by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 09 September 2007)
Whether it is the older stories of Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast or the newer tales of Aladdin with Jasmine and the Little Mermaid, every single one of these fairy tales end with the princess, or rather the damsel in distress, being saved by a handsome young prince.
What is a girl to conclude from these wonderfully woven bedtime stories but that as women we will only be happy when a prince comes to save us from horrible lives as single women and sweep us away to the land of happily ever afters.
Spinster. That is one of the names given to a woman who does not find a prince to save her. Old maid is another. Both of these words hold very negative connotations because society strongly impresses upon young girls that they must marry if they are to have a fulfilling life.
It is ironic that what defines a fulfilling life for a man is the career in which he chooses to work. Just look at Peeping Tom’s column from this past Thursday entitled, “The purpose of life is to be found in work.” The first sentence of the article said, “The man who dies happily and without regrets is the man who usually funds [sic] contentment in his job.”
It would appear that only a man could find contentment in his job. Not a woman. The good little princess is probably supposed to be cleaning the prince’s shoes or washing the prince’s clothes.
To be fair, Peeper did throw in a couple feminine references, but the whole tone of the article was directed toward men. In modern context though, Peeper’s column should apply as much to women as it does to men because there are quite a few women working “to earn money to upkeep their family.”
This is a funny idea though because women have never been taught this concept of being content in a career or a job – although it applies equally to them. Instead, women are taught find their contentment through taking care of their husband and family. However, there are very many women who are in fact finding great contentment in their jobs.
I recently stumbled across a new princess story that I plan to send to my college-aged daughter and to read to my 14-year-old daughter. I want to tell you the story in part since it is so wonderful. This fairy tale is about Princess Bubble who grows up, goes to college and gets a job that allows her to travel around the world.
Princess Bubble loved meeting new people every single day and learning about new cultures. She bought her own castle and hosted parties for the kingdom. Princess Bubble was completely happy. Now this is a princess with whom I can identify!
The story continues that one day the Queen called Princess Bubble to the castle on the hill and told her it was time to find a prince. Since Princess Bubble knew this is what every princess is supposed to do, she dated some fine princes and had a great time with each one.
However, Princess Bubble liked her life the way it was and did not feel like it was time to share her life with a prince. She did not feel as if any of these princes were the key to finding her “happily ever after.” She was in no dungeon and she had no wicked stepmother, so she did not need a prince to save her. She was already happy.
One day while Princess Bubble was feeling perplexed, her Fairy Godmother appeared and told her, “Living happily ever after is not about finding a prince.” Among other very wise remarks, the Fairy Godmother also said, “Happy princesses are people who enjoy others and like themselves.”
Well of course, Princess Bubble was shocked that all the fairy tales were wrong. “Everything the Fairy Godmother said made perfect sense. She was already happy!” Princess Bubble knew she would live happily ever after and looked forward to the many adventures ahead of her. And she did live happily ever after.
Now this is a fairy tale worth telling my granddaughters! Women are not perpetual damsels in distress who need a man to come and save them. There are plenty of women who are getting an education, building careers and even having children while remaining single and happy.
If a man comes along who is capable of sharing a wonderful life with an intelligent woman – great, but many modern women do not need a man to be happy. They do not need children to be happy. They are perfectly content with the life they have created for themselves.
This is the way it should be for every woman because when happiness is found inside, a partner and family can be added without the woman losing herself along the way. Happily ever afters should not be determined by the degree of sacrifice a woman must offer to make everyone else happy. This is an antiquated thought that stifles women.
A woman can have a career, her own house, her own car, and her own life and be happy. She does not have to sacrifice all of those wonderful aspects of her life and pretend to be rescued by a prince to live happily ever after.
Peeping Tom was right in that a career can be a rewarding part of life. I find my career very rewarding. His only transgression was to focus too much on the men and not enough on the women.
To all of my fellow Princesses who know that strong, intelligent and capable women are the ones who promise a bright future for the world – I lift my wine glass in toast. Ladies, we rule! (Wine glasses clink)