This week I’ve read a couple of articles about a study claiming that Disney Princesses can hurt young girls’ self-esteem. Yes, that’s right, some highly educated people have been paid to research this.
According to the study “engaging with Disney princess culture could make young children more susceptible to gender stereotypes”. The full article is here if you want to read it.
Parents are basically being told that they should be worried by limiting stereotypes in Disney films, that may be harmful to young women later in life.
As a Disney fan and the mum of a Disney Princess-obsessed little girl all I can say is what a load of crap!
Little H has a wardrobe full of princess dresses, a box of princess dolls, and would watch Disney films all day long if she could. She’s been princess mad since we went to Disneyland Paris a couple of years ago and we are lucky enough to be going to Disney World next month. If you were to ask Little H what she’s most looking forward to she’d tell you “meeting Elsa and Rapunzel”. If we believed the experts I’d be really worried that we’re damaging our daughter’s mental health.
At 5 years old I think it’s fair to say that a little girl’s most important female role model would be their mummy. It’s the parent’s job to teach children about equality and avoid gender stereotyping. As a working mum, I’m pretty happy that I feel like a good enough role model for Little H to understand you don’t need to be a princess and live in a castle to be happy. In our family we don’t stereotype – sometimes Mummy cooks dinner and tidies up and sometimes Daddy does it. We certainly don’t make negative comments about women, my husband would be sleeping in the shed if he did! We’re all about the girl power in our house, I don’t think that playing at princesses is going to change her views.
I played with Barbies when I was little and loved Cinderella – this didn’t make me want to get a boob job and marry a prince so that I didn’t have to go to work. The reason I didn’t aspire to be like that is because my parents encouraged me to be whatever I wanted and instilled in me that you need to work hard if you want something. The same values that we’re teaching Little H.
The article I mentioned above also states that “research has shown that some Disney Princess films feature male characters speaking more often than women, which raises additional questions about the example these princesses set for girls’ independence and confidence”.
If your child’s independence and confidence is weak enough to be harmed by cartoons then I think you possibly need to look a little bit closer to home for the cause of the problems.
Is my child damaged by Disney?
After reading these articles I asked Little H a few questions, just to make sure. Remember she’s a Disney Princess-obsessed 5 year old, so exactly the kind of child that these ‘experts’ are worried about…
Q: Why do you love Disney Princesses?
A: They get to do cool stuff.
Q: Who’s your favourite Princess and why?
A: Elsa because she can freeze things and Ariel because she has a mermaid tail.
Q: Would you like to marry a prince?
N: No I’m not getting married. Except maybe to Daddy.
Q: What can boys do that girls can’t?
A: Nothing. Boys can do boy’s stuff or girl’s stuff. Girls can do girl’s stuff or boy’s stuff.
Q. Is there anything that you want to do but can’t?
A: A cart-wheel
Q: Is that because you’re a girl?
A: No it’s because I need to practice it some more.
Q: Can you think of a job that a boy could do but a girl couldn’t?
A: No everyone can do whatever they want.
Q: What do you want to be when you are grown up?
A: A police officer.
I rest my case.
No mention of dresses, looks, marrying a prince, or girls not being able to do things. Oh, and by the way, she currently wants to be a police officer because of Officer Judy Hops in Disney’s Zootropolis.
I agree that the older Disney films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty don’t exactly have strong female characters, but I think some of the more recent Disney Princesses have bucket loads of girl power…
- Elsa doesn’t need a man to help her rule her kingdom.
- Anna is very feisty and will fight for her loved ones.
- Rapunzel chases her dreams and can certainly stand up for herself.
- Tiana isn’t afraid of hard work.
- Belle is really clever and can see right through the popular guy.
- Merida doesn’t want to get married and can fight her own battles.
- Jasmine doesn’t need a prince to make her happy.
These things and the pretty dresses are what kids see – they don’t notice if the male characters speak more or how much the princesses weigh.
Let’s just let kids be kids, use their imaginations, and provide them with strong role models (of both sexes) at home.