Why the Potty-Mouthed Princesses’ F-Bombs Aren’t Empowering

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Art Credit: Shannon Lee Miller

I’m usually a fan of all things princess. But the newest princesses on the Internet aren’t singing songs about snowmen, making friends with mice, or whistling while they work.

These five little girls in princess costumes proudly proclaim the f-word while citing facts about issues facing women.

The Potty-Mouthed Princesses, as they are called, are featured in the viral video “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words for Good Cause.” FCKH8.com, a for-profit T-shirt company with an activist mission, released the video to highlight societal problems facing women, such as pay inequality and rape.

Near the beginning of the video, the girls pose a question: “What’s more offensive? A little girl saying f—, or the f—ing sexist way society treats girls and women?”

Releasing a video designed to bring buzz to the topics of assault and inequality should be a powerful statement. But in the billowing smoke from all the f-bombs, the message gets lost. Where a message of empowerment is meant to shine, other messages creep from the haze—messages that are harmful to women and girls.

The video suggests if you want to fight something offensive, you have to be offensive yourself. Contrary to its intention, being offensive is not a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness, effectively saying: Your voice isn’t good enough. Your dignity isn’t enough. To be heard, you have to shout profanity and shove your worth in people’s faces.

And really, the video itself is exploitative. In a video that claims to be about empowering women, these little girls are being used. I can’t help but wonder whether these girls grasp the weight of what they are saying about rape. Did someone explain it to them? How much do they know—and how much should they know? How empowering is it to just be someone else’s mouthpiece?

Even worse than putting these little girls in a scenario that even some adults would find uncomfortableis the fact that it disables constructive conversation. The video has reached thousands of viewers thanks largely to social media, but in discussions I've been following, I haven’t seen a single conversation about the issues the video strives to highlight. Instead I’ve seen posts about how amusing it is for little girls to say the f-word.

The statistics on rape are not only alarming, but appalling. At one point in the video, the girls say one in five women is raped. They count off, one through five, and ask, “Which one of us will it be?”

It’s a moment that should send chills down our spines. But the words that surround those sobering statistics distract us. As Karin Agness, the founder and president of the Network of Enlightened Women, notes in a TIME magazine article, it comes off as “nothing more than offensive, crude attempts to draw attention away from the real issues.” There have to be better ways of drawing attention to serious issues facing women.

Should we be surprised? I’ve always considered shouting at others—especially shouting profanity—to be demeaning. It’s especially counter-productive regarding issues of gender equality. Where dialogue is a part of solving the problem, we should be trying to foster civil discussion, not further division. The real-world challenges women face aren’t overcome by shouting profanities; they’re overcome by the real work of engaging with others to find lasting solutions.

This isn’t just a lesson in feminist issue; it’s a lesson in life. Yelling obscenities doesn’t start a conversation—it usually ends it.