If you are a parent with young children, especially daughters, you have no doubt been bombarded with the saturation of Disney Princesses everywhere you turn. They’re online, they’re on your TV, they’re sold in your local stores, they’re everywhere on Halloween, and they seem to be a benchmark in what young girls aspire to. But don’t lose hope, because there are many independent groups and other parents who are sick of the very narrow and unrealistic messages portrayed by the Disney machine (although it IS slowly getting better, props to ‘Frozen’ for that) they have been busy created alternatives for girls to look up to.
Up to a certain age, usually before girls hit the pre-teen time, a parent is the most influential character in their lives so it only makes sense we are seeing a flood of them wanting to empower their girls and boys with messages that aren’t generated from corporations geared to making millions.
We saw it in the ImagineMe storytelling app created by Ricardo Turcios who wanted his daughter to enjoy video games but be the protagonist of her own journey, and create the story herself. We’ve also famously seen how former Stanford Engineer student Debbie Sterling created a product, Goldieblox, to offer a toy that engaged girls in basic engineering skills in order to change the market perception that only men become engineers.
And now we are excited to share with you another product on the children’s market that seeks to break down that Disney Princess mentality that life is all about being pretty and finding prince charming. A group of artists and parents have launched a book called ‘The Princess Who Saved Herself’ and it is getting an overwhelmingly positive response.
The thing that all three products mentioned have in common, is that they launched from a crowd-funding platform. This has become a very popular way to get ideas out there and prove to others the demand for what they are creating.
The Princess Who Saved Herself is the story of barefoot princess Gloria Cheng Epstein Takahara de la Garza Champion who fights evil queens and dragons, loves to eat and play guitar, and most importantly, isn’t looking for a knight in shining armor. The idea for the book started with co-creator Jonathan Coulton who actually wrote a song of the same name a number of years ago in honor of his daughter who he thought was kickass and deserved to have a song which catered to everything she liked.
Both Jonathan and Greg launched a kickstarter a few years ago for a comic book they had written, and the success they had with that gave them the idea to create a book based on Jonathan’s song, which was only supposed to be one of the rewards for the Comic book campaign backers, but turned into a project of its own. The originally wanted to raise $15,000 to fund the project, but instead managed to raise over $111,000 by the end of their campaign!
“I like to think of the book as exploding the princess myth for a new generation of awesome girls,” said Greg in the kickstarter promo video.
They recruited Japanese-Canadian artist Takeshi Miyazawa, Indonesian colorist Jessica Khlolinee, and Simon Bowland who has created lettering for comic books for Marvel to create signature font for this book.
Seeing these dads recognize the importance of giving young girls positive and realistic role models from a young age is so inspiring, and really captures the spirit of what UN Women’s He For She campaign would look like it if were targeted at kids.
Part of the solution to battle gender stereotypes is to engage both men and women to recognize the influence they can have in the life of a young girl. Both Jonathan and Greg express their concern to Buzzfeed as to why this project was important to them.
“When I wrote the song my daughter was very into princesses and pink things, a phase that caught me a little by surprise. I certainly wasn’t pushing the princess agenda on her, she just found it and latched on. It’s always a little weird when you see the evidence of the messages in popular culture having hacked their way into your kid’s brain. So I wanted to tell a story about a little girl who was a princess, but who didn’t need any help — my daughter was also probably in a phase of insisting she could do everything by herself. So the character came from that, and sort of wanting that mindset to last forever,” said Jonathan.
“I also love the idea of parents reading this book to their little boys as well. Fiction is one of the best ways for people of different backgrounds to learn how to identify with and empathize with each other. The idea of boys looking up to the princess as an awesome hero makes me very happy,” said Greg.
With the dominant portrayal of girls and women in the media and literature leaning to more stereotypical characters who aren’t always know as the hero, or the one to “save the day”, both these men love that they can offer something that is counter-culture to what is available on the market.
“Obviously I’m excited that there’s a book with a fantastic female character at the center — really two, counting the witch, who is also pretty awesome. When you have a daughter, you suddenly realize how many stories are about boys, so it’s nice to work against that a little. But my favorite thing about Greg’s adaptation of the story is how he expanded on the princess’s method of solving problems. She faces things head-on, and she solves problems mostly by being a good person with a positive attitude. We could all stand to get better at that,” said Jonathan.
Thanks to a successfully launched campaign which gave the two dads an incredible amount of funds to make this book a reality, if you want to add this to your bookshelf at home, you can order a physical copy online by clicking here.
Or if you wanna learn ‘The Princess Who Saved Herself’ to sing to your daughter, watch the video below. To Greg and Jonathan, we salute you as hero dads! Thank you for giving your daughters and many other girls around the world the ability to visualize themselves as the hero of their own lives.