Princesses and Feminism

Full disclosure: I am a bit sick of Frozen. I thought it was ok, but I think I’ve read so many indulgent lifestyle articles in serious newspapers that talk endlessly about the author and their children that I’m just fatigued.

There was one that caught my attention this week, though, because I think it’s the peak of the trend: Peak Elsa, if you will: Jane Merrick in the Indepedent: Little Girls Dressing up as Elsa are the future of Feminism.

The future of feminism? Yes, Frozen was good in terms of bucking the traditional princess trend. It was actually about sisterhood instead, which made a nice change. It’s good for girls to aspire to be independent and strong, and not wait for a prince to save them. However, feminism is surely about more than your personal choices.

My neighbours on either side of me on my street have little girls who are obsessed, like every other little girl (and grown woman) with Frozen. Part of the reason I’m a bit ambivalent about the cartoon is because most mornings I am jolted awake by some discordant yelling singing of the theme song Let it Go as they get ready for school. Last weekend I got chatting to my neighbour about her home repairs. She remarked on how the women on my ethnically diverse and international London street, mostly single mothers, help each other out – from babysitting to house watching to school runs and all the little things that you need your neighbours to help with. I like to think I play my part.

I reflected on how wonderful it is when women work together; how each of us have such diverse stories and how much we all learn from each other. How we’re doing life together on this street. Those little girls dressed up as Elsa have an opportunity, living in one of London’s most diverse and not particularly affluent boroughs, to learn about issues to do with immigration, equal pay, refugees, childcare, the environment, human rights, homelessness, racial equality, and so much more. I hope that they learn not only that they aren’t little princesses that need saving, but how hard it is for the single mothers on the street to find affordable childcare. The immigrant stories of the women who weren’t born here and in some cases may have had their immigration status imperilled when their marriages broke down; access to services for refugee women – things that feminists should be fighting for. Women that other women should be taking up for.

Every street is different. But this is London; you don’t have to go far to find someone bumping up against an infrastructure that does women (and many men) no good. We need to dismantle it, smash it. Little girls can learn about it (and take part!) dressed up as Elsa; we just need to show them that it’s bigger than their lives; it’s about the women (and girls) who made that dress too.




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