Jerramy Fine's Blog

August 20, 2017

When Hollywood actress Emma Watson launched the United Nation's HeForShe campaign, she made it clear that gender equality is not a women's issue but a human rights issue — and she instantly became everyone's favorite new feminist. That very same year, Watson accepted the role of Belle in the Disney live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Upon hearing she'd been cast as a Disney princess, Watson exclaimed, "My 6-year-old self is on the ceiling — heart bursting!"

She didn't see a conflict of interest — because there isn't one. Princesses can be feminists. Feminists can be princesses. And the most powerful women among us have always been a bit of both.

Belle is certainly no exception. Trapped in her provincial town, she knows what she wants and more importantly, she knows she deserves it. Belle rejects the swaggering, sexist Gaston (widely considered to be the best catch in town) because she understands that mutual respect is essential to mutual love. And as for beauty? Belle could care less. She prefers to be left alone with her books.

Of course we're in love with her gorgeous yellow ball gown (how can you not be?), but what makes Belle so magnetic is the pervasive power of her kindness. In today's world — where kindness is suddenly a radical, almost rebellious notion — the power of an open heart cannot be underestimated. Belle teaches us to avoid snap judgements; to avoid dismissing anyone purely because they are different — and as we continue to live through the most divisive presidency in recent history — it's a form of princess power we can all learn to emulate.

Like all fairy-tale heroines, Belle's personal transformation takes place when she decides to leave her comfort zone (first by entering the Beast's castle; later by leaving it to rescue her father from Gaston's pitch-fork wielding mob) –—and in doing so, she finds love when she least expects it. Belle falls for the Beast not because he is handsome or rich, but because — beyond the fur and horns — she sees the beauty of his soul. This begins when she realizes they are more alike than they are different.

When Emma Watson was rumored to be romantically linked to Prince Harry, she quickly tweeted a denial, but added this: "marrying a Prince is not a prerequisite for being a Princess." And that's where the true wisdom lies.

It's not about the tiara or the title. The princess archetype is about openly embracing your feminine power.

It's about upholding the royal virtues of benevolence, compassion, and mercy. It's about standing up for what you believe in, protecting those that can't protect themselves, and using your position to increase the well-being of your realm.

And as for Prince Harry? He knows this better than anyone. He was raised by the master.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf said it all when she called Princess Diana "a glamorous yet underestimated stealth radical."

When Diana refused to conform to the archaic expectations of a royal wife, she became a feminist icon. But there is more to it than that. While the British royal family has always supported numerous charities, Diana transformed this tradition into an extraordinary personal calling. It is not an exaggeration to say that, single-handedly, Diana made activism glamorous — paving the way for other celebrities such as Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, and Emma Watson.

If she were alive to today, I have no doubt Diana would be marching in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington; you better believe she would be fighting for LGBTQ rights and protesting against Muslim discrimination. If Princess Diana can teach us anything, it's the power of striking out, of taking a stand, of learning to harness one's privilege for the greater good.

It is absolutely no coincidence the unofficial face of the Women's March is Star Wars' Princess Leia; she chose a life of brave resistance instead of quiet acquiescence.

Leia's entire planet is destroyed, her family is gone, and rather than fall into despair, she dusts herself off and decides to lead a rebel movement. Leia needed a hero, so that's what she became. It's no wonder her regal image is adorning protest placards across the world.

Leia unflinchingly stands up to Darth Vader, whose far-reaching evil intimidates all but her, telling the men that, "somebody has to save our skins." She might as well be wearing a knitted, pink hat.

As I marched through the streets of London with American women and women from all over the UK and Europe, I also noticed lots of Wonder Woman imagery — on everything from signs to t-shirts, I saw her red cape, fearsome lasso, golden bracelets, and glamorous thigh-high boots. Not that surprising on the face of it — after all, Wonder Woman has graced the cover of Ms. magazine three times.

But many don't know that she's also a princess. Wonder Woman's mother is queen of the matriarchal Amazons, an ancient tribe of magnificent female warriors. Granted life by "Gaia, the goddesses and the souls of women past," the fierce, feminist Amazons have one royal mission: to peacefully unite "all sexes, all races, and all creeds [7]."

As per her destiny, Wonder Woman doesn't sit around waiting for love; rather love is a power she yields to save the world from the dark forces of violence, greed, and hate. In this context, princess power has never been more relevant.

It happens when an ordinary woman decides to put on her crown (or pink hat) and let the world know who they're dealing with. It happens when she joins her royal sisters to let the world know they will bow to no one. It's staying loyal to the royal within yourself by doing everything in your power to stand with the most vulnerable. It's knowing you were born to rule.

