When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't. We hummed and hawed for hours until her brothers came to visit. Our middle son handed her a picture and gave her a name that stuck.
This name was most definitely not Princess.
Nope. Nowhere on her birth certificate does it list the name Princess. It's not there. Not in the first name, middle name, nor last name. Yet, if you were to go almost anywhere with us in public you would be surprised by this fact as Princess is the name she is most often called.
When we go to the dentist her proper name is clearly called in the waiting room. Then upon getting set up in the room out comes the, "Okay, Princess! Let's get your Princess teeth all nice and sparkly!" At the checkout line at Target, "Hi, Princess. Aren't you a good girl? Do you need a sticker?" When buying shoes at the mall, after the salesman asks my boys what their names are, my daughter hears, "And I'll go check in the back to see if we have your size, Princess." Even with a handful of people with her in the store who could have told him her name, he didn't even bother to ask.
This may seem like a harmless way to interact with a girl, but I disagree. I think that labels stick. My daughter is only three, and has yet to be immersed in the princess culture that consumes so many, but she has already begun to refer to herself as a princess. If a princess label carried with it thoughts of a strong, dedicated young girl, then maybe I would feel differently. If princesses in mainstream media were shown as slaying dragons and courageously saving their kingdom, I might even start throwing that word around too. As it is, what usually comes to mind is a shy, petite girl who is happy to quietly dance at the ball waiting for her Prince Charming. No thanks.
I understand that one word cannot entirely influence somebody, especially when that somebody is being raised by a feminist mother who can't let this type of thing go, but we do need to be made aware that the words we use to describe children can matter.
How would we feel if our daughters grew up to be referred to as "baby" by men on the sidewalk or "sweetheart" by their boss?
It is time to make changes in the way we talk to the children in our lives. As adults we should make every attempt to address children in a manner that is gender neutral and respectful. Let's celebrate them as individuals and leave the royal references to Disney.