In continued celebration of Women’s History Month, author Jody Smith (she wrote the inspirational and beautiful feminist fairytale, Princess Monroe and Her Happily Ever After) explains why the fairytales too many little girls are brought up with had to be fractured. And she was ready to be the one to do the fracturing. This is important in Women’s History Month because these young girls will grow up to be the women of our future – confident, bold, intelligent, strong, curious, imaginative, powerful, happy, and whatever they choose to be. I am forever grateful for having met Jody and have gifted her book to the Princess Monroes within my own family.
I did it too. I read my girls Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. We watched all the movies, collected all the toys and went to the royal castle in Orlando. I did it too! But I was asleep. Vacillating between coffee and wine, shuttling kids to daycare, rushing to work and staring at vertical piles of dirty laundry in every empty corner of my house, I was on autopilot.
I am grateful every day my body made me sick and it screamed so loud I gave up everything I knew and left. I closed my business, left my parents and friends of 20 years, moved across the country and planted in a small town in Minnesota. I still rushed. I remodeled, I PTA’d, I found ways to stay busy, to keep the pace. I didn’t know how to slow down. When school ended, the sun shone in summer, it was the first time I was present with my girls for an entire day. I bathed in it. Something in me stopped running. I got quiet and started paying attention.
We had tea parties in the grass and played spy games. We did science experiments and had fashion shows. We wrote songs and built race tracks for hours until bedtime. At night I would watch them take a bath with their princess bubbles and get dressed in their tulle princess nightgowns. We would lay in bed like three peas in a pod anxious to read a riveting princess story. Our imaginations wide open, negotiations in place for who got to choose the book. But it didn’t matter what book they picked, the stories were all the same.
Girl is born a princess and is probably blonde, her mother or step-mother tricks her or treats her terribly. She is at the lowest point in her life, the prince swoops in to save her, they get married and live happily ever after. I used to read these stories ALL the time, but now something was different. I was awake.
Oh hell no. NO.
In my brain, I’m recollecting the fun we had that day experimenting with science, writing plays and killing it on obstacle courses. We enjoyed being together and a significant chunk of that time was spent teaching the girls how to speak up for themselves, how their differences make them beautiful and how to “listen to their tummies” when making a decision. I was not raising damsels in distress, I was raising warriors.
“Get quiet,” I would say. “What is your heart saying it wants to do? We will do that.”
Now I was awake.
I started listening to advertisements with razor-like focus. Girls like pink and purple, boys are tough. Girls want to play with jewelry, make-up and tiaras to be pretty, boys play with toys to get smart.
Oh hell no. NO.
I started looking at billboards and magazines, recognizing the weight of the pressure I put on myself my entire life to be like everyone else. I wanted to be smart, but not too smart. Pretty, but not too pretty. Sexy, but not slutty. Don’t be too loud or have opinions. As Alessia Cara says “sit still and look pretty.” I heard, be perfect.
Oh hell no. NO.
This fury started rising within me and the only antidote to fury is action. I vowed that day, the beautiful day I woke up, this would not happen to my girls, not any girls on my watch. So, we started looking for different books. We found some like The Paper Bag Princess, The Princess Knight, Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots, and Rebel Girls. I obsessed over every piece of information I let them take in.
But my girls craved the fairytale.They LOVED the dresses, the crowns and the fanciness of it all. There was only one option, I had to write a book. I decided to fracture the fairytale. The beginning and the end remained the same, but the middle was rewritten. The old story is boring. I’m bored with mothers and daughters in competition and power struggles. I’m bored with anything external swooping in to create a happily ever after. Anyone who is awake knows in this story there is only one heroine, one person who can make it end happily ever after. And that, my friends, is the princess herself.
I am on a mission to help girls own their power from a young age when they still believe in themselves. It may disappear for a moment or a couple of years, but they will know it’s there, dormant, ready for them to take ownership at any time. The world needs them. We need them to figure out exactly who they are and pursue their dreams. And Mamas, yes, I’m talking to you, if you take this journey together, you just might find some power you’ve lost along the way too.