Adding Some New Princesses, or Elle’s Unhealthy Disney Love | Vol. 4 / No. 20.5

Adding a few more to the lineup | Photo: JD Hancock, CC BY 2.0

In which Elle confesses her love of Disney princesses before informing us of some of the many badass women who would make excellent Disney princesses in future franchises.


One of the more problematic areas of my psyche is my deep and abiding love for Disney. I am a Disney fangirl. I dressed as no fewer than three Disney princesses at various Halloweens and cons. I will take every Buzzfeed Disney quiz. I will also look at every single one of those “Disney princesses in X style/Y crossover” posts. I had A Lot of Feelings about the way they redesigned the princesses in 2012. Especially Belle. (Goddamn you, what have you done to Belle?!) Disney was also there at the very beginning of my pop culture consumption; my mother reports that it was the very first movie I ever saw in theaters. And now that pop culture consumption will come full circle when the live-action Belle comes out this week. (Yes, I know if you are reading this on Feminist Friday that it is already out. But in The Past, when I am writing this, it is not out yet.)

Belle is definitely my favorite Disney princess. (I can say this because Megara isn’t officially a princess, and Megara is too sassy and self-assured to care whether I call her my favorite or not.) I identified with her So. Hard. as a child. She was brunette, and liked books, and other people hated her. And even though as an adult I am able to recognize the story of kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome and bribery (THAT LIBRARY THO)  as well as a serious case of Not Like Other Girls-itis, I still love it, so so hard. I will probably head into the theater with a mixture of sheer glee and an artificial pout to show that I Am A Feminist And I Can Recognize Problematic Things (But Seriously Please Take My Money So I Can Watch Hermione Be Belle and Fulfill All Of My Childhood Identifications At Once).

But what I’d really like to talk about today aren’t the Disney princesses that already exist—it’s the Disney princesses and characters that totally should exist. It’s the badass women of history, storytelling, and mythology who have been overlooked by history books and pop culture and that everyone should know about because they are so damn cool. All of these are brought to you from Jason Porath of, which you should totally read, and who has a book you should totally buy.

  1. Ching Shih, a Chinese pirate queen who ruled over 70,000 men, instituted rules for her followers that included a death sentence for any man that raped a female captive, evaded government control so efficiently that the man sent to detain her ended up committing suicide out of shame, bargained with the government until they allowed her to retire with no charges and a big chunk of change, and spent the rest of her life as a brothel and gambling hall owner.
  2. Tirgatao of the Ixomatae (the people who inspired the Amazon legends) a nomadic warrior who married a king, only to be betrayed by him and imprisoned in order for her husband to remain in power. She escaped, returned to her people, became their queen, defeated her former husband and his political instigator in battle, and survived an assassination attempt.
  3. Sarrounia, queen of the Azna, who supposedly used magic to help defeat the French assault on her people (and at the very least ran an effective guerilla campaign against them.)
  4. Sigrid the queen of Sweden, a (probably legendary or at least combined historical figure) who set her suitors on fire when she didn’t like them, and got vengeance on Olaf of Sweden (who gave her fake courting gifts, insisted she convert to Christianity, and hit her in the face with his glove while trying to court her, which is just…. Stunningly bad wooing skills for a king) when her new new husband the Danish king acceded to her request to see Olaf get the crap beaten out of him via a stunning sea ambush.
  5. Janequeo of the Mapuche, a Chilean woman who resisted Spanish occupation to the tune of avenging her husband’s death by defeating all of the Spanish soldiers who had overtaken his fort and then burning the fort to the ground, gathering an army of thousands, defeating a Spanish commander in one-on-one combat, ambushing the Spanish governor Alonso de Sotomayor and taking horses, weapons, and prisoners, before finally retreating into the forest when de Sotomayor was able to overwhelm her forces.
  6. Annie Jump Cannon, an early female academic who went to both college and graduate school, got a job as a Harvard Computer classifying stars, created her own classification system when she decided the existing one was stupid (and we still pretty much use her classification system today), classified over 350,000 stars and had a near-perfect recall of each one, fought for women’s suffrage, and gave a talk at the Chicago World’s Fair.
  7. Tsuruhime Ohori, a Japanese shrine maiden who declared herself a living god after her father died of illness and her brother was killed by an invading warlord. She used claw gauntlets to climb onto a ship and challenge the commander to one-on-one combat. He called her a whore, and she murdered him. Oh, and threw lots of grenades at the rest of the fleet. Though she supposedly killed herself two years later after her fiancée was killed, but since overall facts on her are not very forthcoming, it’s also possible that was a trope tacked onto her story belatedly.
  8. “Onake” Obavva, a Beda woman who protected her village by crushing the skulls of soldiers one at a time with a pestle (aka an onake) while they entered through the village walls single-file. (Also, she had to do this because her dumbass husband was supposed to be the guard and he had wandered home for lunch. It was only because he demanded she go get him some water that she discovered the invading soldiers.) Though she died later that day, she had a whole pile of corpses to her name when she did so.

Those are just a few of the many, many women who have done awesome things as rulers, fighters, scholars, artists, etc. over the years, and whose names have been all-too-often forgotten. And if Disney can traumatize us with Mufasa’s death and whatever the hell that creepy “Frollo watching Esmeralda in the flames” thing was,   then they can definitely give us big-screen versions of these women. And then maybe my Disney love will be a little less problematic.


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not reporting back after reading about many badass women of history, she studies gender in popular culture.


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