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Jamie Tobias Neely: Feminism comfortably mingles with royal weddings

Last week the North Koreans launched a missile apparently capable of hitting Washington, D.C., not to mention Washington state. And yet, curiously, even some of the baby boomer feminists I know were fascinated by another news story: the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle.

Suddenly, my millennial daughters, too, were texting me about this news.

There’s delicious irony in the prospect of feminists following this royal wedding tale. The reasons may be several: the decadeslong power of the Disney Princess franchise, the force of the ancient archetypes haunting our psyches, maybe even the strength of the public relations campaigns of the House of Windsor. Then, too, in the face of nuclear annihilation, denial can be a lovely thing.

Perhaps all of that holds true for me. I find weddings, in general, appealing. I relish coming upon the random, everyday ceremony in Manito Park. One of my favorite films is “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

I know plenty of women, feminist and otherwise, who could hardly care less about royal weddings.

Now I would agree: The monarchy logically strikes me as irrelevant. But the monarchy isn’t about logic, and as long as it’s around, I’ll follow every episode of “The Crown” and find time to gaze at those regal rituals, with their pomp and circumstance, their horse-bound carriages and their soaring fascinators.

Asking why I do these things may be as pointless as wondering why my husband, who much prefers basketball, will always gravitate to a certain over-the-top football game every winter.

Perhaps I was scarred at age 3 by my fascination with Cinderella. The best parts: mice and birds that could talk and sing and sew. A fairy godmother! That ball gown! Cinderella left me deeply wary of housecleaning; I have avoided scrubbing hearths ever since.

Devorah Blachor’s book, “The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess,” was released by Penguin Random House last month. Blachor blames Disney for our fascination with the royals.

She writes about her horror of discovering her 3-year-old daughter’s obsessions with the color pink and with Disney princesses. Blachor and her family lived in Jerusalem at the time, yet her daughter spotted Elsa’s face (from “Frozen”) at preschool on the sides of water bottles and backpacks.

Blachor abhorred the princesses of her childhood, which she calls in her book “The Sleepy Trio”: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, each passively waiting to be rescued, two of them literally sleeping through parts of their own tales.

She still can’t say why well-educated women would find royal weddings intriguing. She doesn’t. Except for this one. In an age of a U.S. president who simultaneously goads white supremacists, ducks charges of sexual assault and nurses a long obsession with the British royal family, Blachor finds Harry’s choice of brides a triumph for the resistance. “This is like a nail in the coffin in (Trump’s) ability to have access to the royal family,” she said in a phone interview last week.

Markle is accomplished in her own right, a successful actress and a gender equality advocate who spoke at a celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Beijing women’s conference. She is biracial, with an African-American mother and a white father. She’s also exactly what sunk a king’s reign just over 80 years ago: a divorced woman, a commoner and an American.

“I can see why women would be dazzled,” Blachor says. “There’s definitely room for a princess who is a women’s rights activist and a humanitarian. That’s a powerful thing.”

Blachor’s daughter has outgrown her princess obsession, emerging full of energy and spark. Based on the research Blachor has examined, so far there’s no proof that little girls who love princesses turn into teens with body image and self-esteem issues.

Both of the former Disney princesses (little Ariels and Belles) at our house grew up to become feminists and academics. One of them is a post-doc at a gender research center at Stanford University.

“I firmly believe that we can watch princess weddings, paint our nails, wear the occasional heel, bake a bunch of pies, and be fully committed to fighting the patriarchy,” she wrote in a text message last week.

Bottom line for me: Feminism is certainly compatible with fun.

Jamie Tobias Neely is the director of the journalism program at Eastern Washington University. Her email address is

jamietobiasneely@ comcast.net.


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