My Problem With Princesses

Image By Rebecca Angel.

50 Shades of Grey goes back to Twilight, which goes back to the bodice-ripper romance novels, which goes back to our fairy tales of young, beautiful princesses who need to be taken care of by a powerful man. The song “I Will Save Myself” refers to princesses in fairy tales who annoy me as much as Bella. My two children are teens and I can only hope I instilled a strong sense of self and independence. Now that I have two nieces of elementary age, I’m still worried about our culture and the lure of being the sparkly “princess.”

I wasn’t really into princesses growing up. I loved Star Wars, and yes, Princess Leia was cool, but I really wanted to be Luke. I wanted to be the one who everyone counted on to save the day. I like that there are powerful women in stories, girls who are main characters; my problem is that it’s considered odd or there’s only one cool girl character to every 10 cool boys.

I wanted to be awesome and not singled out because I’m an awesome girl. If the continual challenge of a girl in stories is to prove she is as good as any man, that’s not high enough for me.

My favorite book growing up was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Except the main character isn’t a princess. It was what her father called her; it became a part of who she was, who she wanted to be. She defined a princess as someone who had the privilege to be generous. Even when her resources were gone, she acted like her father’s definition of a princess. Although this is certainly a “Cinderella” story, the main character is active in fixing her situation. Sarah in that book was another character I wanted to be, much more than any princesses in fairy tales.

In Disney, which has its hands in every facet of media aimed at children, the princess factor is still going strong. In every princess story I know, they are very pretty (and if they are not, that’s the point of the story). I found it annoying as a child. As an adult in the entertainment biz, I completely understand the need for pretty visuals, but I was never a pretty girl, and so I couldn’t relate.

I had a pretty sister who became embarrassed and neurotic about people commenting on her beauty. I felt bad for her, and I was glad to fly under the radar and do my own thing. (This, of course, wasn’t how I felt as a teenager, but that’s a different topic.) So these princesses were pretty (not me), were considered the top of their social heap (not me), and had a lot of money (not me, again). I had more in common with boy characters than any princesses in books and movies.

I know the point of these kind of tales is to fantasize about being someone completely different from yourself. But I liked myself. I had a very healthy self-esteem as a young girl and had no desire to be someone else. I wanted to be me—just more awesome. I liked books and movies that gave me the tools to help me become what I could envision would be the best Becca. Or at least, pretend to be, if I had superpowers. So I needed characters that I could see myself in.

Somewhere in my later childhood years, mainstream media (Disney) did start to reflect different cultures and attitudes towards women, but I think the whole thing became even more ridiculous. Now, they weren’t just pretty, kind, and rich (by the end), but were also clever, strong-willed, and sometimes could fight. And they were princesses?

Does being a princess help the character achieve a goal?

Maybe the definition of a princess has changed. From the press coverage, modern-day royalty hardly live a fairy tale life. Princesses, then and now, are tied to convention, their social class, their money. Their stories have to involve breaking girl stereotypes because the princess one is so ingrained in our culture. Maybe there needs to be some other role our little girls can live up to. There are fantastic stories out there, traditional and new; stories that involve girl protagonists who are both intelligent and kick-ass. They don’t have to be a princess to succeed.

Maybe the entertainment world can learn from A Little Princess: it’s not the title, money, or looks that makes someone a princess, but your character, integrity, and strength.

Passion and History in ‘She Makes Comics’

Image by Respect! Films

Being a geek is becoming more and more mainstream. Yet there are still stereotypes of what makes a geek a “geek.” Being a comic book fan is a quintessential sign, and often linked to the old-school idea of socially-inept, single guys. For women who proclaim their love of comics (like me), it’s just…strange.

But that is changing. I was just invited to a Fan Girls Night Out at my local comic store by another mom who is also into comics. There are more of us than you realize. And although it may seem new to the mainstream world, it is far from abnormal. The history of women in comics as both fans and within the industry stretches back to the beginning.

The new documentary She Makes Comics is an eye-opening and heartfelt look at women within the history of comics, and I highly recommend watching it. The film is directed by Marisa Stotter and produced by Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect!Films. It is executive produced by Sequart’s Julian Darius and Mike Phillips and by Columbia University comics librarian Karen Green. It is a series of interwoven interviews of passionate people with different roles and points of view. My teenage son and I watched it together, finding it informative and entertaining.

Did you know that women and men made up equal numbers of comic book readership before the 1950s? American comics were about many topics, had various settings, and reflected every possible interest. By the ’70s, women readers started to drop off dramatically, partly due to the focus on male superheroes as the best-seller comic book theme, as well as the feminist movement awakening a generation of women who were tired of the same “wedding bliss” ending. An underground women’s comic movement began, and it was fascinating listening to the creators talk about it on camera: both the excitement and the fears.

