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Alexandra Petri and Jessica M. Goldstein of the Washington Post watched Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markie and they came to a sudden realization: Princesses need unions!
Alexandra Petri is a Post Opinions columnist. Jessica M. Goldstein is a contributing writer to The Washington Post Magazine and Arts & Style.
We represent the most beloved, best-known princesses in all the lands. From the outside, our lives look glamorous and happily-ever-after. But like Meghan Markle, we have found our experiences on the job to be challenging, degrading and even painful. During Meghan’s interview with Oprah, the duchess pointed out that, when she was an actress on “Suits,” she “had a union.” But in the royal family, she had no such support. This was a wake-up call, because we, too, have been suffering. We, too, need a union.
These are our stories.
Belle: I didn’t even want to be a princess. I did want to escape my poor, provincial town, and I sang about that every single morning. But the princess thing was definitely something that happened to me, as in, I was imprisoned. My living conditions were incredibly unsanitary. I tried to leave and was immediately attacked by wolves. I had no privacy whatsoever, even while drinking tea: My teapot turned out to be a co-worker (also uncompensated) and my teacup was her son (!). The members of my former community turned on me with actual pitchforks, and I was not offered any protection except by a wardrobe.
Ariel: My boss, who is also my father, refused to allow me to travel freely. I found someone who was willing to help me, but she coerced me into signing a contract without any legal representation present. Oprah asked Meghan: “Were you silent, or were you silenced?” I can say I was absolutely silenced by this undersea witch who stole my voice and put it in a seashell, which, not to be naive, I just didn’t even know that was something she could do.
Princess Peach: I am never not in a castle. Even when I’m not in one castle, it is because I am in another castle. Sometimes I am allowed to drive, but always on a closed course. I didn’t realize how not-okay any of this was until I learned that Meghan was obliged to give her passport to her in-laws and saw Oprah’s shocked response.
Princess Leia: I was asked to dress up in a demeaning outfit at work. More troublingly, I was never given my complete genealogy, which led to discomfort in my personal life. My mother, a queen, died in childbirth, even though we live in a world where everyone has spaceships. When asked for the cause of death, the robot attending physician said she was “too sad.” This might have been tolerable a long time ago; it is not tolerable now. I demand better maternity care for space royalty.
Fiona: At work, I was forced to listen to songs by Smash Mouth.
Cinderella: I’ve never been compensated for my labor ever in my life, and my entire life is labor. I’ve endured a litany of abuses by my manager (wicked stepmother) and her deputies (ugly stepsisters). Some particularly chilling examples: I’ve been forced to live and eat in a mouse-infested attic; denied access to basic hygiene (had to allow birds to style my hair); made to work overtime and holidays, including balls.
Aurora: I was injured in my workplace by a faulty piece of spinning equipment (where was OSHA?), which necessitated decades of bedrest. I received no paid sick leave, and I was obliged to submit to an experimental medical kiss-wakening treatment to which I had not consented in advance.
Snow White: I am doing the work of literally seven men for zero pay. I was poisoned on the job by a jealous competitor. Every time I walk to work, men whistle at me.
Jasmine: I am glad I didn’t know this then, but a tiger is actually not a safe companion for a child, and every time I look at old photos of myself, I wince with terror.
Mia Thermopolis: Unlike Meghan, I did receive guidance on how to behave as a princess. But the keratin treatment I was obligated to undergo permanently destroyed my natural curls, which did not need to be straightened in order to be beautiful. What they needed was proper curl care, including a microfiber towel, a sulfate-free shampoo and a moisturizing deep conditioner, none of which was provided to me.
Rapunzel: I second the concerns on the subject of hair cruelty.
Tiana: I have worked in the restaurant industry and the princess industry, and the restaurant industry was healthier. I do not say this lightly. Like Meghan, I was grateful for the time I had spent outside the princess bubble that allowed me to understand that none of the things I was experiencing within it were normal. Also, I was transformed into a frog.
Kate Middleton: I don’t think we need a union.