As I write this, I’m in a plane headed to speak at a women’s conference. There is the most darling little girl seated behind me passing the time with coloring, while a handmade purple crown bedazzled with crooked plastic jewels tops her brunette curls. Despite the mommy wars that rage about it, “Princess culture” isn’t going to go away any time soon:
- In recent years, Disney’s princess franchise earned $3 billion, in the top spot for branded entertainment products.
- Fashion and beauty products bought by 8-12-year-old girls command $500 million a year in our nation alone.
- Little girls have been playing dress-up since there were fig leaves to make skirts out of and flowers to put behind our ears.
From the lucrative profitability of princess crowns and tiaras to the innate desire of a girl to wear them, we’re stuck with the conundrum. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the mommy wars—to princess or not to princess—I’ve opted to reframe the concept according to biblical truth. Here are four things that “princess culture” gets wrong, but we can get right because we define royal value by what God’s Word teaches.
1. Pink isn’t the true color of a princess.
The color purple was discovered in 1500 B.C. when a dog bit into a snail and the toxic mucous turned purple when exposed to air. From then on, the world has been wearing purple. But at first the process of making it was very costly (especially if you were a snail), so wearing it was reserved for kings and queens.
No doubt it was not coincidental that during the same era, God would assign the building of the tabernacle to Moses. He was specific as to how it should be constructed including the colors, one of which was purple to represent his royalty. Move over pink! Purple is the true color of a princess.
2. Being a princess is not about personality, but position.
While modern stereotypes of princess culture train a girl to believe that she can be a princess if she likes pink and glitter, being a princess has nothing to do with what color you like or having a personality that sniffs out bling. It has everything to do with positional authority.
How does a girl become a true princess? By being adopted into the family of God through a spiritual experience of surrender. What do you call the adopted daughter of the King of Kings? A princess. Perhaps the very reason we pine to craft our own purple foam crowns as little girls is pointing to something much deeper: our craving to be loved by the True King.
3. Being a princess is not about how you look.
If our royal value comes from Christ, our royal definition of beauty must come from him, too. II Peter 3:3,4 reads: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
This verse is not telling us we can’t have cute clothes, great haircuts, or accessories from Claires. It’s just saying that it is not the source of our true beauty. A gentle quiet spirit created by the presence of God is, and that only comes when we spend time grooming the inside more than we do the outside. As we groom the inside through quiet communion with God, we’ll find ourselves loving the fashion he loves. A garment God loves for us to wear on the inside is servanthood. Galatians 5:13 admonishes us to “serve one another in love.” To serve, you have to have the eyes to see needs. No, being a princess is not about how you look. It’s about how you see.
4. We don’t need the guys.
Modern princesses like Merida, Mulan, and Elsa have attempted to break stereotypical storylines and clearly express that a girl does not need a guy. It’s the polar opposite of the more needy girls rescued by Prince Charming in Snow White and Cinderella. Polar opposites are hardly ever healthy for us.
Christianity is not innocent of such drastic representations. All too many books on purity, dating, and love risk suggesting that if you’re just a good Christian girl who wears her chastity belt and silver ring on her left index finger, Your Prince Charming will come. The point of purity is not to get a guy. It’s to honor God, and we do well to believe that He is enough and we do not need any other person on this earth. BUT, marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. That means that if you do get a guy by God’s grace, it’s a great thing. “Princess culture’s” shift in overcorrecting for the neediness of their early princesses, risks teaching girls not to treasure that gift if God does give it to them.
Let’s not throw princess culture out with its proverbial pink bathwater, but let’s use the conversation to direct our daughters—and ourselves—to Truth.
Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at dannahgresh.com