Several women really changed the comic book world, from Wendy Pini, the original chain-mail bikini awesome cosplayer who then created ElfQuest, to Janette Kahn, former publisher of DC who broke the glass ceiling, to Gail Simone, notable comic writer, and author of Women in Refrigerators, an unapologetic look at how female characters are unfairly treated in comic stories, to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the creator of the hugely popular female Captain Marvel, and many more.

How do women get into comics in the first place? Better comics. The consensus of the interviewees was: Give us a variety of women featured, complex characters, and in-depth storytelling. As an X-Men fan, it was cool to know how many other women in this film cited that series as their turn-on to the whole genre. The fact that the male creator of the series had two female editors makes sense. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was another “gateway” comic, again, with a female editor. In fact, that editor, Karen Berger, is credited with developing the talents of some of the biggest names in comics for the past several decades.

I personally got into comics in the 1990s, and was quite alone. I took my two young children to the comic book store and was the only female there, let alone a mother. I found it interesting to hear about that time period. The film talked about how more women were getting into the creative side of comics then, but still not equally represented by a long-shot. The industry was not welcome to women or women-centered stories, but also, women are not as confidant in promoting themselves.

Comics used to be sold in supermarkets and bookstores, but then only in specific comic stores that were (and mostly still are) very much a bachelor den of boob posters and all-male staff who assume a girl is only there because she is dating a comic book fan. In 1994, a support organization for women in comics was created called Friends of Lulu which put out a book helping comic book stores understand how to attract more females to their stores—why shut out the biggest consumers in the country? The internet ushered in a huge change. This has given women a place to connect, collaborate, and share their love of comics. The film also mentions the influence of the manga craze during that time as well, with comics targeted to girls.

There is so much to this film, but what stood out to me most was the passion of the people interviewed, and the range of ages. I loved hearing from the elder pioneers in the industry, as well as the younger talents of today. Inspiring the next generation of comic creators came up a lot, and is something I support wholeheartedly. Everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever medium suits them best, boys and girls. Check out the film!

She Makes Comics is now available to order on DVD and as a digital download at

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer…Psyke

Yesterday the Internet went (rightfully) crazy because Barbie released a book (and we are just noticing now?) called Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer. Unfortunately, there isn’t one thing about it that could possibly go over well with the female tech community, or the entire tech community, really.

image courtesy of Mattel

In the book, Barbie is creating a game. Some have taken umbrage with the fact that it is the stereotypical sort of game with cute fluffy animals that typifies what society thinks girls are into. This didn’t bother me so much. While I may be the Halo master in my house, my daughter certainly likes the cute fluffy animal games, so whatever. People also nitpicked about the heart shaped flash drive but I have something similar, so stop judging.

It was the part of the book where Barbie giggles and explains that she is only designing the game and she needs the boys to come in and actually do the work. I could go on about the stupidity of the information presented, or the offensive idea that girls only care about design, music collections, and pillow fights, but plenty of others have dissected this book online.

The real issue is that Barbie had an opportunity here. Mattel has extraordinary resources, both financial and collaborative, and could have partnered with a myriad of women in tech who know what they are talking about to produce a book that would have sold out. It would have been a best seller. It could have made a huge impact. It could have been as socially responsible and empowering as Barbie says they are. It was the perfect chance to create  a catalyst between computer engineering and Barbie fans, showing that technology and femininity are not mutually exclusive. And they failed. They failed at something that should have been obvious and achievable.

Today, Barbie issued this apology:

The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.

 In my opinion, PR Barbie and Product Design Barbie should be ashamed. 2010 is NOT THAT LONG AGO. While it’s doubtful they will pull the book, the Internet ( as usual) is fixing it or remixing it.

Whether or not Barbie is able to repair the damage they have done to public trust, there are other options for girls to express their interest in programming like through the workbooks from Hello Ruby, playing with Robot Girl Lottie, and participating in The Hour of Code.

There are so many programs, toys, experiences, and mentors available. My hope is that Barbie will take this situation and do what women actually do when they are faced with a challenge. Instead of handing it off to the boys, they will apologize, learn from their mistake, and then rise to evolve and adapt.

11 Things Only Parents of Girls Will Understand

Girl, and Perfectly Dirty. Photo credit: Ariane Coffin.
Girl, and Perfectly Dirty. Photo credit: Ariane Coffin.

One GeekMom shared with me this wonderful article in the Huffington Post, 11 Things Only Parents of Boys Will Understand.

