The Princess Syndrome

 

(Why—and how?—to forestall it)

(c) 2012, Davd

Since i mentioned the Princess Syndrome in my last post, this is a handy time to write something about the syndrome itself, and its unrealism, here on Everyman. Though quite distinct from Feminism, and much older; the Princess Syndrome shares one thing at least with such Feminist achievements as easy divorce: It seems superficially to benefit women relative to men, but when its implications are worked-through, it turns out to produce worse outcomes for both sexes.

Actual Princesses, like actual Princes, are royalty1: They have social license to “put on airs” and be pampered; they are fed, clothed, and housed much better than the general population. It is no great surprise that many girls, if encouraged to see themselves as Princesses who can expect such royal treatment, will accept the encouragement even if the realistic likelihood they will actually “become Princesses” is small. Children seldom if ever learn probability and percentages as early as they learn attitudes.2

Now and then, in folklore and in “the media”, a pretty girl becomes a Princess;3 and those rare cases encourage others to aspire. So do celebrities who are “treated royally”, many of whom come from fairly ordinary origins; and so do folk tales.

Cinderella is arguably the archetype. A pretty girl is held down and forced to work as millions of good-looking boys who happen to be born “lower or working class” must also work, but in her case by a mean-spirited, probably jealous stepmother and step-sisters. Suddenly, just in time for the Grand Ball where the Prince will choose his bride, a “fairy godmother” magically provides her with all the trappings of nobility: Dressed in the perfect gown for the occasion, riding in a fine carriage with suitably elegant servants and horses, she charms the Prince, and with various interludes depending on the folk tale4, marries him and Lives Happily Ever After.

(We should have a serious look at that “happily ever after” ending, and preferably soon, because it is impossibly optimistic—but this blog is about Princesses.)

Cinderella is portrayed as being of good character, in all the versions of the tale i have heard or read. She treats the stepmother and step-sisters, better than they treat her, though she gets less for what she contributes, than they. In other words, she is portrayed as deserving of better (though as surely as “nobody’s perfect”, happily-ever-after is too much better for anyone to merit, as well as being vanishingly unlikely.)

Why are Cinderella’s stepmother and step-sisters jealous? Because of the value of beauty in a pre-Industrial world that was seldom patriarchal-through-and-through, but usually patriarchal in its upper classes—and in which “traditional marriage” prevailed. The less-lovely step-sisters feel that beauty has an outside chance to charm the prince. Good character, which a wise or even prudent Prince would also look for, “doesn’t seem to register with them”; but beauty does.

Good character doesn’t seem to register with the modern “retail sector” either. When i open the weekly advertising “flyer bag” there are usually pages-upon-pages of advertising for women’s clothing and cosmetics5; but i don’t see much advertising for the development of good character6—usually, not any. Then, too, Cinderella had her good character as the story began; the Fairy Godmother provided only the fine trappings.

In 20th Century “affluent society”, parents too-often raised their daughters as princesses (and their sons to be tradesmen or university students, which made more sense.) One seldom heard a boy described by either parent as “my little Prince,” but one often heard a girl described by one parent or both, as “my little Princess.”7 Millions of girls were encouraged to dress-up, fuss over their looks, and generally waste time on impractical matters of mere appearance.8

Among the folk tales they probably heard about how Princesses behave, was “The Pea and the Princess”: A guest in a household much wealthier than average, but not necessarily royal, claims she is a Princess. The hosts provide her with a fine bedroom, including several layers of fine feather quilts as her mattress—but a single dried pea between that elegant mattress and the wooden surface of the bed itself. Next morning, the young guest complains bitterly of the discomfort—and because she does, is acknowledged to be a true Princess: The story teaches that a super-human need for pampering is part of what makes a genuine Princess.

(If i take that story at all seriously, i realize i cannot afford to provide anyone with finer household arrangements than that Princess said were not good enough—in fact, i don’t have nearly so fine a bed myself, as what she complained about. I’d better stay clear of Princesses.)

Understandably, but very sadly, millions of girls took the Princess fuss seriously9. When “Women’s Liberation” arrived on the public-policy scene and then evolved into “Nth-Wave Feminism,” millions of adolescent girls and young women expected to be liberated into privilege, at the least something rather finer than boys and young men of equal ability, effort, and sacrifice had been getting. Equally sadly, they were used to being better pampered than their brothers—so why not better than their husbands, when they married?

One very good reason why not, was a scarcity of young men with the means to pamper: There were, as an educated guess, less than one-tenth [plausibly, much less than 1%] as many young men able to confer great wealth and provide royal pampering, as there were Princess-reared young women expecting it. A marriage-system such as Feminism has made won’t support many Princesses, either: Indeed, it tends to drive away those real Princes who have good sense. Wise Princes will consult expert advisors who know the law, and will make [and insist-on] prudent arrangements before marrying anyone.

