Monday, October 21, 2013

How The Princess Saved Herself

A few days ago, I posted a photo on my private Twitter account showing a batt I had carded that day. A very, very pink batt I thought of naming Candy Overdose once it was made into yarn, as I wanted to stay away from any stereotypical attributions.

I briefly considered doing something with skulls and swords, but as I had already used these add-ins with another (pink and black) yarn on the same day, I thought it might be boring. Also, I ran into kind of a dead end when I thought about it. It all went very fast and quite subconsciously, and it's a bit hard to reconstruct, but it went along the following lines: I could use these things to bend the gender stereotype, but in doing so I would also imply pink was girly while swords and skulls were not and therefore contribute to the stereotyope - and I really hate this kind of thing. As I said, my brain went through this very quickly and it seemed to happen in the back of my head without me really noticing the details.

But then, my dear friend Twisted saw the photo and twittered (in German, so I am going to translate here) "I want to see swords in the yarn! And skulls! And then you'll call it "The Princess Saves Herself"!".

And it clicked.

I could actually do some stereotype bending without contributing to the stereotype, although I still had to use the stereotype to bend it, of course - and here my brain went all fuzzy again. I have to think about this some more, and I can't pinpoint exactly why this title makes the idea work, but it does.

In fairy tales, movies and all sorts of stories princesses are traditionally weak (and in distress) and need to be saved by a prince. This trope can be applied to constellations other than princess/prince - and the underlying pattern and implication is that women need to be saved by men (please also watch Anita Sarkeesian's Damsel in Distress series for this, which is a must-see, in my opinion). I have resented this idea for a very long time, and I get angry and frustrated whenever yet another movie/game/story uses this trope. It gets old, and it's been old for decades now.

By taking swords (traditionally used by the prince and attributed to men - also just look at archaeological interpretations, but that's a topic for a different blog post) and skulls and spinning them into a pink (recently-traditionally attributed to women and overused with princesses) yarn I combine elements that are attributed to two different gender groups, merging them - and with the title I let the princess take an active role, making it clear that she uses the swords herself, and that she can stand for herself and be her own rescuer. I use existing stereotypes and I challenge them.

There is also a single dragon in the yarn, by the way, for - I think - obvious reasons.

As a side note, I came upon a webcomic the other day, telling the story of two princesses. It's called Princess Princess, and I enjoyed it very much. It's funny and creative, and it's untypical and untraditional. It's free, too!

While writing this article I realized that using stereotypes in a way that bends them doesn't mean contributing to said stereotypes. This is actually quite obvious, but as I said, I thought myself into a dead end, and I seem to have needed to write this down in order to organize my thoughts. I also realized that sometimes I have to use stereotypes to challenge them.



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