I’m Not A Princess Anymore
“I wish I could, but I have to take my sister to hang out with her J.A.P. friends tonight.” My friend stared at me, shocked that I had dared to say such an offensive word. I quickly filled her in with a brief lesson on Jewish slang – J.A.P. stands for Jewish American Princess, and my sister most definitely is one. She even proudly admits it – she happily attends a J.A.P. camp, is part of a J.A.P. youth group chapter, and has many J.A.P. friends. Me on the other hand, I am as far from a J.A.P. as one can get. I hate the reference, and none of my friends are J.A.P.s.
The world of Jewish women seems to be divided on the J.A.P. issue. Is it a positive term? Or is it a harmful one that reinforces negative stereotypes? In her article, Reclaim the J.A.P. ,for JWA’s blog, Alana Kayfetz argues that while most connotations of J.A.P. are harmful, we as Jewish women should work to redefine the term as follows: a J.A.P. is a powerful woman who is confident and willing to work hard to get what she wants. As a feminist, I fully support this, but as a young Jewish woman, I think that J.A.P. is the wrong term to use.
The problem with J.A.P. begins with the P - Princess. Little girls are often referred to as princesses, and are often told that they are sweet and cute. Then as they grow older, that mentality continues. Many young girls grow up with the belief that they are perfect, simply because that is what they have been taught since a young age. For many, the realization that they are not perfect like the princesses they were told they were is devastating, and they spend time trying to become the perfect princesses that people said they should be. The pursuit of princess perfection is unrealistic and therefore can be detrimental for many girls, and it can also cause them to put aside dreams and aspirations that are more important.
The J.A.P. only pushes this princess problem further. By arguing that it is okay for Jewish girls to act like princesses, they are essentially being told that it is okay to be needy, demanding, and overly concerned with material things. Today, the word J.A.P. is associated with girls who behave like princesses and expect to be treated in this fashion. J.A.P is a term used to describe girls who are annoying, and I have never heard it used in a positive connotation. It is no longer a good thing to be a J.A.P., and the term is too far gone to be saved.
As a feminist, I don’t want to be called a princess (I would much rather be a queen like Latifah or Beyonce). I have worked hard to become the person I am today, and the women who have influenced me had to work hard as well. But despite their impracticality, most little girls still look up to Disney princesses as role models. They then try to become them, and instead, become J.A.P.s. We need little girls to stop striving to be fairytale princesses when they grow up, but in order to achieve this we need to introduce them to new role models. We all need to act like the women we want little girls to grow up to be, and I don’t think we want them growing up to be spoiled and demanding.
Alana Kayfetz argued that we should try and save the J.A.P., that we as Jewish women should try to reclaim the term as one of power and respect. But rather than reclaim the J.A.P., I think we should strive to find another term that more accurately describes Jewish women. We need a word that doesn’t portray us as princesses, but rather portrays us as strong, confident, independent, powerful, smart, beyond capable, and more. We should look for a term that envelops all that we are and all that we aspire to be. We need a term that celebrates our unique aspects, that recognizes our achievements, and that highlights our skills.
Let’s forget the J.A.P. I for one am tired of being called a princess. I don’t want to be known as sweet; I would much rather be known as smart, as an innovator, as a leader. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to leave the J.A.P. in the past.
For now, I will be a J.A.W. Jewish American Woman!
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Cantor, Gabrielle. "I’m Not A Princess Anymore." 17 February 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 25, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/i-m-not-princess-anymore>.