Not a Princess? Why the real world is not a fairy tale…

The Mercy Academy adverts

The Mercy Academy adverts

A Catholic high school in Kentucky has been telling its potential students that they are not princesses.

Talk about stating the bleeding obvious right? I mean, most of us know we’re not royalty. There’s the distinct lack of pomp and ceremony as we go about our daily business, a lack of crowns in our bedrooms and, of course, the striking normality of our relatives.

Mercy Academy, however, are targeting a more subtle belief in young girls. Their adverts are targeted at middle schoolers, kids between 11 and 13. These are formative years for kids, crucial in shaping their future. And for girls raised on a diet of Disney, surely now is the time to reinforce their independence?

The ads are striking and eye-catching, and indeed they make a valid point. A product of a Catholic all-girls school myself, I can say one of the few positives from the experience is the sense that nothing is beyond your capabilities, just because you’re a girl. Our school focused heavily on sports, and if girls excelled at traditionally male-dominated subjects such as woodwork, maths or science, it was seen as nothing extraordinary.

The focus on the individual’s capability, regardless of gender, is something to be admired. It is something that seems to have been lost in recent years. Children’s toys are increasingly segregated by gender; even Lego runs on binary lines now. Similarly, a focus on ambition and changing the world seems to be lost. Less kids want to be singers, astronauts, submariners, vets, witches or writers (which if I remember rightly, were my main career ambitions growing up). Instead they merely want fame. Several surveys have shown that fame is the main ambition for today’s children; not even as a Hollywood actor or a pop star, but merely famous for being famous.

For girls, conditioned less by Disney and more by the Kardashians, this ad campaign is a step in the right direction. Disney gets a rather harsh rap for conditioning young girls into believing life is a fairytale. While this could certainly be the case with its older films, its later output- MulanHercules, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and most recently, Tangled- provide us with more complex heroines who are capable of looking after themselves. Possibly far more damaging is the influence of reality TV, and behemoths like the massively popular Twilight.  Its apathetic and self-pitying heroine’s pinnacle of ambition is getting married to an abusive and creepy 108-year-old.

It is not an easy time to be a young girl, with all the masses of insecurity that this already entails. There is increasing pressure to look and be perfect, to be sexually appealing yet unavailable. The cringey teenage moments we all had are now being played out online, too.

“The deck is still stacked a bit against young girls as they make their way into the world,” said David Vawter of Doe-Anderson, the advertising agency which created the campaign. “This notion of an institution that can help girls prepare for succeeding in the real world, on the world’s terms, was very exciting for us.”

The ad campaign also made its way into the state’s cinemas, accompanying the release of the second Hunger Games movie. That franchise’s lead character, Katniss Everdeen, and the actress that portrays her, Jennifer Lawrence, are as far away from the princess stereotype as it is possible to get. Indeed, Lawrence is a breath of fresh air, endearingly honest, witty and humorous on the red carpet and beyond.

No, girls, we’re not princesses, I’m afraid, and we can’t sit back and wait to be rescued. The good news is we can rescue ourselves with our brains, talents and ambitions. Let’s use our own wit and skills to get down off that tower and, be as Mercy Academy suggest, a sweet original.

*Lead image via mashable

A Catholic high school in Kentucky has been telling its potential students that they are not princesses.

Talk about stating the bleeding obvious right? I mean, most of us know we’re not royalty. There’s the distinct lack of pomp and ceremony as we go about our daily business, a lack of crowns in our bedrooms and, of course, the striking normality of our relatives.

Mercy Academy, however, are targeting a more subtle belief in young girls. Their adverts are targeted at middle schoolers, kids between 11 and 13. These are formative years for kids, crucial in shaping their future. And for girls raised on a diet of Disney, surely now is the time to reinforce their independence?

The ads are striking and eye-catching, and indeed they make a valid point. A product of a Catholic all-girls school myself, I can say one of the few positives from the experience is…

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