As for we men of ordinary rank: Should we who cannot provide royal circumstances and treatment, rush in where even real Princes are wary? Obviously not—a Christian-men’s website described the Princess Syndrome and its effect in marriage, in terms painfully consistent with the folk-tale of the pea under many feather-beds. To briefly quote that post:10

The principal expression of the Princess Syndrome in marriage is lack of contentment, resulting in bitterness. Recall that the Princess has three defining characteristics:

  1. Raised with an extreme sense of entitlement. Result: The Princess expects to get whatever she wants without any effort on her own part.

  2. Raised with a focus on their “self-esteem,” resulting in pride and arrogance. Result: The Princess believes she deserves better, by virtue of her own perfection.

     

  3. Raised with acutely unrealistic expectations about life…. Result: The Princess believes perfection is not only possible in a man, but ordained for her life.

All three of these create a lack of contentment, accompanied by bitterness when the Princess’s impossible demands are not met.

The links in the quotation lead to further discussion by that writer. [Editor's note:  the site which contained these quotes was subjected to constant attacks by women upset with this information being put into the public domain and all posts mentioned here have been taken down. We have copies of the posts stored, so the quotes are valid even though the source has disappeared.  You can read about this type of pressure to restrict the publishing of non-politically correct information here. ]

Most of us cannot afford what the Princess Syndrome teaches girls to expect, and would rather be respected by our wives, or remain unmarried, than live with discontent and bitterness11. Very plausibly, some of the “marriage strike” represents men not marrying would-be Princesses, and wisely not. The Princess Syndrome not only teaches girls to expect the vanishingly unlikely, it spoils them for ordinary marriage, which if reared more humbly, they might achieve and enjoy12. Rearing a girl who is not a princess genealogically, to act like one, might seem to offer her more; but in the aggregate, it turns out to produce worse outcomes for both sexes: Millions of young men can find no wife worth living-with, millions of young women can find no husband who even approximates what they were reared to expect..

Which implies, if you’re a girl’s father, that raising your daughter as a Princess will most likely do her far more harm than good; and possibly do some innocent, well-meaning man great harm as well—unless, of course, you are royalty and have the means to maintain a Princess, including an abundance of social ceremonies where she can act nobly elegant and be admired for it.

I do not believe that girls are born with the Princess Syndrome; i believe it is learned. Since it leads to more harm than good, a wise parent—or uncle, grandfather, etc.—will not teach it. Here are my suggestions (admittedly i’m a father who had no daughter and so reared only boys) as to what to teach instead:

First, Treat Girls and Boys Equally: Specifically, if you call your daughter “Princess”, then call your son, “Prince”—and treat him accordingly. If calling your dog-hugging, garbage-can-toting, garden-digging, grubby-kneed, soccer-playing son “Prince”, doesn’t fit—does it fit to treat your daughter like royalty?—and if so, why? Are you preaching female superiority with your actions and language? If so, quit. Treat your girls and boys in ways consistent with equality13.

Second, Treat Beauty as Less Important than Competence and Character: For some reason, this has been easier to do with boys than with girls, in my lifetime (and arguably for thousands of years.) One of the benefits of Feminism, ought to have been the reduction of pulchritude’s excess-value and greater respect for plain and even ugly women whose character and competence make them valuable citizens. Reading the women’s-wear and cosmetics advertising, i’d say Feminism hasn’t achieved that.

Feminism has achieved a set of “Affirmative-Action” programmes public and private, that help girls who want to become educated, enter a profession, even enter a well-paid trade, gain some advantage over boys of equal aptitude. If you have a daughter, steering her into one of those programmes that fits with her aptitudes and interests is better than calling her Princess (If she’s on a good career path that fits her, without one, that’s better still.) In today’s “Western world”, with girls out-numbering boys in most universities, such programmes increase inequality rather than working toward equality, and should be replaced or closed-down; but fathers [and mothers] who can’t achieve such reform and do have daughters, might well make use of them, on the premise that “somebody will.”

Third, Tell Young Girls the Truth about the “Marriage Market”:

  • Most men are not able to support a Princess. Only a small fraction of men are “high born” or fabulously wealthy—and most of them marry young women who were reared by equally high-born and-or rich parents.

  • Many men who are half-able to support a Princess are not willing to try. One reason for this is that many men have noticed how many of the two most recent generations of husbands were exploited by their wives. Another reason is that unless one’s social station is exalted enough to employ a Princess (including but not limited to an abundance of social ceremonies where she can act nobly elegant and be admired for it) a wife who lives the virtue of humility is far more pleasant to live with than one who calls her arrogance
    “self-esteem”.

  • Beauty will fade much more quickly than competence. (There is an interesting discussion of this in “The Misandry Bubble”,14 which concludes that modern junk food has made the loss of beauty in early middle age both more abrupt and more extreme.)

