Early in life, the fairer sex finds herself in a world that wishes to limit her capabilities. Society says an acceptable woman is an uneducated woman. An unquestioning woman. Outside the home, a little girl is lucky to find the tools she needs to develop into a successful adult. Unfortunately, many girls around the country don’t even have a loving and supporting home life. But, we gals do have something in common; an early exposure to the stories of Disney’s princesses. Personally, I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t know the tales of Snow White, Cinderella, or Ariel. In a sense, Disney princesses were early examples of what a woman looks like. Their stories became as integral to my upbringing as the stories of David and Goliath and Jonah and the whale.
In the last two weeks, I heard self-declared feminist actresses bash Disney’s princess films for the lessons the films supposedly teach. One actress claimed Snow White sends a bad message to little girls because it shows that a man can kiss you without your consent. The other actress rambled on about Cinderella condoning gold digging and The Little Mermaid urging little girls to give up everything they have for a man. These analyses could not be further from the truth.
Snow White is a story of a woman who teaches us the importance of discernment. Although you may terribly want your dreams to become reality, do not let the devil fool you with promises of false wishes. Ask the important questions. Do not simply fall into the trap of another’s sugary words. Snow White shows us that through the darkest of times, a woman should look to the future with joy. She should strive to maintain a streak of boundless optimism and a positive outlook on the world.
For years, Cinderella selflessly served others while taking insults along the way. She cared for others and didn’t complain when her night of magic came to an end. It was enough that she had experienced the divine feeling of love. She always expressed gratitude for the goodness in her life and didn’t feel entitled to more. But, when she figured out that the love she found was attainable, she put up a fight. While locked in her room, she called upon the friends she loved to come to her aid. Cinderella teaches that a woman is a persevering figure in the face of unfortunate circumstances. I’m not saying a woman should be a push-over and let others treat her like dirt. I’m saying when those times of hardship come, a woman should maintain courage and perseverance in the waves of the storm.
Speaking of waves, I think Ariel teaches women the biggest lesson in comparison to the previous two. The Little Mermaid is a story of letting your curiosity and convictions lead you to achieving your dreams. In a world that wished to keep her down, Ariel never ceased to look up. She didn’t give up her voice for a man. Her love for Eric was the final push she needed to finally act upon her deepest wishes of being on land. And, chronologically, she did sing “Part of Your World” before she knew who Eric was. Yet, I digress. The Little Mermaid shows that women should never stop reaching for the heavens. Chasing the stars can be scary, and you may not always make the right decisions to get there. But, learning along the way is half the reward.
You see, these films are merely lessons. So, what is a woman anyway? Is she demure, kind, and gentle? Is she assertive, outspoken, and adventurous? Does she dare show her vulnerability? Does she pursue her dreams despite the potential cost to her image? In my opinion, a woman can possess and showcase each one of these characteristics. Being a woman shouldn’t be confined to a list of like adjectives. Feminism isn’t about teaching girls not to rely on men, nor should it be about the abandonment of seemingly weak qualities. Teaching little girls such radical precepts is equally damaging. A girl should be taught that a woman is a beautiful creature; created to spread life and change. Her versatility paints the world with glowing femininity. Each woman chooses her own path to accomplish a stunning work of art. Whether it be saving lives as a doctor, promoting the arts as a dancer, or exploring the cosmos as an astrophysicist, womanhood should be about exploration and acceptance of one’s self. Isn’t that what feminism should be about? Embracing every kind of woman?