad said “which one are you? A ninja or a princess? You can’t be both!” Without thinking about it I chimed in at the same time as that little girl did with “sure you can! Ninja princess!” It was as obvious to her as it was to me, and yet the dad looked at me as if I had just said a string of curse words or told his daughter where babies came from. He said “I would like to win SOME arguments” and it was pretty much implied that I should know my place.

There are so many things I would have liked to tell that father. The main thing of course would have been that an argument about whether or not his little girl can be a ninja AND a princess is NOT one that he should want to “win”. The second thing being that part of the reason why feminism is so divisive in our society is precisely because we, as women, are expected to be one or the other. Either we’re a ninja OR we’re a princess. We can’t be both.

Well to that I ask, why the hell not?

Who says that a strong woman who knows her own mind and wants to be treated like a whole human being can’t also do so while being pretty? Maybe it’s because I grew up in the time of Girl Power when strong and independent women were all over the media. I grew up with Buffy, the Spice Girls, and Xena. My Disney Princesses were strong and confident; they didn’t NEED a man, but they also weren’t opposed to the idea when love presented itself to them. I never was made to feel like being a strong woman ultimately meant that I couldn’t also have true love. Dressing pretty or sexy wasn’t about attracting a man, it was about dressing to accentuate the parts of me that I was proud of. I liked my long legs, so I wore skirts. I loved the look (and sound) of heels so I wore those too. I put on makeup every once in a while because the eye shadows and lipsticks made my eyes pop and my rosebud lips stood out more. I didn’t do it for a man or for anyone else but ME! I never followed the crowd and I grew into a strong, independent woman AND I stood firm on my feminist viewpoint, all while wearing pink and being super “girlie”. So it is just so perplexing to me that so many women get pissed off whenever the “girl’s version” of anything is pink or ultra feminine.

Give me the male version of this toy and paint it in these colors, and I’m happy.

Now I know what a lot of women are going to say on this subject. The argument is always that girls’ versions of things are always pink and flowery and that it’s sexist. A lot of feminists are pegged as hating “princess culture” too. But I just don’t get that. I am feminist and I am also a princess. I love pink and pretty things. When I wear heels and put on lipstick I feel powerful. I feel like nothing and no one can intimidate me, and indeed the sound of my heels clicking on the pavement can sound pretty intimidating.

But recently there was another outrage in the feminist community over some halloween costumes at Value Village. The male version of the costume (which was only “male” due to the fact that a boy was modeling it in the picture) was what a typical firefighter/police officer would wear. The female version was a dress. Now, I agree the skirt shouldn’t have been that short on a little girl. That was my husband’s initial thought too when he saw that outfit, however he was confused as to what was “wrong” with the little boy’s outfit, because it looked fine and he didn’t get why they were even showing it next to the girl’s version. I explained that it wasn’t really about the shortness of the skirt, but the fact that the costumes for boys and girls were “different” at all. And honestly, I think that even if the costumes had been the same style-wise, but the girl’s one had been pink, that would have caused outrage too. And that’s where you lose me. Had that skirt been made longer and the outfit itself a little less sexualized, then I would have said it was perfectly appropriate. Because who says that a little girl who wants to dress up as a police officer can’t look like Officer Jenny without getting flack for it?
Well, okay, maybe not EXACTLY like Officer Jenny. 
But you get what I’m saying, right? We should be allowed to pick the pretty version if that’s the one we like better and not have any judgment. It should STILL be an option, regardless of whether or not other women want to be “pretty”. Because I know that for me, I would like to have that option available. When I was a tween I wore a flouncy skirt over my gym shorts because I liked the “cheerleader” look better than the athletic look. The other kids gave me a lot of flack for it but I didn’t care. Technically I had shorts on underneath and the skirt was one I could easily run and jump in, so what was the harm? After all, it was no different than something a cheerleader would wear, and I hated gym class as it was. So if I HAD to participate in sports I wanted to do so on my own terms, in my own way, and being a “princess” made the whole hour much more enjoyable. So who was I hurting?
Once again it comes down to choice. And in this case, if I’m choosing between a “normal” version of a Halloween costume and the prettified, princess version, I will pick the skirt and heels every time. I’m not picking the skirt and heels because of any sense that I’m “supposed to” and I’m not picking it because it’s the only “appropriate” option. I’m doing it because I LIKE the skirt and heels. Does that mean I’m not really feminist? No. Does it make me any less opposed to oppression? Absolutely not. But a lot of the things I like get attacked constantly. Whenever a “girl” version of anything is made, people complain about it. They get so pissed off that there is a pink version of something that has no business being pink in the first place. There was a “training to be Batman’s wife” tee shirt and people lost their shit over it. Now I think that there should have also been an option to BE Batman, which would have made it more equal, but you know, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be Batman’s wife. Batman is pretty attractive. That’s why Catwoman loves him. And hey, here’s a thought, why not give us Wonder Woman and Catwoman as options too? Why does “princess” automatically mean “sexist”?
I’d explain what’s wrong with this assumption but that would take another blog post.

Personally I think that there’s nothing wrong with the princess version. It’s cute. But I do agree about equality. So here’s a thought! Why not include more “neutral” colors for little girls in the color palet? Why not have jewel tones or earth tones mixed in with the pink stuff? Why not keep the Nerf guns all together in the same section without a label saying that the colors are for boys or girls? Why not include pink and purple as simple color options the way that Nintendo has a non-gender specific way of including pink and purple controllers and game consoles? Why not just get the “boy” version for your daughter of the Halloween costume? Boy and girl clothes really don’t fit any differently, after all. And how about we have some non gendered costumes thrown in as well, and then let people choose which one they like best. Even if it means she likes the princess version better. And if she says she wants to marry Batman (or any male superhero/prince/male icon) that doesn’t mean she’s going to be a weak willed woman. I think it’s pretty obvious by now (or it should be) that strong women can and DO fall in love. I mean, unless these anti-princess women are all conceiving through immaculate conception then they have obviously found value in being a wife and mother, right? I can’t be the only woman who feels this way, can I?

It’s time we stop automatically assuming that being a princess means we aren’t empowered. It’s actually quite insulting to tell us that we can’t be strong and empowered and still embrace some of the more feminine/domestic aspects of ourselves.

I am a feminist. I also enjoy being a stay at home mom.

I believe women should be paid the same wage for the same work and not be fired or overlooked for a position simply because they might want kids someday. I also don’t have any desire to work outside the home while raising my children.

I am outraged by rape culture. I also enjoy dressing sexy for myself and my hubby.

I am a strong, independent woman with a mind of her own. I also have no problem with my husband wanting to help me or protect me.

I believe that women do not “need” a man to save them. I also believe that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to find your prince.

That’s the beauty of true empowerment! I don’t feel like I need to be one or the other; I don’t have to choose between the two sides of myself. Indeed I can be a warrior AND a princess, and no one is going to tell me I can’t. My only hope is for that little girl on the playground to stay strong in her convictions that she can be a ninja princess, and maybe teach her dad the lesson that so many people need to learn. Maybe we can’t “have it all”, but we should at least be free to choose our own paths; even if that means we prefer to fight our battles in a skirt and high heels.