With our country and planet in turmoil on almost every level, now is not the time to disregard the power of the princess. Now is the time to claim it. Your once upon a time is now.
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Published on August 20, 2017 08:44 • 34 views

March 29, 2016

Watching my 3-year-old daughter twirl around the room in her aqua tutu and gold plastic tiara, I marvelled at how she had come to this point all on her own.

After all, I was raised my feminist hippies. Believe me, I’m more than aware of the arguments against princesses. Part of me has even wondered if daring to write a pro-princess book with a female toddler in the house was asking for trouble (sensing my agenda, would my daughter become a preschool Goth just to spite me?). So as a mother, I’ve treaded carefully; always avoided the pink aisle and never actively pushed any kind of princess play. And yet here she was -- reigning over me in all of her splendour and enjoying every bit of it.

I have to admit that I love my daughter’s princess persona. Without a doubt it involves an element of glamour (my Kate Spade jewellery is often pilfered to accessorise her flammable princess gowns), but it also involves an element of pure power. She may be playing princes, but in doing so, she is truly a Queen-in-the-Making. And it’s a joy to watch.

Our alpha female battles began when she was just 6-months old and she is what many would politely term a “strong-willed” child. In the words of William Shakespeare, “She is but little, but she is fierce.”

And yet, the when she wears her tiara and wields her wand, our mother-daughter conflicts subside. Her confidence in her own omniscient royal power allows her to become softer towards me, kinder towards everyone and more enchanted with everything around her.

For little girls, princesses represent a world of female empowerment that’s hard to find anywhere else. And when it comes to the princess genre, what is the real sexist problem? The fact that princesses are marketed to girls? Or the fact that society demeans everything that girls like?

Princesses are easy targets because we automtically dismiss anything feminine as weak or second best. But if we want to stop the oppression of women and the oppression of all things feminine, we must also stop the oppression of the princess dream and all it represents.

I’m not saying we should remove all critical thinking when watching Disney movies or reading old fairytales, but my real problem with princess-detractors is the attack on girliness itself. In Defense of Princess, I stand up for fairy tale princesses of all kinds, but also for the princess in everyone – the princess inside you can be the female body you were born with, the female gender you identify with, or the feminine way you choose to express yourself. Whatever way you want to talk about it, our society needs to accept that “girly” does not mean inferior. And everything masculine is not the default ideal.

This is why princess play is important. This is why princess power is real. Empowering our daughters’ make-believe princess and listening to the call of our own inner princess is not regressive; it’s a breakthrough.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf once said, “Don’t worry if your 5-year-old insists on a pink frilly princess dress. It doesn’t mean she wants to subside into froth; it just means, sensibly enough for her, that she wants to take over the world.”

And we need girls to start taking over the world! As Madeleine Albright pointed out, “Women’s empowerment is not merely a goal, but a cornerstone of democratic growth. Women raise issues that others overlook, devote energy to projects that others ignore, and reach out to constituencies that others neglect.”

I am incensed by the notion that the male way automatically equals the right way. And fingers crossed, our daughters will become equally incensed. In the meantime, princess play offers them a blissful window to feminine power that exists nowhere else. Many girls “outgrow” the princess phase because society tells them it’s silly, that “girly” girls aren’t sensible girls, that femininity and power are polar opposites. I’m hoping that at least a few will refuse to listen.

It’s okay to be frustrated with the excessiveness of princess-themed marketing, but we mustn’t call for all princess paraphernalia to be thrown on a bonfire. Because by rejecting everything princess, we send a dangerous message: that being a girl is not good enough; that feminine expression is a source of shame. If you look closely, princesses have always been about power, not passivity. And we are short-changing our daughters if we allow them to think anything else.

“Mummy?” my daughter asked me recently (growing up in London, she has a very cute British accent), “When is my magic going to come out? It’s taking a long time.”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
She became slightly exasperated, “The magic in my heart! When is it going to come out of my wand?”

Heart magic. Princess power. Feminine ferocity. It’s all the same. And our world does not need less of it, it needs more. In Defense of the Princess How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women by Jerramy Fine
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Published on March 29, 2016 13:13 • 88 views • Tags: princess-disney-princesses

April 9, 2010

'I'm So Not Like My Mother,' by Jerramy Fine
The author of a hilarious new memoir reveals the universe's plan for her to be raised by hippies.

From a very early age, I was convinced that I’d been switched at birth – that the day I was born, a certain Denver hospital mixed up two expectant mothers: a young aristocrat from England, and an ultra-liberal hippie from America. And somehow my infant self ended up in the hippie farmhouse/tepee complex in rural Colorado instead of the elegant, stately manor house in the English countryside.

