Inspiring photo project proves boys can be princesses, too
Few things capture kids’ imaginations quite like Disney princesses. From their sparkly gowns to their grand adventures, princesses embody so many things that kids love and find inspiring. Despite their universal appeal, many people still think of princess characters as being just “for girls.” But one Chicago photographer is trying to change that with an empowering photo series about boys playing dress-up with their favorite princesses that’s called Boys Can Be Princesses, Too.
Kitty Wolf is the photographer behind the moving photo series. She also works as a preschool teacher and formerly owned a princess party business that sent professional princess actresses to entertain at children’s birthday parties. She says she was inspired to start her project after repeatedly witnessing little boys at birthday parties and in her preschool classes having their princess playtime squashed by teasing from other kids or comments by close-minded adults.
“During my time as a princess performer, company owner and preschool assistant, I have seen boys being told that princesses are ‘just for girls’ or that liking princesses and especially dressing as one somehow makes them weak, inferior or not boys,” she writes on her website. “They're told it's not manly, or macho or normal. This leads boys to feel ashamed of their interests, confused, sad and lonely.”
Wolf believes that “a child's imagination should not be limited by their gender,” so she got together with some of her former princess party contacts and colleagues to do a series of special photo shoots that represents all the little boys out there who want to play as princesses, too.
In total, Wolf has photographed nine boys dressed as Disney princess favorites like Rapunzel, Tiana, Cinderella and Ariel. Her photos feature the boys, as well as an adult model dressed up as a princess, so the boys have the chance to meet their heroes.
Wolf also created a special Facebook page to share her photos, and they quickly went viral. The page has already racked up over 10,000 fans, and hundreds of parents have chimed in to share photos of their sons wearing princess dresses, and to thank her for giving young boys the opportunity to express themselves.
“This is great,” one commenter writes. “When a girl wants to dress as a male character, like a superhero or Darth Vader, everyone finds it adorable ... why can’t it be the same for boys?”
Another person adds, “This initiative is one of [the] best I’ve ever seen. The moment you announce the gender of your child people rush to buy the ‘appropriate color’ for your new baby boy or girl. Boys are then shoe-horned in with cars, trucks and monsters while girls are pretty and dainty in pink and princesses. Children should be allowed to love whatever they like without the social judgement of ‘you’re a boy, you can’t like that.’ Color does not decide a gender, and neither does playing princesses.”
But not everyone sees the photo series as a good thing. As Wolf’s photos have gotten more popular, they’ve also attracted more criticism from people who are uncomfortable with the idea of allowing kids to have imaginative play without limits. “This is going too far,” one person writes. “Let kids be kids! Boys be boys! I’m all for accepting our children and their sexuality but not so young!! This world is brainwashed!!”
Wolf says her project is not about gender and sexuality or about forcing any particular set of ideals on children. Instead, it’s about creating a space for children to be themselves. “Putting on a princess dress doesn't make a boy a girl anymore than putting on a shell makes them a real ninja turtle,” she writes on her website. “... Our goal here is to show these boys and the world that it is perfectly acceptable for boys to admire and even dress like princesses. I want to show them it's ok for boys to dress up as their heroes, even if that means they're twirling around in a ball gown. Overall, I want everyone to see it's ok to be who you are and like what you like!”
Wolf tells Care.com that while the viral attention has been overwhelming, it’s also rewarding to watch work she feels very passionate about getting shared around the world. Her project is supported by crowdfunding, so the more people see it and support it, the more photos she is able to produce. Most importantly, she’s grateful that having a viral platform allows her message to reach more kids and parents who need to see it.
“My intention for the project was to show support and put representation out there for boys that liked to play as princesses, and since this message has spread all over the world, I think I’ve achieved that goal already,” she tells Care.com. “The more places it is, the more people will see it and know they are not alone. So while all the attention is a little daunting, it’s absolutely worth it.”