First of all, let me say I think the title is great! If the author had titled it “11 Things Parents of Boys Will Understand,” then that might have left some ambiguity that parents of girls could potentially understand some of these points. That extra “only” really drives the point home, parents of girls can not, could never understand what it’s like for their child to love Star Wars or ruin her clothes. Bravo, bravo. {Slow clap} Well done.

Inspired by that stroke of genius, I decided that, as a mother of two girls, I should write a list of all the fantastic things about stereotyping genders raising girls! Without further ado, let’s get fallacied.

1. Barbie is akin to a religion. It’s a universal truth, all girls love Barbie! And, of course, only parents of girls could possibly understand this because 100% of boys hate dolls. I know this is true because I’ve seen a boy in a park once and he didn’t like dolls, ergo all boys hate dolls. Extrapolating data is awesome!

2. Girls give the shittiest hugs. Girls always have a hidden agenda. If your daughter gives you an unsolicited hug, question it. Post haste! She either did something wrong or she wants something from you, you just need to figured out which.

3. Girls don’t fart. Which also leads to another excellent point—girls are not funny.

4. Girls always listen. It’s a fabulous blessing to have girls because they are fantastic listeners. Girls have evolved great listening skills, first of all because they talk so much, and also to better serve their husbands. It’s been proven in that one study by that one person, you know, the study. There’s been a study so it’s totally true. I don’t feel the need to include any link to it, because it’s so true it might as well be called an axiom.

Bonus: Great listening leads to better obedience skills, training your new girl should be a breeze.

5. Everything will be covered in glitter. Seriously. Everything. All girls things come covered in glitter. When girls sweat, it is infused with glitter. Glitter will be on all your furniture, on your face, on every item of clothing that enters your house, and your family will leave a trail of glitter wherever you go. On the other hand, it is illegal for boys to use glitter in any respectable preschool so parents of boys couldn’t possibly understand this.

6. All pink, all the time. Girls see pink and their ovaries cry out “I must have it!” in unison. No other color exists. Period.

7. Girls are so clean, you could practically eat off their toilet seats. Because they lack a penis with which to miss aim, girls have impeccable bathrooms. Little girls take great time and effort to perfectly roll up appropriately-sized pads of toilet paper with which to wipe their bottoms, and they will wipe with equal care. You know what you will never find in your daughters’ bathrooms? An un-flushed toilet with giant mounds of toilet paper in it, poop streaks on the toilet seat, and more dirty mounds of toilet paper… On. The. Freaking. Floor.

8. Girls are poised. Thank goodness parents of girls don’t have to worry about things like rough-housing, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue about how to handle that! Girls say “yes, please” and “no, thank you,” unlike boys who will belch in your face while ripping the flesh off their fresh-killed dinner with their teeth. Did you know boys climb rocks and play in *gags a little* mud? Oh my goodness precious.

9. My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake. It will be one or the other. There is absolutely not a frozen snowball’s chance in hell that a girl would not like either of those. There’s also no chance that she would like both, that’s crazy-pants. Choose now, and choose wisely, because there will be a quiz. Be wary of self-proclaimed “bronies,” they are boys who like My Little Pony and will surely grow up to become sexual predators who roofies girls at high school parties.

10. There’s nothing worse than nudity. You know what my girls hate? Being naked. They despise the liberating feeling of running around bare-bottom in the backyard. It’s a huge problem, really, because shopping for girls is so complicated, what with the corsets and all those different types of bustles!

Thank goodness girls keep their clothes immaculate with all that poised sitting around, that way I don’t have to shop for their various accoutrements so often. How outrageous this world would be if little girls came home with grass stains on their knees, or holes in their clothes! Not at the price I’m paying for that beautiful pink lace dress, little girl! Now go back inside to your lady-like hobbies, where you belong.

11. Girls are back-stabbing bitches. Oh my goodness, you guys, I have to break character here. I can’t even come up with worse bullshit than this author’s come up with herself for number 11 “Boys love unconditionally.”

I can’t build up on it, it’s top level crap. She writes, I kid you not, the following: “When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your son simply loves you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son simply loves you. When you teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son simply loves you.” Yes, because if there’s anything parents of boys have told me it’s that their kids never ask them to leave them alone! And I was all like “whoa, I had no idea only girls could be brats!”

It’s so true, you guys.

If you’re all as fed up with these stereotypes as I am, here are 11 things only parents of real children will understand.

1. Anything your children love will be akin to religion.

2. Being grateful for the privileges your child will have as a first-world citizen. 

3. Children give the best hugs.

4. Farts are funny. If you’re three years old.

5. Being a parent is dirty work.

6. Anything can, and will, become a toy.

7. Children are physical.

8. Human beings (of any age) don’t listen.

9. Marvel versus DC. Luckily you never have to pick.

10. Every child is unique.

11. Children love unconditionally.