Here’s to all the strong and powerful women on International Women’s Day…and EVERY DAY!
Kiera Knightly once broke t-interweb with her announcement that she had banned her three year old daughter from watching The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. She felt that they teach her daughter wrong and even misogynistic lessons; that you need to wait for a man to save you and that you must give up your voice for the man you want…
Kristen Bell has issues with Snow White because of how consent is conveyed in it.
Fair enough. Full valid opinions.
Who are we to judge? If these Mamas don’t want to let their kids watch these movies, that is absolutely 100% THEIR DECISION!
In fact, the portrayal of women in Disney is something I have discussed with my students many, many, many times, and while I agree that many of the traditional “princesses” are frustratingly meek and mild and oh so obedient to their hearts and menfolk, I also am aware that the stories are not the cause of inequality and misogyny in our modern society.
They are only stories; fairytales, make believe… it is HOW we read them that is important.
Yes you can say that Prince Whatshisface kissing Snow White while she was sleeping is wrong. Of course it is, but why do we hone in on that, rather than the previous 60 minutes where she was a servant and cleaner and feck knows what else, for seven little men?
(And does that not insult men, suggesting that seven of them together couldn’t function without a teenage girl to look after them?)
Yes, Cinderella needed magic and spells and fab shoes to get her prince. And ‘tut’ to her that she needed a man to save her, but such was the world, the IMAGINARY world, in which she lived.
Shakespeare wrote some of the most incredibly females in history. Lady Macbeth calls upon evil spirits to “Unsex me here” because obviously she couldn’t be evil as she was a woman. (Any men getting offended here?)
And then he also wrote Ophelia, who is worse and more weak and frustrating that ANY Disney Princess in the world. Don’t start me on Ophelia…
Portia save the day when a crowd of men made a mess of everything… and then he went and ruined it all by having her marry her Prince Charming, after saving his ass. Bad Shakespeare…
Desdemona, Emilia and even the ‘strumpet’ Bianca fuel many a vehement debate in Othello… I’d argue that these three women are the only sources of strength in the text.
Shakespeare actually wrote women who were breaking the societal and cultural norm in the time in which he lived. Glass ceilings if you will…
But we don’t ban our teenagers from reading Shakespeare do we? In fact, we encourage it because we know that they can recognise the injustices and gender issues for themselves. Because we’ve given them those skills.
As for the Disney classics, remember that Cinderella and Snow White and The Little Mermaid were written in the early 1800s… of course their messages and social concepts are different to ours.
We however, get to choose how we read them.
And while there are valid arguments about the negative messages some of the classics send out, there are also plenty positives…and a few weird things, to pay attention to.
Cinderella was good and kind and she felt good in new, sparkly shoes.
She also spoke to mice and birds.
Snow White was happy that Prince Whatshisface kissed her. He saved her and she was quite thrilled. She wasn’t dragged off kicking and screaming to the castle to live happily ever after, was she?
The Little Mermaid was a defiant strong-willed rascal, who followed her heart. Her best friends were also a crab and a fish… so let’s differentiate reality from fairytale.
Our daughters are no fairytale princesses. They will not NEED to wait for a man to save them. They will be able to look after themselves. They will be self-sufficient and well able to provide for themselves, to follow their dreams, to be “anything they want to be”… but can we stop already with telling them that they DON’T need to be girly?
Yes, of course our daughters can be pilots. Of course they can be engineers. By all means encourage our daughters to believe that they can achieve anything they dream of and work for, but why do we need to tell them that being girly or wearing pink or dreaming of being a movie star are signs of weakness?
What the feck is wrong with wanting to be a movie star? Are Meghan Markle or KatyBaby failures because they found their Princes? I’m not a fan of the Royals in general, but what I see are two strong, determined women who have given up a hell of a lot for the man they love. (I wrote this 2 years ago…this example packs a much bigger punch right now.)
My daughters love dresses. They love sparkles. They love makeup and dressing up and singing and being all round princesses. They also love superheros, dressing up as Hulk, football and Pokemon and they play ninjas and wrestle.
There is no “That is for girls” or “That is for boys” in our house.
Because that is not how to teach our children equality.
I like football. I like MMA. I swear more than a lady should. I can hold my own when I train alongside the menfolk in our gymand I prefer Marvel movies to Chickflicks. In my work and projects, I take no prisoners and do not see any man as better than me.
And yet, I love to do all things “girly” too. and I love to dress up and I like sparkly shoes.
Does that make me less?
Does the fact that I like pink and glitter and girly stuff make me weak?
Because it seems to me that we’ve gone beyond telling girls they can be anything, we’ve gotten to the point that being girly is snubbed and scoffed at and actually looked down upon.
Well not on my watch.
I dress up and get my girly on, for me. Not for my Him or for anyone else. For me.
Because I am comfortable with who I am. And let me tell you, there is NO ONE who has watched as many Disney movies in their childhood (and still), as Me!
And my daughters will do what they want, how they want, Prince Charming or no Prince Charming, but they certainly will not be banned from watching Disney Movies, because all they see is a mermaid who sings songs and fights evil octopus monsters.
It’s a movie.
If you want your daughters to grow up strong and independent, teach them to be strong and independent…point out how old fashioned some of those Princesses are. (not all of them, for the newer ones are WICKED! Merida, Mulan, Ana anyone?)
And teach them that to be feminist does not mean hater of men. It means equality for all. It means being able to stand up for themselves and to be a strong and independent woman, who can change the world and kick ass…whether in trousers and flats or in a skirt and glittery heels.
Wear the pink, wear the glitter, wear the lipstick. Or don’t if you don’t want to …
But be yourself and be strong and don’t let others tell you that you’re wrong.
And then you might just live happily ever after.