Art Share: A Princess Serves Her People

This is a sample from my Her Highness scrapbook kit.
I love princesses, but my idea of what a princess is and what she does seems to be at odds with the popular culture concept of “Princess.” Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 80s.

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I watched the early Disney Princess movies, but my first, strongest association with the concept of a princess has always been Leia Organa. Second to her is Diana Spencer, real-life princess who was frequently in the news throughout the 80s for her charity work and involvement in social causes. Wonder Woman was the first princess that I spent long periods of time watching and following over different media, and when I was a little older there was She-Ra. She-Ra was a princess who gave up a life of comfort and ease to lead a rebellion.

So, I thought of princesses as powerful, smart, politically savvy women women with hearts for service and devotion to others. They were beautiful, graceful, and command a room, but all of that was secondary to the things they did in the world. Somewhere along the way, though, I started to get the message that princesses were dumb. They were about dresses in fashion and tiaras and tea parties, and that those types of things were too “girly” to be taken seriously. I internalized a message that you couldn’t like princesses if you also liked trucks. You couldn’t be “a tomboy” and like princesses at the same time. You also couldn’t like princesses if you liked to read or considered yourself to be “smart” in any way.

It took me a long time to work through these ideas, most of which I now realize came from the way we aggressively gender and market certain concepts to children. Disney’s Renaissance in the 90s helped a lot, but I was probably in my 20s before I had finally work through all of my complicated thoughts and feelings about princesses and realized that I could make up my own mind about princesses, and that I could like stereotypically “girly” things while still identifying as a tough, smart woman and also enjoying things that are marketed as “masculine.”

I’ve written about this before, but never really on my own blog, and I wanted to share all of this because it filters into how I represent women in my art. It was central in my thoughts as I was putting together the Her Highness kit. It’s why I want to focus the kit on the lifestyle of a fantasy princess rather than on fashion or a color theme.

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