The beginning place of most princess stories is a place of powerlessness. And while we here in reality still struggle with the marginalization of women, I think that limiting feminine stories to princess stories inevitably echoes those medieval themes of powerlessness. And that has consequences.
For example, when I was first writing as a teenager, my first few passes at writing a female character were extraordinarily difficult. I felt that I had to prove why I was writing a female character. I had to make this character first show the world in the story that they deserved respect, and choices, and power. I had to qualify them in the story before I could make them do fun things.
Looking back on it, that’s very strange – that I felt I had to legitimize a female character with power in my own story.
It did not occur to me that I could simply write a world in which a woman had power and no one questioned it. It didn’t occur to me that a female character could do or be whatever the hell they wanted to be in my ridiculous fantasy story, and everyone else in the book could fall in line.
Robert Jackson Bennett on princesses.
This, incidentally, is why I have a problem with Maureen Murdock’s “Heroine’s Journey” model. Not the fact that it’s an observable pattern, or that it’s an alternative narrative structure to the Hero’s Journey. I have a problem with the idea that it’s an essentially gendered alternative narrative structure. Particularly when talking about secondary world fantasies, where there’s no reason the baggage our world has around gender needs to, by definition, apply. Assuming it does, even if there’s a positive “spin” put on it, is just as harmfully essentialist as all the wenches-princesses-and-witches male-centric stuff out there.