Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. It was true in 1985 when Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin sang it, but it’s even truer in our recent history. Women are arguably more independent now than they’ve ever been and even though we haven’t quite reached a level of post-feminism, women have made progress towards gaining equality in many realms including the home and the workplace. With the number of women in the workplace steadily increasing, there’s a lot to be said for the efforts women have made to gain equality. Although, it’s not uncommon to find evidence of sexism in the most unlikely of places, especially printed media.
In the past, fairy tales have been one of the biggest perpetuators of gender stereotypes. The hero, aka the prince, is strong, masculine, and brave, while his female counterpart always serves as the damsel in distress. Somehow, she’s always trapped by an evil stepmother, cursed by a wicked witch, or locked away in a tower. So, basically, the boys get to have all the fun and adventures while we girls just sit around and wait for them to show up. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a pretty lame existence- and I’m not really sure why most princesses accept it.
Even though this has been the staple for years, princesses are pushing for a change. Instead of accepting their humdrum lives living locked up in castles, changes are being made so that princesses don’t fit the same old sexist archetype anymore.
In particular, one comic strip artist is making a move on behalf of all princesses. Wiley Miller, a well-known comic creator, recently released a comic called “Non Sequitur” where a princess takes back her independence. In the comic, a naïve prince calls to the princess from beneath her tower and asks that she let her hair down so he can come rescue her. But instead of giving in to his demands, she gives him a piece of her mind. She tells her “savior” how ridiculous it is for men to assume that women always need to be saved and that they “can’t handle things on [their] own” (Wiley, 2014). When the prince asks how it is that the princess survives up in the tower all on her own, the princess calls upon her dragon friend to bring her a large pizza and a heaping bag of cookies. The comic ends with the prince character questioning the reboot of the classic fairy tale and the princess character offering to fix it- by bumping him up to the position of a king.
This comic is ground-breaking in that the princess doesn’t actually need a man. In other princess tales, readers/viewers are fooled into thinking that a princess is independent because of her initial reluctance to a persistent prince. However, in this tale, the princess is perfectly happy on her own and doesn’t eventually end up with the prince. She is content with the single life and can take care of herself-that’s a positive step for princesses. They’re taking back their independence and creating a braver, bolder, more realistic princess that will affect generations to come.
This reboot of the damsel in distress archetype is extremely refreshing and, hopefully, will be something that we will continue to see in the future. Female roles in printed media have always been questionable, but when artists are taking the initiative to change it, it can only start a revolution in the way that we write female characters.