Silence: The Anti-Princess?

Image of book cover Cinderella Ate My DaughterThe Champion In Silence is one of a small (but growing!) number of modern stories about girls who take on roles and quests traditionally reserved for male characters. Traditional thought among publishers, producers, and marketers goes something like: “Girls don’t like stories in which the female character has to put herself in danger. They want to fantasize about being rescued … not being the rescuer!”

It’s just this sort of mentality that has given rise, in the last decade, to the “princess culture” – a whole marketing campaign founded on the presumption that girls want to be adored, worshiped, spoiled, surrounded by an ocean of pink, and lost in a perpetual “spa day” until Mr. Right comes to sweep them off their feet. (Popular stories, from Twilight to Sex In The City are based on this premise.) Of course, every girl probably imagines herself as a princess at some point in her childhood (just as every boy imagines himself as a cowboy, superhero, or knight) – but in order to build a healthy, well-rounded self image, girls need to have characters to emulate who are heroic, strong, and valiant in their own right. Characters like … Silence, of course! But also characters like Mulan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alana the Lioness, or Igraine the Brave.

In the most recent episode of the Chivalry Today Podcast, an on-line talk show that explores the “history, literature, and philosophy of the code of chivalry,” there’s an interview with author Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Peggy has some interesting things to say about historical legends and fairy tales (hint: These traditional stories are a lot more egalitarian than we’re often led to believe!), and she talks about the importance of “girl warrior” tales like Mulan – and the story of Silence!

Have a listen to the show and see if you agree with what Peggy has to say about Mulan, Silence, and other “girl knights.”

Has there been a female hero character you’ve come across that has helped you shape your own image of who you are, and what sort of person you want to be? Are you a woman who aspires to be a knight? Are you a man who has found inspiration in the image of a female hero? (Because, you may be interested to know, publishers say that men have no interest in books or stories in which the girl is the strong character.) If so – post your thoughts below and tell other Silence fans how you’ve been inspired by women who break out of the “princess” image!

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