Anyone who has even a slight addiction to social media has no doubt seen articles claiming Disney movies are racist and sexist. They have done some research into male speaking lines versus female speaking lines and found that men’s lines outweigh female lines by about 59% (found in a Washington Post article). There’s articles ranking the princess from least feminist to most feminist, (nerve.com). Even some Buzzfeed authors have jumped on the bandwagon to quickly point out all the “wrong” messages these movies are sending. Oh and I can’t forget my “favorite” article siting a study done amongst pre-schoolers about gender roles. (“Disney Princesses May Impact Gender Stereotypes Girls, (But Not Boys” seen here on the Huffington Post)
When I first starting seeing these articles pop up I immediately went on the defensive. After all, these are the movies I grew up on. I spent endless hours obsessing over Disney, as did a lot of the kids in my generation (both boys and girls alike). My own brother used to parade around acting like Simba from the Lion King as I kept sneaking dinglehoppers out of the kitchen drawer to run through my hair. So when I had my first daughter of course I introduced her to the classics. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, and so on. Not that feminism wasn’t a thing back in 2003 but maybe the world wasn’t quite so focused on being politically correct.
I agree that we need to be teaching our children about basic human rights and also about breaking the gender barriers. We are maybe only days away from having our first female president, something that would have been unheard of when “F” was born. As a society we are still struggling with certain aspects of gender equality. (Look at the wage differences women are still fighting against) Men are still being labeled as “heroes” when they are found to be taking care of their kids while their wives work. (Instead of just being considered a father) I even notice myself commenting on it when I’m out and I see a man carrying his baby in a Tula. “Wow, that’s so cool.” Or seeing a dad out at the park with 3 kids in tow doing the “Mr. Mom” thing. And on the flipside, women are still being looked down on for wanting to go back to work after having a baby. Or the saying about how when women wear the pants and are the boss they are considered “b*****” when men would just be considered being “the man”.
So how do Disney movies come into play for these stereotypes?
Some articles point out that Snow White depicts a helpless princess who has to take care of 7 men (who would be helpless without a woman to take care of them) and that when she gets puts under the sleeping spell she has to wait around for a Prince to save her due to true love’s kiss.
Cinderella gets rescued by a Prince after an “Extreme Makeover” so obviously looks are the most important thing.
Sleeping Beauty also has to get rescued by a prince after a sleeping curse. (Oh I can’t forget the debate on consent)
Ariel is obsessed with a man and gives up everything for him.
I get what these articles are trying to do. I appreciate that someone is pointing out that the times have changed. That’s one thing I loved about Frozen. Elsa’s famous line of, “You can’t marry a man you just met.” is one of my most favorite lines of any Disney movie out there. But I guess I kind of feel like we are grasping at straws of yet another thing to complain about. I never once thought that the prince’s were taking advantage of a sleeping woman, or that I needed to give up everything to find a man, etc. I saw these movies for what they were…entertainment. And maybe I’m being a little naive. I guess it wouldn’t be the first time. I do understand why these writers are saying what they are saying. I guess I can kind of even understand the study done by Brigham Young. But I guess I wish they were a little more balanced in their “reporting”.
I got the idea for writing this blog when I saw an article about Alicia Keys on Facebook. It was talking about how she won’t let her sons watching Disney movies. In the Glamour article, she points out Snow White saying, “Have you watched Snow White lately?” Keys says. “I get real funky about the classics; I don’t like [my sons] watching it. It’s totally sexist, misogynistic–she’s cleaning for seven dwarfs. There’s nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to stay at home with her family, it’s a hard-ass job, but it’s the way it’s spoken about.” Curious about how others were reacting I hit up the comment section and came across an amazing one by a woman named Anna Coil.
https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedrewind/posts/1090777604374848 (Here’s the original post and a screenshot of the amazing comment)
The missing lines of this comment are as follows
“Tiana wants to achieve her life long dream through hard work.
Rapunzel just wants to explore the world.
Merida wants to change the law so she doesn’t have to get married.
Anna saves Elsa after an assassination attempt while she’s dying.
Disney Princesses are more badass than we’ll ever be.
If I could reach through Facebook and give this woman a high five I would. I love that she chose to show everyone the positives behind these princesses.
My biggest problem with Alicia Key’s line of thinking, (and many other women based on some of the other comments I read) is that they are sheltering their kids from these movies and based off of what? Outdated views of the world? Perceived sexism? How has sheltering our youth from real world issues ever helped anyone?
Wouldn’t it better to allow your children to watch these movies and then explain to them how the world was when these movies were made and first popular. Then you can take that as an opportunity to educate them on the amazing strides our country has made toward equal rights. Even further you could explain how much further we still need to go in banishing stereotypes. I feel like this is the only way we give our children a real chance at not only forming their own opinions but also preparing them to be able to make changes in our world. Isn’t our job as parents to yes protect our children but also to help mold them into amazing adults and/or future leaders for our world?
And since I have nothing left to say on this matter, can we just take a moment to appreciate this scene from The Lion King…or does someone want to start a fight about a cross dressing meerkat?