What Disney princesses teach our children
Love it or hate it, if you have a little girl in your life, chances are you’re already word perfect at Let It Go and secretly enjoy belting it out in your private shower karaoke sessions.
Frozen did for me what I suspect it did for many of you; reintroduced the tribe of Disney princesses into my life. Its UK release in 2013 coincided with my daughter (then aged 2) learning to speak and sing, and for a few weeks I had little idea of the impact the tune she came home warbling would have on our household.
Disney is, of course, as inescapable for them as it was for us. But what impact does Disney’s view of women have on our children? Do those tiny waists, big eyes and flawless complexions reinforce society’s stereotype of feminine beauty? What picture do our children imbibe of what a woman can look like, even behave like?
Well, maybe Disney are taking a step in that very direction with their ‘Dream Big, Princess’ advert which, if you haven’t already seen it, might be a great way of opening an interesting conversation with your child about their hopes and aspirations.
I’d always considered Disney’s view of women to be, ahem, a tad outdated. But then I looked more closely at some of the most iconic princesses and I began to reconsider.
Take Merida from Brave. Not your stereotypical princess waiting for a man to come along and complete her life. Far from it, she’s completely uninterested in boys – probably because she’s better with a bow than they are. Ok, a bit of a stroppy teenager – and I’m not looking forward to those battles! – but she’s adventurous, determined and more than able to sort out problems on her own. Go Merida!
What about Cinderella, one of the original Disney princesses, do we really want her as a role model for our children? Well, let’s consider. Orphaned as a little girl, Cinderella accepts her lot with (usually) good grace, works hard and possesses an enviable inner strength that enables her to cope with all the trials and tribulations in her life. Pretty desirable character traits, wouldn’t you say?
Even Snow White, a proper damsel in distress, wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty by cleaning up the cottage for the dwarfs. She too made the best of the situations she found herself in, was always kind and loving and found her appropriately happy ending.
In Beauty and the Beast, Belle rejects the handsome but dastardly Gaston in favour of her freedom and her books, showing a love of learning that I strive to encourage in my children. She’s incredibly brave too; setting out to search for her father and then offering herself as the Beast’s captive in his place.
Another favourite in our house is Tiana, heroine of the Princess and the Frog; as much for the fabulous song Almost There as for Tiana herself. Incredibly hardworking, focused on her vision, determined and adventurous… can you see a theme emerging here?
Which, I guess, brings us full circle to the feisty Princess Anna of Frozen. Much to my daughter’s disgust I choose Anna over Elsa every time because she’s the one who sets out to solve the problems that Elsa has created. She climbs mountains, commandeers help, braves wolves and monsters, all for love… and love for her sister rather than the treacherous Prince Hans! Sisters doing it for themselves, yeah!
So yes, the Disney princesses are welcome guests in our house. They all display an inner as well as an outer beauty, they’re strong, kind and hardworking. They’re adventurous, determined, intelligent and loving. What more could we possibly hope for in our daughters? And if that weren’t enough, they also give me the chance to snuggle up on the sofa with a cup of tea and my own beautiful princess.
It’s International Women’s Day on Tuesday March 8th so why not take the opportunity to start a discussion with your children about your favourite Disney Princesses and what you find special about them? It’s a fun way to help our children, boys and girls, to see past outward beauty and common stereotypes, and see what really matters – what’s going on inside.
Sophia Lee-Spencer is a blogger, mother-of-two, and BrainBox fan – with a special place in her heart for Disney princesses.