Written by Kate Mai-Lyn for her blog, Ever After With Kids.
It is a common belief that one cannot be a feminist and love Disney at the same time. Disney princesses are anti-feminist! You’re teaching your girls that being rescued by a prince is their life’s purpose! You’re teaching them that beauty is the most important thing a woman can possess! Tut tut. I say to those people – you clearly don’t watch much Disney.
The assumption that Disney paints females as passive damsels awaiting rescue is as outdated and misguided as the stereotype itself.
Try telling Mulan she isn’t a feminist. The entire movie is a criticism and mickey take (pun intended) of patriarchal ancient China.
Tiana, a waitress…achieving her dream of opening a resturaunt entirely through her own hard work…sounds pretty feminist friendly doesn’t it? Even some of the older movies…like Beauty and the Beast, depict women with interests their peers frown upon (‘it’s not right for a woman to read…soon they get ideas…start thinking…’) being celebrated. Such a wide range of personalities, interests, cultures, appearances, and motivations are represented by Disney now…and if there is a group you haven’t seen kicking ass yet…I bet it’s in the pipeline…because that’s what Disney does. It comments on current society, whether it means to or not, and the discussions you can have with your child in response to some of the themes are infinite.
Imaginary talking point with child No1
‘Mummy, why won’t they listen to Mulan now that they know she’s a girl, when they did listen to her when they thought she was a man?’
Imaginary talking point with child No2
‘Mummy, why does Jasmine’s dad think he can decide who she marries?’
‘Daddy, (because why not, get the dudes involved!) why don’t the birds and mice help clean our house?’
Imaginary response – ‘Because a discovery was made sweetie, that men are not actually allergic to cleaning! Now they can do their fair share of cleaning and the birds and mice can be free!’
And before we all start hating on Snow White – some women like cooking and cleaning up after tiny men…she is just one of a broad spectrum of different kinds of women that exist in this vibrant world. Those of us with our feminist hats on wouldn’t scoff and roll our eyes at a man who liked those things, that would be sexist wouldn’t it? So guess what, scoffing at Snow White for the same thing BECAUSE she’s a woman is sexist. There’s room for all us to be represented in fabulously beautiful musical animation!
Not only has Snow White got every right to do as she pleases, she is also a product of her time. Which isn’t a crime. In fact, the Disney movie roll out is like a kid friendly depiction of the emancipation of women, with each movie we see the women getting feistier, more outspoken and complex…we see patriarchy disintegrating and women realising their own dreams instead of those chosen by their respective societies.
So I will not be apologising for LOVING Disney, and sharing that love with my two girls who seem to love it just as much already. And if I am ever blessed with another child and it happens to be a boy, they will be exposed to the same spectrum of badass female role models (as well as the broad range of male ones) provided by Disney, just the same. Wanna work your ass off for your dream job? Do it like Tiana. Wanna defy societal norms and not marry at all? Do it like Merida. Wanna read books and fall in love with whoever you want regardless of what they look like? Do it like Belle. Wanna put the love for your sister above all else? Do it like Ana and Elsa. The list is endless. And it’s increasing year by year. Disney is now a leader in depicting diversity and feminist ideas…get with the times people.
So before you write off anything Disney as poison for your child’s mind, maybe you should look again before judging. Regardless of the women’s issues addressed in the movies…the overarching theme of Disney movies is good vs evil, and the triumph of honesty, morality and decency. Even for that alone Disney is worth a second look.