Once upon a time (in 1937, to be exact), the slender, perfect-skinned Snow White became the first Disney princess. Since then, Disney’s become much more than a household name. Little girls everywhere look to Disney princesses as models of femininity, but are we sure these are the women we want our girls to become?
In our quest for alternative female role models, we’ve stumbled across The Guardian Princesses. This strong and culturally diverse group of ladies is out to give Snow White, Aurora and Ariel a run for their money.
Sure, Disney princesses have become a little more diverse lately, but I just can’t shake the feeling that they’re doing it just to appease critics rather than to give girls heroes they can actually relate to. Princesses like Brave’s Merida are much more active than the archetypal Disney princess, but that doesn’t change the fact that Disney tried to princess-ify her figure after the fact to sell more merchandise to the dismay of moms who thought their daughters had finally found a more realistic princess to look up to.
With such an evident need for strong, down-to-earth role models, Setsu Shigematsu of University of California, Riverside wrote a princess story for her kids that provided a much better representation of what they could grow up to be. Her story grew in popularity among children and parents alike, who pushed her to self-publish an entire series of princess books.
In order to better guide the mission and direction of the book series, Shigematsu formed the Guardian Princess Alliance, a group of educators, professionals, artists and parents who want to “transform the cultural meaning of the princesses into inspiring leaders who take action to protect the people and the planet.”
The problems the Guardian Princesses face also help girls connect to the stories, since they are modeled after relevant issues facing society. In the first of the series, Princess Vinnea and the Gulavores, the main character is of African ancestry and is the guardian of plant life. In her story, she has to fight off evil food grown by magic in order to save her kingdom. Moms like that the underlying message highlights the importance of naturally grown food and girls love the simple, compelling storytelling and the pretty outfits.
The books are designed to meet the common core K-12 curriculum that’s been adopted in 45 states, so they’re both ethically and academically solid. The Guardian Princess Alliance hopes to “encourage our children to aspire to be great leaders while simultaneously addressing the pragmatic needs of parents and teachers by aligning our books with the Common Core.”
Two more books are scheduled to be released following the debut of Princess Vinnea and the Gulavores in January, and all three can be pre-purchased through the Guardian Princesses website.
Here’s hoping we can provide our girls the tools they need to grow into strong, innovative leaders.