18 thoughts on “Sonia Sotomayor explains that being a princess is not a career

  1. Brava Sotomayor. How many Justices of any Supreme Court would take the time to do this without finding it beneath their “dignity”.

  2. “A career is a job that you train for and prepare for and plan on doing for a long time.”

    That’s *exactly* what being an actual princess is. Unless, you know, “being a princess” = “pretending to be a princess” = “something girly AKA not serious.”
    Because actual women who are royalty and political figures…they don’t count? They don’t have jobs? They don’t *do* anything?

    I see you your princess/career dichotemy, Sesame Street, and raise you this: http://www.theveryfairyprincess.com/princesses.html

    I agree it is super important that we encourage young girls to seek out aspirations that go beyond who they are married to or who they are the daughter of, but there’s a way that this can turn into princess-bashing, which becomes women-bashing when you insinuate that the thing many women identify with, and the political station that some women actually have, isn’t serious/dignified/respectful/thoughtful. We can point out that being a princess is a class-specific career/position without claiming that–even as a political position–it’s something that doesn’t require training, preparation, and a commitment of basically your whole life.

    Right, I mean, wouldn’t it be funny to hear, “Being a king isn’t a career. A career is something you train for and prepare for and plan on doing for a long time”?

    Also, what if Abby wanted to be a game designer? Then her career could *include* role-playing as a princess. That’s what I would suggest, instead of having her mimic the adult in the room.

  3. Being a princess is a career like inheriting a trust fund is a career. Its “bashing” is eminently justified. And no, it doesn’t require “training, preparation, and commitment.”

  4. PS. What I find funny to hear is someone attempting to defend the living relics of feudal hierarchy on a supposedly feminist basis.

  5. Our local government runs some ads for their job search engine with the punchline “Hipster is not a real job”, which always struck me as obviously false. Haven’t these people seen postmodern art?! And if we are talking about undeserved entitlements (intellectual giftedness, for example), I think it is probably more realistic to assume that you will get a job as a princess or a hipster than a judge.

  6. I can’t really believe this comment thread is heading toward “not nice”, but it is. So let’s pull back from that.

  7. It seems to me we ought to encourage children to adopt aspirations which involve their commitment to realizing the best of their potentials. To become a judge or a lawyer, or even just to obtain a JD, is one such aspiration. It is not for everyone; but Justice Sotomayor listed several other equally commendable aspirations.

    “Princess,” however, is no such thing. To adopt such an aspiration is a child’s unfortunate reaction to fairy tales and Disney films, whose princess characters are extremely corrosive role models for girls. I believe that this Sesame Street bit is intended to counter-act the negative mental effects of the typical Disney princess characters to which young girls have so much exposure.

    Related: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/what-disney-teaches/

    In any case, apologies for the abrasive tone of my earlier post.

  8. Stacey, I think your point is really important. Let me try to explain it from a different angle…one that requires a somewhat metaphorical take on “princess.”

    “Princess” is basically a performance of idealized femininity. PLENTY of women make careers from this: Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Paris Hilton (who is sort of the OG professional ‘reality’ princess), even more ‘serious’ actresses and performers. Nicki Minaj also trades in princess iconography/performance.

    In the same way that we have to recognize that Kim Kardashian is totally manufactured–she’s a brand, an icon, and quite separate from the human person who shares that name–we have to recognize that femininity itself is totally manufactured (you know, the old old point about performativity). It takes a HELL of a lot of work to appear “feminine”–it IS a career for women like actresses, musical performers, pagent participants, etc. It’s just totally socially devalued work. Why is it devalued? Because it’s femininity, and femininity is obviously devalued in patriarchy.

    So when you say “being a princess is not a career” because it’s not something you have to practice and work for/toward, this both (a) makes it seem like the performance of femininity is something natural to and inherent in women/female-bodied persons, which it’s not; and (b) de-values the actual work that entertainment-industry “princesses” do.

    Being feminine is only a problem, only a non-aspirational vocation, in a society that devalues femininity (i.e., patriarchy).

  9. The clip doesn’t say anything about whether or not *actual* members of royalty have careers, and I think therefore that Stacey’s comment shifted the subject a bit too much, although it certainly did so in an interesting direction. The clip involves a girl who is NOT a princess wanting to be a princess, abra-cadabra. This is a clip about what to aspire to, when a child, and when encouraged to consider the indefinite possibilities for “a job that one trains and prepares for.” It suggests that perhaps the piles of genderrific pink toys we’ve criticized on this blog mis-direct girls’ aspirations.

    Of course, ‘princess’ is a loaded term with many dimensions and much connotative baggage, and it is indeed less likely that the scene would have been written with the line, “A King is definitely not a career.” But it is not impossible to substitute a whimsical boyish puppet saying “Then I wanna be a King,” and having the next line remain roughly the same, since again, this is not about actual royalty: “Pretending to be a King is fun, but it is definitely not a career.” It’s not an obviously available job or even one that most humans can reasonably aspire to.

    The argument that performances of selective ideals of femininity takes work is interesting, very very interesting, but I don’t understand why that work should be therefore valued. Is it so that I avoid the danger of … Shoot, I have lost my grip on this one. Robin, were you saying that performances of femininity are to be defended? Blast, I was mapping the trails of argumentation and then I just sort of noticed my mental shoelace was untied.

  10. Just to clarify, my original point of contention was the video slides between the character saying, “I want to BE a princess” and “I want to spend time pretending to be a princess.” By treating the former as meaning *only* the latter, the clip does ‘say’ something about actual royalty: it ignores all the political figures out in the world who are women and who have the title “princess.”
    It’s rendering a segment of women invisible by claiming that the thing they are spending their lives doing is something that has required no preparation, skill set, or training.
    (I’m sure some princesses do nothing political and it’s just an inherited title, but the link I posted provides a whole list of those that are very politically and socially engaged.)

    I see it going too far in exactly the insistence that princess only means the made-up fictional princesses of Disney and not the actual women running around the world with the title of princess.
    But this isn’t true: Kate Middleton and Princess Diana have been just as huge an influence on some girls as Disney has been on others. (Okay so maybe Sesame Street is addressing a more American context, but still, we know who Diana and Kate are.) And some Americans might have family in other countries that also have actual princesses, so I don’t want to assume that for every American child, “princess” = “Disney princess” and only that.

    Also Robin that’s a interesting point about metaphorical princesses which I hadn’t thought about.
    And Fu Ko no worries; thanks for the pushback.

    tl;dr I think we can critique performances of femininity without suggesting that the women engaging in those performances (or wanting to engage in those performances) aren’t doing anything meaningful with their lives.

  11. Whoops, annejjacobson, I think you mean to post this comment in the “In case you missed it” thread.

  12. Steven Colbert comment on this yesterday. One interesting fact he pointed out, only four American women have ever become Supreme Court Justices, but eight have married royalty and become “princesses” (I think he included Wallace Simpson, who technically was never a princess).

  13. Wow, I just _listened_ to the video for the first time, and the excessive repetition of the word “career” (this is a show for young kids, I get that the repetition is necessary) really strongly evokes this song:

    Should we maybe be complicating this notion of “career” (e.g., along class, race, national lines)? Especially insofar as changes in the economy and in cultural norms mean that (certain) women are basically obligated to excell in properly “professional” careers, while at the same time low-skilled traditionally male career paths are evaporating? And how does this serve hegemony?

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