Why it's perfectly fine for an independent woman to seek Prince Charming and a happily ever after.
By Kascha Adeleye on March 27, 2015
As I was growing up, Saturday mornings were spent watching my favorite Disney princesses touch poisonous spindles, lay in deep sleeps awaiting true love’s kiss, AND going to war to fight the Huns in ancient China, I might add. So, naturally, when the live-action Cinderella released last week, I wanted to be the first one in line to see our generation’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale. SPOILER ALERT: Cinderella marries the prince and goes on to live happily ever after. Well, okay, not really a spoiler because you knew that already, didn’t you?
As I sat with my husband, my own Prince Charming, choosing movie times, I came across articles ranting about the idea of taking their little girls to see a movie about a damsel in distress, a modern-day anti-feminist, a princess. I asked myself, when did we become so anti-Cinderella, so anti-Prince Charming, and dare I say it, so anti-happily ever after? When did we begin to equate quiet, strong, and seeking partnership with a man of equal standing with weakness? With a movie like Disney’s Frozen that explores the idea of “sisters save themselves” and pre-adolescent feminism, is there still a place in today’s world for the princess who is rescued at the end of the story? I venture to say that there is and should always be.
Have Courage, Be Kind
As Cinderella’s mother lay dying of a mysterious illness, she tells her to always have courage and to be kind. This mantra is one that Cinderella repeats constantly to herself throughout the story, and one we can all be sure she is challenged to do when she is faced with a stepmother and stepsisters who treat her like the bottom of a shoe; or worse, a piece of half-chewed gum stuck on the back of a theater chair that came from the bottom of a shoe. As her stepmother rips the sleeves of a vintage dress passed down to her by her mother, Cinderella does not reach up and smack her, or even say an unkind word. Her quiet strength and resilience is breathtaking. Despite it all, she never loses faith in fairy godmothers and hope. This simple example of Cinderella’s courage is proof enough that she was not a weak girl, and I can tell you for certain she was stronger than I would have been.
The True Strength of Cinderella
At no point in the story of Cinderella does she shout out saying, “I need a man to come and save me from this house, and I need him to do it quickly.” Her entire existence up until the point of losing her glass slipper at the ball is to salvage the memories of her mother and father that she lost as a child and to honor their home. She works to keep the house clean and all of the animals cared for because she knows her evil stepmother and stepsisters will not lift a finger to do it. Interestingly enough, she does this without complaint. To compare to the women of today’s world, we constantly work and take care of the home, often without complaint. Most of us even do it with full-time jobs, whether that be teaching kindergartners in a classroom, saving patients in the ER, or taking care of our own children at home. It is rare that we call out and say, “Honey, could you do this for me?” We do it, we don’t complain. Like Cinderella, we make the sacrifices we have to in order to make our home a comfortable place for all who live there. To summarize, there was no poor, helpless, little Cinderella seeking to be saved by the prince. She was holding down the fort and doing it all alone.
Prince Charming Seeks His Equal
This next line may shock the faint of heart, so make sure you’re sitting down for this. Prince Charming was NOT looking for a princess. Okay, if you made it through that, hear me out. He was looking for an equal to himself that would be able to manage the kingdom with him once his father passed away. Prince Charming fights with his father to ensure that all maidens were invited to the ball because he believed that the woman of his dreams could come in any form, not just royalty. He was not looking to save the girl, he was looking for a woman who could stand on her own and help to save his small and weak dynasty. With such a daunting task, let’s suffice it to say that Prince Charming wasn’t looking for someone weak of heart with little to no ideas; he was seeking quite the opposite. And whom does he find? Cinderella. And she becomes the queen that would save the kingdom with him by her side.
I think the true idea of feminism, at its core, is having choice. The choice to be who you want to be and do the things you want to do is the root of what women are constantly fighting for. It does not mean rejecting everything it means to be a girl. Our girls today have many options, but if we want to provide unlimited possibilities, we cannot begin to limit them at their most vulnerable stage. For our little girls, this comes in the form of choosing whether to wear overalls or that princess Halloween costume that your mom is sick of washing over and over again. Feminism and fairy tales do not have to be in constant battle. So what if you still believe in a happily ever after, Prince Charming riding on a valiant steed, and fairy godmothers? You can still fight for equality of the sexes, equal wages, stopping sex trafficking, and even still be a part of the Beyhive (to each her own). The desire to live happily ever after with your own personal Prince Charming doesn’t stop you from being all those things.