  • More pretty girls become concubines or middle-aged singles than marry Princes (barons, counts, dukes, earls, etc.)

In All Creatures Great and Small, veterinarian-writer “James Herriot”15 tells of an evening drinking and talking with his future father-in-law, before marrying a woman with both beauty and developed talent. “I had a wife in a thousand,” begins the older, widowed man, and tells of Helen’s mother’s beauty, but even more of her gentle and affectionate nature, her people-sense and nurturant use of it. Herriot remarks of most farmers he met (and as a rural English veterinarian before World War II, he met mostly farmers in his work), that they valued their wives for steady, skillful work, and he felt blessed that his wife was reared by a man who appreciated work, but also more.

So if i have “knocked” arrogance and expecting too much of beauty, in this post, i have not disparaged beauty itself: Rather, i have emphasized competence, fidelity, humility and charity. If your daughter is plain, don’t lie and tell her otherwise—praise her good aspects and encourage them. If she is beautiful, give her beauty a setting like “Helen Herriot’s”: Humility without smarminess, competence and affectionate concern for others—and fidelity.

Don’t burden your son-in-law with a would-be-Princess; try to rear him “a wife in a thousand.”16 You, he, and she will all be better for it.

Notes:

1. In Russia, some were nobility short of royal standing; Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace gives examples.

2. It should probably be mentioned, that the Princess Syndrome is not necessarily a categorical phenomenon—there may be degrees of it as there are degrees of intelligence, dexterity, education, wealth, etc. Distinct in concept is the question of what percentage of women are subject to the Syndrome; a question i raised here. Combine degrees and prevalence [as usually expressed in percentages] and the mathematics get “rather demanding”… but categorical language cannot be as accurate as that difficult math.

3. Actress Grace Kelly, in the mid-20th Century, became Princess Grace of Monaco. Much more recently, Kate Middleton married the second-generation heir to the British Crown, became Duchess of Cambridge and heir to become Princess of Wales and later, Queen.

4. Folklorists include many variations, including “Rush Cape” and some say King Lear.

5. There are far fewer pages of advertising for men ‘s clothing and cosmetics, which could indicate that many women want to “show their sexuality off” to men, that most women and advertisers are aware that many men can be distracted and rather many can be attracted by such “shows”, or more likely, both.

6. As a Christian, i can read the lack of commercial interest in good character, to be consistent with Jesus’ words, You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

7. Here, i suggest, is one of the sources of the Apex Fallacy (as mentioned near the beginning of “The Misandry Bubble.”)

8. After “looks”, “nice manners” may have had second priority. Some were taught “good character”, some weren’t. Those who weren’t probably were not reminded that it was part of the fairy-tale Cinderella, either.

9. It was more plausibly this “Princess training,” i would suggest, than any “sexist” notion that women were inferior, that kept young women from seeking jobs commensurate with their abilities, while motivating young men to study employ­able subjects, search out good jobs, work like beavers even if they weren’t in Canada, and thus, reach not Prince-level social status, but the means to provide for a family in the style of the families where their female counterparts had actually been reared. Had the girls been reared to be tradeswomen and professional-course students, i would estimate the success they achieved [not married-into] would have been the same, relative to ability level, as that of the boys.

John Finley Scott published a paper related to this, in ASR or perhaps AJS, in the 1960s: “The American College Sorority: Its Role in Class and Ethnic Endogamy.” Sorry, i don’t have a full citation handy.

10. The quotation has been edited to remove most of the religious words so it will “read more generally”. This is quoted, with edition to more secular language, from the CMD-N  website as accessed 28 October 2012.  The CMD-N pages from which it comes  have since been removed from “the Web” after what {the Spearhead website described} as “one of those online gang attacks that occasionally arise to
silence new blogs”.  The CMD-N post apparently prompting the attack, as indicated by a link in the Spearhead post, is not the one cited nor earlier posts on which the one cited was based.  The loss of these posts indicates that misandric “cyber bullying” does occur and that significant elements of Feminism do not accept free expression of men’s-interest opinion.

11. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19; cf Prov. 21:9, 25:24)

12. Being located where marriage law supports fidelity is also important.

13. Respecting and encouraging a talent one of your children has and another hasn’t, is consistent with equality. What’s inconsistent is systematically giving more weight to the talents of girls than those of boys (or vice-versa).

14. It begins with the words “Marriage 2.0….”

15… a pseudonym.

16. It would impose discord, to state in the main text above; but i would add in this footnote, that one should not try too hard in these times, to rear a daughter to marry or-else feel bad about being single. If your daughter does want to marry, i would encourage you to find her ways to assure her husband of her fidelity in an early 21st Century where civil marriage and divorce law, do not. If she doesn’t want to marry, the Princess mentality doesn’t go well with spinsterhood either.

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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