*An opinion piece written for my Creative Writing 12 class

This is who I am not. I am not perfect. I am not a servant in my own home. I am not naive. I am not defined by my beauty. I am not an object to be won over. I do not need a man to do the saving. My life is not a fairy tale.

Yet, I grew up idolizing princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, and for what exactly? For being weak and waiting for their Prince Charming to come along and sweep them off their feet? Do we want to teach children that the only way for a woman to succeed in life is if a man rescues her? At age four, I was brainwashed into believing in things like love at first sight, which instills the message that beauty is all that matters. In many Disney classics, the prince falls in love with the princess's appearance while disregarding her intelligence, strength, independence, and bravery. When asked what I wanted to be in elementary school, I would say a caregiver, nurturer, mother, or wife because those were the occupations these princesses possessed. While I still aspire to achieve these titles, I was selling myself short. I am creative, and I have ambitions of my own. I am also strong and can stand up for myself. I believe in my intuition and not that of the male figure standing next to me. When given the same question, I say, a teacher, a writer, an artist, a business owner, a role model, all the above and more.

In recent years, I have observed a positive change in the princesses of the 21st century. In 2009, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog became the first black princess featured in a Disney film. For children of colour, having a princess they can identify with gives them the representation that was once lacking. Tiana has ambition and passion as she hopes to open her restaurant one day. But when she kisses the frog and finds herself in trouble, Tiana must navigate the consequences alone. It was refreshing to see a Disney princess who saved herself in the end. In 2012, Merida from Brave broke many traditional princess norms. The film marked the first Disney fairytale to lack a Prince Charming in her storyline. Merida is independent, responsible, and ambitious. She is also wild and charismatic, a future queen without having to be married into royalty. Movies like Tangled, Frozen, and Moana are all just the beginning of something greater for our future. I hope for more representation and more diversity. Let’s allow Disney princesses to inspire generations of children to dream big and believe in themselves. To spark questions of self-identity and exploration. These films must break the gender stereotypes that were so evident in earlier years and provide the youth with powerful female characters to admire.

I want that. I want it for my children. I want it for all the beautiful, strong, smart, independent young girls I have known and loved over the years.

And I want it for the rest of the world too.

I want the world to know us – all of us women – for who we are. To see us in all our complexity, strength, intelligence, and drive. We are not just a pretty face-up for sale for the princes to bid on. We can save ourselves. We have dreams and ambitions of our own.

That is the true portrait of a real-life princess.

An article inspired by the style of A Case of Severe Bias by Patricia Raybon

Written by Keira Johannson

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