Those of you who keep up with my musings on a regular basis (and a great big thank you to you, by the way, if you do), you will know that I have a very deep rooted issue with wanna-be closet feminists rallying around every stupid argument they can find to prove they are either victims of a cruel society, or how they have been unjustly dislodged from their allegedly rightful place as the superior sex. However, now “they” have gone and taken this to a level, that my inner princess is not willing to ignore: they’ve taken this nonsense to Disney (again) and Fairytales in general, in a most radical way. This “article”, has a message equal only to its horrific title in idiocy: Turn Your Princess-Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist In Eight Easy Steps.
First of all, deconstructing Fairytales to your own perverse political advantage is pretty twisted in and of itself. The same goes for people who think Barbie and He Man cause self esteem issues, rather than just being toys and that Yogi Bear is somehow perverted for not wearing any clothes and for his “strange” movie poster.
However, if you are going to insist on deconstructing something in a way that a child would never think of, at least don’t twist what’s in front of you and really, if you’re trying to prove a point, make sure that the examples you’re using actually serve your purpose, otherwise you just look silly.
I wish to write my own article about all the great lessons Disney teaches our kids one day, but today, I just wish to respond to this particular piece, one point at a time.
Point 1. Read the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White in which Snow White is asked to clean, cook, make beds, wash and sew for the dwarfs in exchange for shelter from the evil queen. Ask your toddler to imagine what might have been different if the dwarfs had been female instead of male, and instead of a tiny cottage in the Wood, if Snow White had stumbled upon Wellesley College.
My Response: Reading your child the original versions of anything can be a very enlightening and fascinating experience, (when done at the right age) in order to draw societal comparisons as to what classified as a classic fairytale versus our modern interpretations of them, so sure, go ahead and do that. You must be aware though, that this does not change the fact that Snow White being asked to cook, make beds, wash and sew in exchange for shelter isn’t patriarchal, or even degrading; it’s an exchange of labour, a method of payment and a way of showing gratitude. I would like to ask you to clarify something for me please: Are we trying to raise our children with the belief that if they’re pretty enough and in enough danger, the world should just protect them? Are they all damsels in distress after all? Are we trying to teach them that, free handouts are the way to go? That it’s okay to just show up in someone else’s country asking for help and be handed a house, food, healthcare and home comforts without having to do anything in exchange? I believe we as a society are already struggling with that sort of attitude…. wait, sorry did I write country? I meant home… home…
I digress, the dwarves being men, had absolutely nothing to do with this. Snow White could have easily sewn herself a pair of trousers and gone down to the mines with them to earn her keep. After all, they were providing a home, fresh food, clean water and protection; but it was more practical (or she may have preferred) to use the homely talents she had, to show gratitude and a fair exchange of labours.
Teaching our children that this message is wrong isn’t empowering or educational – it’s the exact opposite – entitled princess syndrome.
2. Wonder aloud, what with Cinderella’s history as a cleaner, if she and Prince Charming are likely to share the division of labor in their home. Remark that, if the immaculate state of his white gloves is anything to go by, it’s difficult to imagine that he ever takes out the garbage.
He is a Prince. He lives in a castle. Now, Cinderella does so too. She will never clean again. Ever. They have staff for that. This could not be simpler.
(Also, NO ONE takes out the garbage in their white dinner gloves… they’re white dinner gloves for crying out loud!)
3. Speculate if there is a connection between the Greek mythological Aurora, the goddess of the dawn who arose from the ocean in a saffron robe and rode her horse-drawn chariot across the sky ahead of the sun, sprinkling dew upon the earth, and the Disney Aurora who fainted after getting a booboo from a spinning wheel and whose prince needed to be rescued by bickering fairies. Decide that no, there’s likely no relationship at all.
This is getting silly now… okay, so even though Disney’s Aurora may not “ride her horse-drawn chariot across the sky ahead of the sun“, she was named Aurora in allusion to the exact mythical character that is being referenced here, with her name meaning “the dawn”. Moving on, as we are now mocking the movie’s damsel in distress motive, please allow me to point out that the story itself was first recorded in the Perceforest, (Book III, chapter lii) in the early 1300’s; when damsel in distress stories were common place and essential in the social make up of the time, since men were in fact considered socially and physically superior to women and all knights needed a damsel to rescue. The Disney version was filmed and released in 1959, when these stories were not only very much accepted but still commonplace.
