Argentinian Woman Launches Book Series With Latina Heroes As An Alternative To Disney Princesses

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Here at GTHQ we’re all about challenging the societal norms, especially when it comes to the representation of women and girls. In the media, we are bombarded with so many narrow, unrealistic and often sexist images that have successfully enabled entire generations of girls to believe that women are only suited to do certain things in life and are only valued for their external appearances.

Well thank goodness for people who, along with us, believe in the idea of challenging norms and breaking barriers in the hope that young women and girls can live a life unhindered by dictated mandates of what and who we are supposed to be.

In many countries around the world where media, advertising, fashion, beauty and consumerism reign supreme, the Disney Princesses are a very common cultural phenomenon. We are so used to seeing the image of a slender, very beautiful and meek woman only truly finding happiness when she finds a man. Never mind about her family, her skills, her personality traits or experiences, it’s all about being beautiful and finding a man in order to be socially validated.

But there is a solid movement happening where we are starting to see an influx of female film and literature characters who are complex, interesting and independent. A lot of these have been created as an antidote to the Disney Princess mania, and it’s about time we started seeing the culture disrupted.

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It must be working because even Disney is wising up to this need from audiences. Now we are starting to see characters like Anna and Elsa from ‘Frozen’ who ditched the boys and instead stuck together promoting sisterhood and power together as women, and Princess Merida from ‘Brave’ who realizes that life and happiness isn’t about finding a man. More recently with characters like Riley (voiced by Amy Poehler) in Disney/Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ it is becoming more common knowledge that girls want more out of the characters and representations shown to them.

How is this being reflected in literature? We have shared a number of awesome books being written to help girls learn about the issues such as gender equality and challenge stereotypes, and now we have another collection of stories that is set to inspire the minds of young girls in a specific demographic.

Nadia Fink, an Argentinian magazine editor, created a series called ‘Anti Princesas’, and before any of our readers start to get annoyed at the whole “anti-princess rhetoric” which has happened before, let us reiterate again (as we have also done before) that the idea of a princess is not wrong in and of itself.

It’s when the idea of a narrowly-defined woman as a princess who doesn’t have any obvious skills or ambitions in life and who only desires a man in order to find happiness, becomes the standard message force-fed to young girls through every bit of media and entertainment they consume, that’s when we have a problem. In our eyes the solution isn’t to get rid of all princess characters, it’s about creating a diverse range of representations and options to balance out the scales.

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Which is essentially what Nadia is trying to do for many Latina girls. She came up with the idea while working at a political and cultural magazine where she spent time researching women like Frida Kahlo. She realized what strong and powerful role models these women could be for young girls especially because they weren’t fiction, like many of the Disney Princesses, and related to Latina girls specifically.

The first book all about Frida was released in June, and she has a series of other books planned that fit in with the themes of freedom, creativity, the search for justice, love – all traits that each of the featured heroines possess.

“We tell stories of women…because we know so many stories of important men, but not many about them. We know a few princesses, but these girls who live in huge and cold castles are far from our reality. There are women around here, in Latin America, who have broken the molds of time,” read the inside of the books.

It sets up the premise well and focuses on realism, not fantasy. The books also make it clear that these women are not valued simply for the way they look.

We wanted to break the stereotype of women whose beauty is based on their external appearance and show examples of women who have inner beauty,” she told BBC Mundo in an interview. 

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The other women featured in this series include Violeta Parra, Chilean singer-songwriter and artist who was one of the most important Latin American folklorists, and Juana Azurduy, heroine of the independence struggle in Bolivia.

We wanted to show examples of women who did not remain static waiting for a prince,” said Nadia.

For those of you familiar with the story of Frida Kahlo (played brilliantly by actress Salma Hayek in the 2002 film ‘Frida’ which was not only produced by her company Ventanarosa Productions, but also earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress) you will know that there are many aspects which aren’t necessarily “kid friendly”. But that didn’t deter Nadia, and it is one of the reasons the series is called ‘Anti Princesas’ – not all these women necessarily had “happily ever after” lives, but they lived to change the world around them.

I had researched the life of Frida and Violeta for the magazine, and I wondered how we could do to tell their stories to the children,” said Nadia.

When she started working with children’s publisher Sudestada y Chirimbote, they decided it was important to create a book series that would shift paradigms.

“We wanted to let the girls have other role models in which they can be reflected,” said Nadia, meaning role models who are more realistic to the world they live in today.

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“The women we tell stories about are also Latin American, representing our America — diverse, colorful and with strong women that dared to break with the molds of their own social context,” she told The Huffington Post.

They may not go into the more morbid aspects of some of the women’s lives, including suicide and death, but they do touch on issues such as bisexuality, by explaining that Frida Kahlo fell in love with women as well as men. This may be a turn-off for some parents, and we completely respect and understand the need to protect a child.

But in our minds, it is far more powerful for parents to be able to create an environment where children learn about a variety of issues in the world and are able to discuss it with their most trusted guardians, rather than leaving kids to fend for themselves about a topic that may be confusing.

Also, we think it is entirely healthy for young boys and girls to grow up with the idea that real life heroes don’t look like the heroes in the movies. They have struggles, they don’t always win at the end of the day, but those who change societies are often the most rejected and despised people in their communities simply because they chose to think differently.

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Both books include at the end a series of activities that encourage kids to make art inspired by the work of these two heroines.

Nadia is proud of her series that doesn’t shy away from teaching girls there is pain in life, because she believes these messages are far more important and will resonate a lot deeper than a superficial fictional plot about a princess who gets everything she wants in life for being beautiful.

Our anti princesses are taught to break stereotypes and transcend the status quo,” said Nadia.

“We want to show that, in this globalized world and strongly colonized culture, we can create beautiful stories with real women, with real lives. They suffered, had fun, went out looking for their destiny, worked with other women and men.”

Given that these books are aimed at inspiring Latina girls, they are only available in Spanish for the time being. But we hope they will eventually be available in English, and that this series will inspire other writers to share powerful, realistic stories of heroines throughout history.

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