We’ve written a lot over the years about Disney princesses and how they all seem to be thin, pretty, and morally good. And while a lot of princesses do have these traits, many others do not. Sadly, those are the ones that popular media rarely talks about. Enter today’s web crush: Rejected Princesses.
Rejected Princesses doesn’t just talk about princesses per sé—it talks about women found both in legend and in history. It covers women from all eras and all places, whether they were Mongolian warrior princesses or mythological Native American figures. Lolita and Beloved from classic literature get a turn, as does Penta, an Italian fairy tale of a princess with no hands.
The person behind this great blog is Jason Porath, a fan of the obscure, an ex-DreamWorks animator, and a feminist—all perfect credentials for this endeavor. Although he’s not a historian by trade, he does do a lot of research for both his pictures and for his explanation of those pictures. After the blog was hyped on sites like io9 and Huffington Post and the internet did its thing—that is to say, started criticizing his work—he made sure to clarify that he welcomed suggestions, corrections, and resources from his growing audience.
However, he’s also very aware about how stories, especially stories about women, can be twisted throughout centuries of history written by people who were often enemies of the women mentioned. In an interview with Legion of Leia, he says:
Getting things right is very important to me. It’s also extremely difficult, it turns out. […] I’ll give you an example. Many people have suggested I should do Hypatia of Alexandria – she’s easily in the top ten most requested. But she’s a very problematic example. Most people think of her as an ancient female mathematician killed by religious zealots, but there’s a strong argument to made by historians that she was more the victim of the politics of the day.
Even putting aside the problem of religious implications with Hypatia, there’s a much deeper issue at play here. If the “it was politics” camp of historians are correct in their assessment (and it seems to me like they are), Hypatia’s name was basically used posthumously in someone else’s agenda years later. That’s robbing her of agency and it’s not okay.
This sort of thing happens constantly. Catherine the Great never slept with a horse. Nzinga Mbande never drank her enemies’ blood or slit her servant’s throat. The entire story or [sic] Pasiphaë sleeping with a bull was almost certainly a psyops campaign from the conquering Greeks. There’s a lot of propaganda going on in many of these stories – sometimes hundreds of years after the fact. I personally find it all incredibly interesting, and appreciate these truth-twistings as an integral part of their histories. However, there’s a duty here to get to the truth of the matter, and that can be quite difficult.
This nuanced view on history is, unfortunately, rarely found on the internet, and it’s what makes Rejected Princesses a great resource for information as well as discussion about fantastic historical women who aren’t discussed often enough. (Porath is also wickedly funny, if you needed any other reason to go check out the site.)
You can find Rejected Princesses on Tumblr and on Facebook, and Porath himself is on Twitter here. The site updates on Wednesdays too: perfect if that’s when you’re used to doing your internet webcrushing!