October 15, 2012

On [finding value in] the Princess Analogies.

My brother and I at Disneyland, circa 1991.
I look terrified and, according to my roommate, exactly like my mom.
Before I was born, my parents decided to name me Kelly: a name that, according to their baby name book, meant “brave warrior.” 

As a child, my heroes were girls from books like "Harriet the Spy" and Meg from "A Wrinkle in Time," ladies from history like Joan of Arc, and women in real life like Mother Teresa, rather than the princesses of Disney like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. (Although, I must admit, I did love Snow White. Not for her Prince Charming, but for the woodland adventure and abundance of animals.)

At present, I’ve found myself in what I would call a “God’s Princess Bible Study.” Although the leaders of the group don’t intend for us to think of Jesus as our boyfriend, and ourselves as helpless maidens, I can’t help but be leery of princess metaphors when it comes to my relationship with God.

My favorite Bible character is Jael, the one who drove the tent peg through Sisera’s head. I want to do mighty things for God, not wait around for him (and the men in my life) to come and rescue me from my poor, sad life. 

I’m not a damsel in distress; I’m a powerful woman of God. 

I don’t want to dwell on issues of body image and identity, when there are people who need to be loved, and I have the Jesus who will be faithful to meet them where they’re at. There are women in the world who would never even dream of thinking of themselves as a princess, and would honestly be shocked that the God of the universe would give women the time of day.

At the same time, I’m convicted of the cynicism in my heart. I know deep down that there is value in discovering your identity in Christ. I recognize that it is imperative for all Christians to anchor their hope solely in the resurrection of Jesus. I'm not even against "women's events." I can enjoy the occasional tea party, but I’m worried that we’re missing the point.

We are limiting ourselves when we think that the only thing women have to offer the body of Christ is children’s ministry and fashion shows; when the only topics we dare to speak about are bulimia* and dating; when we spend more time teaching our teenage girls about what to look for in their future “prince,” than how to have a conversation with the Prince of Peace.

I’m trying to be honest with myself, and my small group, about struggling with the princess analogies in the bible study curriculum. I’m trying to be open-minded as I go into this study, realizing that I can definitely learn things during the next 10 weeks with these girls. But the biggest thing I’m slowly learning is that it's not all about me, and maybe my role isn’t to “get something out of” this study, but to be there to support my sisters; to walk beside, and with, and hold their hand, and wipe their tears, as other women before have done for me; to be a fellow traveler on their journey of finding what it means to follow Jesus.

*note: I have no desire to deny the gravity and seriousness of eating disorders. This is not intended to downplay that issue in any way, or to take away from the personal experiences that people have gone through. I fully support professional counseling and being supportive of your friends and family members who are dealing with these serious matters. 


  1. You are awesome. I got connected to your through aYoBW launch team and love your blog, and I love that this was the first post I read. I grew up like you- admiring strong, capable, courageous women. I hated the princess thing. My grandmother diligently got me dolls and I was at a loss for what to do with them. I feel like we're the same person- I've said all the same things. Is women's ministry missing the point?

    Then I had a little girl, and I've been facing my femininity through her. Turns out, I have a lot of brokenness and misunderstanding around being a woman. I'm also learning the value of princesses and pink and baby dolls, and learning that we (like my daughter) can be girly and silly and also bold and strong.

    I'm not saying you have brokenness around this issue- we are all on a different journey. I just encourage you during this bible study to be open to ideas that you might normally be offended by, and don't be afraid to (perhaps) be a little offensive in sharing your own viewpoint. Some girls need the freedom to be warriors, while others need to have permission to be princesses. I'm curious, are you going through a certain book or something?

    I love your blog and your thoughts!

    1. Thanks, Rachel. I really appreciate your feedback and your story! It is a study by Jennifer Beckham. I'm sure she has great intentions, just as the leaders of my group do. And yes, that is Cinderella on the cover of the book. http://jenniferbeckham.org/jbm_resources/jbm_resources/curriculum.html

      PS: I'm excited about all the amazing, articulate bloggers that the aYoBW launch team is introducing me to! So many incredible people!!

  2. I agree, Kelly! I have a hard time w/ princess stuff (although I did like some of the classic Disney princesses before it became so commercialized) mostly because of the singing more than their looks. I mean, who doesn't love to break out into a beloved Disney song? :)
    Anyway - I have tried several of the "princessy" Bible studies and often come up empty. I struggle with the cynicism, and ( found myself nodding as I read your entire post.
    I almost didn't go to women's retreat this year because the title "beauty redefined" totally turned me off. I didn't want to hear about how I could be pretty for Jesus or anybody else, or worse, how I was "already beautiful in God's eyes." That is the spiritual equivalent of my mom telling me when I was in jr. high that I was pretty. But I did go to retreat, and Jennifer was a great speaker, the Holy Spirit did some amazing things, and she didn't really touch too much on beauty. That makes a me a little sad to hear that the book study of hers is princess-y. :(

    1. I've only done one week of the curriculum, so I could be totally wrong. I'm hoping that is the case. And I definitely agree with not wanting to hear that God thinks I'm beautiful...he thinks everyone's beautiful, so what! :)

  3. I have issues with the "Princess" theme too. My biggest issue isn't that it is applied to females- it's that it's pushed so hard as children and seems immature when women refuse to grow out of it. I want to see a transition- from little girl to grown woman, from fairly helpless princess to a strong, independent queen. I want GROWTH. A princess Bible study is a completely new situation though- never heard of one of those before. Please keep updating about this, I'd love to hear how it turns out.

    1. "I want to see a transition- from little girl to grown woman, from fairly helpless princess to a strong, independent queen. I want GROWTH." YES, YES, YES. I couldn't have said this better. EXACTLY.

    2. Definitely growth...and, of course, that looks different for everyone because everyone is starting at a different place. I'll keep you updated on the bible study! :)