Why Boys Need a Little More 'Princess Power' in Their Lives

Mom Moment 38

toddler jasperHow is "princess culture" working out -- for our sons? Blogger Dresden Shumaker says it leaves boys behind for all the wrong reasons. Moms may love the female empowerment messages girls are getting now: You can be anything! You can be frilly and pink, and you can be strong and adventurous. It's an exciting message for girls to get -- but are we giving boys the same breadth of possibilities?

"Within modern girl power, there seems to be a message that girls are better than boys," Shumaker says. "Boys are BAD. Boys are MEAN. Boys are silly, weak, stupid, clueless, rough." But her son is none of those things -- and these messages confuse him. When it comes to boys, apparently you cannot be "anything you want to be." At least, not if you want to be a tutu-wearing Dora the Explorer.

I agree with Schumaker that this is a major limitation of raising a boy. We've written about little boys who like to wear dresses before, and of the awful social stigma they face. But there's more to it than that. (And anyway, isn't wearing pink kind of a shallow measure of gender equality?)

While we encourage girls to be strong and powerful, do we also get to encourage boys to be emotionally expressive, sensitive, and caring? I don't necessarily agree that this new power-princess culture is bad for boys. And here's why: Because I think boys are starting to relate to these exciting female characters.

I've practically raised my son on Hayao Miyazaki movies (Ponyo, Spirited Away), which often feature strong female protagonists. And of course he's seen other movies like Brave. At first I liked these movies because I hoped my son would learn to see girls as equally adventurous and powerful as boys. Like he needed to get that from movies! He's surrounded by empowered girls.

But here's the surprising thing. In identifying a little with these female characters, he's also picked up some of their more traditionally feminine characteristics, too. The way these characters care about others, the way they form alliances, the way they get to express a whole range of emotions, including hurt and weakness -- that's a part of the new princess culture that's benefited my son.

Now I have a little boy who will readily admit, "I'm sensitive." And even though he cries easily, I treasure that. I'm so grateful he feels free to admit that he's sensitive without feeling like that makes him less of, well, a boy. Would I love to see more male characters express fear, sadness, vulnerability, loyalty, dependence, stylishness, and compassion? Of course! But I've been surprised at how readily my son will identify with certain female characters.

In the video below, "I'm a Princess" (okay, it's a Disney commercial, but I love it), you see all kinds of girls and all the amazing, powerful things that girls are. I want my son to identify with all of those characteristics, too: Brave, scared, loyal, trusting, kind, generous, compassionate, tightly bound to family, and yes, even beautiful. I watched the video and imagined my son saying the same things -- and it took my breath away. We're waiting for a new kind of Prince Charming -- one for our sons.

Do you feel like "princess power" is harmful to boys?


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ethan... ethans_momma06

I think it's sad that we have to somehow tie a boy having emotions into so indoctrination from Disney Movies.
Is there some reason he's not being shown those ranges of emotions at home?

Who's to say that your boy wouldn't be able to catagorize himself as "sensitive" without them- or that he would be different without them?

What's harmful to me, is that we seemingly rely on media to influence our childrens upbrining. That we believe that for our sons to be emotionally healthy, to rock the world however they want- that we have to instill some form of feminity in them.

nonmember avatar Nobi206

Seriously what kind of agenda are you people trying to push on the future men of our society?

tuffy... tuffymama

Hallelujah! I'm not be only one. Woohoo to the first two comments! No child needs PRINCESS POWER. There is a reason why there are only a few real princesses, and even they must be perceived as having vocations to be deemed valuable. That's because PRINCESS is no longer a real job on its own. It kills me that little girls are raised to be "princesses." Now little boys should have "princess power," too????? Gag me.

PonyC... PonyChaser

My son watches almost no movies. He reads books with strong male leads. He plays games, using his imagination. He gags when I (jokingly) offer to buy him a princess/barbie doll or something Hello Kitty. Why? Because he's a BOY. He digs BOY stuff... legos, cars, yes, even guns.

But you know what? The other day, I was having one of those days, and at one point, I was just sitting at the table with tears streaming down my face. He came to me, hugged me, quietly got me a glass of milk, and hugged me again. And then he offered to make dinner, because it hadn't been started yet!! (and yes, my 9 year old can cook). And in the process of cheering me up, he looked at me and said, "you know, it's hard to be a mom to a mom!"

And he did it all without "Princess Power". Imagine that.

wamom223 wamom223

Raising your son to emotional and sensitive does not guarantee he will be respectful to woman.  Try raising him to be a gentleman and you'll get better results.  In fact you could be raising a son that is so worried about his own emotions he doesn't care about anybody else's.  I don't rely on TV to teach my son anything because we lead by example in this house.  My son is four and is expected to treat girls like little ladies while respecting what they bring to the table as individuals.  Also I think we do more damage to our young men by telling them that women have all the rights to any children since it comes from their bodies.  It sad that society wants us to raise our boys to support whatever choice their woman makes in terms of their children because when we do this we tell our sons that they are less important.  Society doesn't seem to see the double standard they send with his.  Her body her choice, if she doesn't want to deal with the consequences she can abort.  If the boy doesn't pay child support he is called a dead beat dad even though he's had no choice in the matter of becoming a parent.  And FYI every little girl I knew raised with Princess Power ended up being a huge Bridezilla later in life, just sayin'.

Elizabeth Cloudwalker

The people saying female empowerment is bad are sexist. Remove the stigma and you don't have an issue. If my son wants to wear pink, let him wear pink. If he wants to play with a barbie doll, so be it. If he turns out gay, who cares? I don't. The message of female empowerment is positive, not negative, and it is up to the parents and other adults to explain why the movement is in place - because of the male oppression of women that is still taking place today.

nonmember avatar Liz

I was almost afraid to read the comments to this article, but I'm so relieved that there are other moms out there who are fine with boy being boys!! There is nothing wrong with masculinity, but princess power is becoming a huge problem.

wamom233-Well said!!!!

nonmember avatar Alison

Princess Power VOMIT. My daughter sure as hell will not be a stupid disney princess, she can move out before that will happen under MY roof. Disney princess power is NOT female empowerment after all most still look for completion from their prince charming, gag! And as for boys let them be boys if they don't pick up compassion etc at home you are doing something wrong.

nonmember avatar Rachel

Thumbs up for the first few comments. My little boy is masculine yet sensitive and kind. He treats his mommy and little sisters kindly and sweetly and yet can be rough and tumble boyishly fun. I will not raise him to "identify" with female characters just as I will not have my daughters watching fantasy princesses and cartoons. Give us historical characters with morals and values to emulate. Give us current figures with strength to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. We will emulate those worthy of emulation not a fantasy world.

As far as female "empowerment" is concerned, any empowerment that hurts someone else is not good. In today's society we have a tendency to try to elevate some above others whether or not it's men over women or women over men.
My children will be taught to follow JOY, Jesus, Others, Yourself, in that order. Love God first and put others' needs before one's own needs. That is truly admirable. :)

Christina Harris

The way I am raising my children has NOTHING to do with "princess power." My daughter knows she can do anything she wants (except peeing while standing up)and my son can do anything he wants (except wear dresses, etc.)I think more people need to teach their children how to respect themselves and others. Personally, I also think women need to act more like ladies and men like gentlemen (the part where we are nice to each other and show respect) But that's just my opinion :)

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