Despite being a woman, I’m not a very good feminist. I never gave much thought to what makes a feminist. But then I had my first daughter, and I noticed I was becoming more aware (and supportive!) of movements like equal pay, mandatory maternity leave, and proactively protecting women from sexual and domestic violence. I paid more attention to the double standards by which women are held. And I began to think seriously about how this all would affect my daughter throughout her life.
When my older daughter was 2, Disney princesses entered our world. Barf. Despite my best efforts, both my girls now LOVE everything about these shallow dames. I’m completely comfortable and happy that they have a shared interest in all things girly and frilly. But Disney princesses? The. Worst. None of these leading ladies have much going for them other than their beauty. Why are we encouraging our children to believe that being good looking will get them out of not-so-pleasant situations?
Allow me to put a few story lines in more realistic terms:
Her father is trying to marry her off. It’s a big deal that she goes “below her class” to take interest in Aladdin. Bares her midriff and happy trail throughout.
Sleeping Beauty (Aurora)
The title alone lends itself to superficiality. She does not consent to being kissed by a man she does not know. He kisses her anyway, and when she wakes up, she decides she loves him. They still don’t know each other but somehow live happily ever after.
Is going to be killed because she’s too pretty. Man who was supposed to kill her lets her go because she’s so pretty. Sleeps in unknown persons’ bed after cleaning their house from top to bottom. Eats food offered by strangers. Also does not consent to being kissed by a strange man.
Trapped in an evil family. Sneaks out of house to hook up with a prince on the prowl. She ghosts him. When prince wants her back, he sends his minion to find her, not bothering to search for his love himself. She’s OK with this, though, and has that beautifully dainty foot.
Beauty and the Beast
This story does have a bit of moral character. Belle gives herself up to save her father. And at least Belle chooses to kiss the Beast. But he does keep her in captivity for awhile.
This is the absolute worst story of them all. The scary octopus lady literally says, “Your voice doesn’t matter, your body is enough to get a man.” Uh, what? Never mind that Ariel’s father forbids her to go human hunting and she disobeys him. She gets Prince Eric’s attention for a few days but then he ding dong ditches her when a slinky, seductive lady (with a purring voice) comes along.
Anna and Elsa
Elsa’s motto is “conceal, don’t feel.” Elsa’s power makes her different and, therefore, must be shuttered away. Anna surfed Arendale’s Craigslist site and is hell bent on marrying a (bad) guy she met that day. Instead of talking with Anna, Elsa continues to avoid their problems. Luckily, Anna figures out in time that it’s sistas before mistas and saves Elsa. But whew — that was a close one.
Now the more observant of you will make the argument that the princesses I have criticized are mostly from another generation and therefore not as progressive as more recent princesses. I’ll concede this point. However, if you ask my 3-year-old, Snow White is just as awesome as Mulan. And she wants to be a mermaid just like Ariel. So even if Disney has slightly improved in their story lines, our children are still in need of some better fairytales. You won’t find me hashtagging #Disneyprincess on #WCW.