The major difference between the original and the Disney version of course, lies in that in the original version, the princess was actually raped while she was asleep and ended up giving birth while in her coma, (medieval storytelling for you there) whereas in the Disney version, she of course would be saved by “true loves kiss”, with her body and soul still in tact. This Disney only ver recently showed to mean, that the “saviour” needs to deeply care for the wellbeing and life of, as well as genuinely love the princess. This can be found in the reimagining of the primary villain Maleficent.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m okay teaching my future children that true love means loyalty, devotion and sometimes having to sacrifice for the one whom you love, even if it is told in the metaphor of someone fighting a dragon for them.
Oh and as for the “prince [who] needed to be rescued by bickering fairies“, I think that it is a very progressive notion about men not being infallible and perfect and that even the dashing Prince needs saving. Oh, and that determined middle aged godmothers/aunties can be incredibly bad ass while invading an evil fairy’s castle… yup. No problem here.
Now, for the spinning wheel incident. Herein actually lies the best lesson as far as I am concerned, and it’s not aimed at children but rather at parents. If Aurora had been kept in the care of her parents, in the kingdom where she belonged, and treated like a proper person rather than a tiny bird being hidden away in a cage, the entire issue may have been avoided all together. If she had been told about her curse, her fate, and been educated about the importance of avoiding spinning wheels at all costs she may have never fulfilled the curse in the first place. So I think it makes a great example of how to teach parents to never underestimate their children and to teach them and speak to them like intelligent human beings for their own good, rather than handling them with proverbial “kid gloves”.
Last point, “who fainted after getting a booboo from a spinning wheel“… a booboo? Really? *sigh*
4. Praise Belle for her love of reading, but segue into a discussion about the Stockholm syndrome as it relates to women, and how that might shed insight into the phenomenon of women who stay in toxic relationships.
Or instead, you might discuss how it is presumed that Prince Adam was condemned to life (and puberty) as a beast, when he was only 11 years old… condemned by a decision made by a woman who did not know him; a strange enchantress who showed up at his door and took it upon herself to judge this boy and condemn him and his entire staff, based on a single impression. You might wish to discuss the premature and uneducated judgements by this hostile woman, and what atrocious effects her actions had upon him and all who lived with him. You might also want to discuss where his cruelty and social ineptitude came from. Could it be the emotional damage of seemingly growing up without parents to love and care for him?
By the time Belle managed to see past his childish and unsocial manners, she saw that there was goodness in him. She taught him how to stand up for others, appreciate those around him and how to have fun again. She also taught him table manners, how to read and how to dance. She looked beyond her own fears and brought out the absolute best in him. She should be celebrated for her kindness, tenacity and tolerance.
5. Propose that the hatred that Anastasia and Drizella feel toward Cinderella is not the fault of the stepsisters, so much as it represents a complete indictment of Western society and its attitudes toward feminine beauty. Suggest that all three women might be victims of the same impossible societal pressures. Work in this timeless Naomi Wolf gem: “The contemporary ravages of the beauty backlash are destroying women physically and depleting us psychologically.”
I severely doubt that the sisters actually hate Cinderella, as much as they have a bully and a gold digger for a mother. This would be a great opportunity to point out that there are abusers and users in this world, who would take advantage of the kindness and weaknesses of others and that they would exploit them to their own gain. Cinderella’s step mother, married for money and when her husband passed away, she saw Cinderella as nothing but a convenient addition to her inheritance, an unpaid help. She treats Cinderella with cold cruelty and her daughters, knowing no better, imitate their mother in their attempt to be like her and maybe, to not bring her wrath down upon themselves.
This is supported by the fact, that in the original fairytale, the evil stepmother forces her own daughters to physically cut off their toes and heels in order to try to fit into the glass slipper and doesn’t care for the damage done to them in the process, since they would never have to walk again once they were all royalty. (In this version her father also hand’t died and treated her just as badly, but that’s for another discussion.)