How else can you explain it? This crazy bohemian woman I called "Mom" wore long, tie-dyed skirts, embroidered peasant blouses and didn’t own a single bra, while I insisted on prim pleated skirts and cashmere cardigans. While Mom grooved to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, I listened to orchestra music from the Queen’s coronation on my Fisher Price record player. Mom made tofu for dinner (red meat, white flour and refined sugar were strictly prohibited) and my chores involved cleaning the chicken coop and the goat pen. I escaped the hippie mayhem by devouring Jane Austen novels, and I swallowed my soybean-based meals while dreaming of English tea and sugary scones.

Picture a more intense version of "Meet the Fockers," with me as Ben Stiller.

Mom hoped I’d join the Peace Corps, whereas I begged to be sent to British boarding school and told her I planned on marrying a prince. I never outgrew my patrician, princessy ideas and this exasperated her and the egalitarian, meritocratic values she’d embraced so tightly in the 1960s. Once she said to me, "Jerramy, the best thing that could happen to you would be for you to fall in love with a homeless man. That’s what you need to bring you back down to earth." She didn’t understand that my royal goals weren’t grandiose and superficial just for the sake of it. Rather they were based on a real and genuine desire for order (which was severely lacking in my home), formality and tradition, all of which are good things. Why couldn’t she see that?

Mom embarrassed me constantly just by being herself. I desperately wanted a normal mother – mothers like my friends had. A mother with regular haircuts, a house in the suburbs and a shiny car. (I actually think there should be a support group for people whose parents drive a school bus) But Mom made no effort to ease my pre-teen embarrassment. Conforming to the status quo was not her style and she actually seemed to enjoy provoking me with her eccentricity.

As I grew older, she and I fought constantly (at high volume) about everything. (Given her staunch feminism, televised beauty pageants were banned in our house and one of our biggest fights occurred the day I entered Miss Teen Colorado without telling her.) No matter how hard we tried to get along, she represented the opposite of everything I felt life should be and I represented everything that her generation had fought so strongly against.

College – clear across the country, at the University of Rochester – couldn’t come fast enough for me, and after graduation, I finally moved to London, the magical city of my girlhood dreams. I got my master’s, landed a job in publishing and fluttered through endless society parties in search of the English royal I felt destined to marry.

Yet the more I was able to leave Mom’s nutty counterculture world in the dust and slot myself seamlessly into proper English life – the more I appreciated, even missed, my mother. I missed hearing her sing Bob Dylan songs. I missed how, even with sugarless cakes and very little money, she made my birthday the most magical day of the year, with amazingly creative homemade cards, simple gifts (elaborately wrapped), satin bows around the necks of our pets, a breakfast table laid with linen and candles. I missed how when I thought everything in my young life was falling apart, she would calmly explain that things were exactly as they should be. Sitting at my bedside, she’d talk about spirit guides and angels – the universe had a plan for me, and hardships were necessary to make room for something far more magnificent that was headed my way. But it wasn’t just her Age of Aquarius outlook that brought me peace; it was knowing that despite our enormous personal differences, her love for me was unconditional.

I’m finally seeing all these remarkable things about my Mom and the values she instilled within me, that you simply can’t see as a little girl trapped on a hippie farm. Every Christmas day, I had to load up a box of toys from my room and distribute them to children in poor neighborhoods – and perhaps that’s why I can’t pass a beggar in London without stopping to help. And here’s something else that’s kind of hard for me to admit: Time has proved Mom right. The nightly news is filled with stories of violence in Gaza, mass rape in the Congo and our scary dependence on oil that is threatening our national security, destroying our planet and crippling our economy. Suddenly Mom’s earthy, peace ‘n’ love values seemed refreshing, if not downright essential. We both feel strongly about women’s rights, religious tolerance, saving the environment and avoiding war at all costs. On opposite sides of the globe, she and I volunteered tirelessly for Obama’s campaign. And I realized that, despite my pearls and twinsets, her ideals were still very much a part of me. And as I wrote about her more in my memoir, I began to wonder if I’d spent my whole life running away from something that was never really chasing me.

Although I was absolutely terrified as to how he would react, I recently took my English fiancée, a quintessential Englishman who looks great in tweed jackets, to visit my mother’s one-room cabin in Colorado. (Her organic greenhouse is ten times bigger than her actual living quarters.) We stayed in the tepee, which was filled with the same flea-market furniture I hated as a child. But to my utter amazement he actually enjoyed it. "Most resorts would charge us a fortune to stay in a place like this!" he said.

And that’s when it hit me. Mom’s mantra was true: Everything was exactly as it should be. Who cares if I was switched at birth and was raised in a cabin instead of a castle? I didn’t have a horrible childhood. I had a blessed one. The universe had a plan when that ditzy Denver hospital threw our souls together. My mother ended up with me, but most importantly, I was lucky enough to have ended up with her.

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Published on April 09, 2010 08:47 • 242 views • Tags: daughters, england, hippie-parents, hippy-parents, london, mothers, princess, rebellion