This is a great opportunity to teach our children, that when they see bullies at school, it’s not necessarily the children who are wicked, but rather their parents who have taught them intolerant, degrading and antisocial behaviours.
Also, it’s a great chance to talk about abuse in the home, domestic violence and the toxic cycle it presents. This might allow them to develop an eye for abusive relationships and allow them to one day help others, and hopefully avoid (or if ever need be) escape such situations themselves.
6. Chuckle about the patriarchal shenanigans of King Triton. Before the laughter subsides, ask why, in fact, everyone was so threatened by the idea of Ursula the sea witch becoming ruler, when it’s clear that she was extremely capable. Point out why Ursula might have valid reasons for becoming so frustrated about the glass ceiling under the sea. Finally, concede that while it’s very nice that Ariel and Eric were able to marry, it’s too bad that King Triton had the final say over Ariel’s body in deciding whether she would be a fish or a human being.
This is one is so easy it’s almost insulting – Ursula is obsessed with dark magic and plotted treachery against the kingdom, which is why she got banished in the first place. She is also serial criminal and a tyrannical maniac. She is not capable of anything but being a psychopath. There is literally no blame on King Triton here.
Also, Arial had no power of her own (what so ever) to change her body for her to be with Eric. Even if her father had no aversion to the relationship to begin with, in this case, they are two different species. How exactly was it any better for Ursula to have a say over Ariel’s body, while hoodwinking her and stealing her voice in the process? Instead of making out that Triton had the power to decide over his daughters body, why not revel in the fact that he saw past his judgements of humans, accepted Eric as a good person and used the magic in his power to bridge this otherwise unbridgeable gap to make his daughter happy?
7. Note the similarities between Princess Jasmine and Emma Woodhouse. Point out that if all the energy that went into finding the “right man” was instead diverted to say, solving global warming or participating in government office – something impossible in Jane Austen’s day but well within your daughter’s reach – then we would all be so much better off. Here you might want to bake cupcakes in honor of International Women’s Day.
Sure, this may be an interesting conversation to have if ones daughter is 14 and reading Emma in school, however, I think the focus is misplaced here. Since the initial focus here is on Princess Jasmine, from Aladdin, this is one of the few places where a genuine women’s rights conversation could be held, again with a more mature child. In this instance, Jasmine is not the one seeking to marry, but instead is being forced into an arranged marriage, a fate many women, especially in the far and middle East as well as India, still face today. Talk about how this is still an issue and how it was something that was even commonplace and frequently practised in our own western societies until very recently. Focus on the apparent reasons behind modern day arranged marriages; unlike the Sultan in this Disney movie, who wants Jasmine married to someone suitable, from his misguided idea that she needs to be taken care of after he eventually dies, women who are still facing this issue today are widely regarded as property and that a good match is vital to family honour. Discuss how women are running away to foreign countries to get away from being a pawn in their family’s politics, and that many of them get hunted down and killed for defying their families and this very practise. Honour killings are happening all over the world, even in the US, in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Modern day feminism is so focussed on teaching little girls these frivolous ideas of pink and sparkles being bad, that they completely neglect to realize the real lessons that could be taught. We need to make sure that future generations are aware of the world around them so that they may truly stand up for our fellow women and people, who need our help.
8. Make a list of wishes your daughter might ask to be granted from her fairy godmother. When the list is completed, tap your daughter’s forehead gently and then say excitedly: “I found your fairy godmother! It’s your brain and she’s been right here all along!”
This is literally the only one that makes sense. We should all teach our children that with hard work and dedication they can make all of their own dreams come true… there was a Princess whose Daddy taught her that too right?
Why, yes, of course there was. 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Ppij45zM8
Now, part of me really wants to believe that the original article was meant to be satirical, by golly do I hope that that’s how it was meant, but unfortunately there are plenty of people who (like me) can’t tell the difference, (even though I am fairly certain upon closer inspection that it really was meant seriously) and some who might even believe this drivel to be true and meaningful; as such I simply had to air my thoughts about it here.
If anything, I apologize for the length of this rant, and I promise, next time, there will be something more lighthearted. If you made it this far, I wish to say, as usual: Thank you for for reading and take care. xoxo