Disney Princesses: Feminists or Foes?

*Uh oh! This post got lost in the black hole known as the Internet. Maddiegal tried to redraft this post exactly as she had it before.*

Disney movies were a thing when I was growing up. They were the end all, be all. My mother would pop the VHS tapes in and out constantly, my and my sisters’ eyes glued to the tube.

It’s no wonder, of course, that I’ve always been influenced by the messages in many of those films. A lot of the subtle sexism and racism went over my head as a child and young adult. Is it possible, though, that these Disney princesses still have some redeeming feminist qualities?

1. “The Little Mermaid”

The lesson people think it teaches: Give up parts of yourself for a guy.The Little Mermaid, screencap 1

The lesson it taught me: Find your place in the world.

Yes, Ariel ended up basically selling her soul away to the sea-devil to be with a guy. But didn’t you watch the beginning of a film where she’s exploring a sunken ship and escaping the jaws of a shark? Ariel is an adventurer: brave, smart and caring. She wants to know everything about the human world, a world so unlike her own.

“Bet’cha on land they understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters. Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand.”

Although Ariel doesn’t know everything about the human world (I am a daughter and I have been reprimanded plenty ‘o’ times) she wants to take a leap and visit a new place that she was interested in and felt she belonged.

2. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”

Snow-White-classic-disney-10264612-1120-800The lesson people think it teaches: Wait around to be rescued.

The lesson it taught me: No matter what, keep holding on to hope.

Snow White is probably the most controversial princess I could pick and I 100% understand why people do not think she is any kind of feminist role model.  Snow White is presented as a male rights activist’s dream come true; submissive and traditional. However, Snow White was also being treated cruelly by her only family member and her life was threatened. Did she give up? No! That girl kept on singing!

There’s a lot in life that is out of our control. Death, sickness, tragedies. Most of the time, there is little we can do to prevent or stop these things from happening. Having faith in anything, whether it’s a religion or a book or even yourself, will help keep you pushing through the bad.

3. “Tangled”

The lesson people think it teaches: You can’t take on the world without a man’s help.rapunzel

The lesson it taught me: Take a chance on your dream, even if it scares you.

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly a child when “Tangled” was released in 2010. It has become a staple in my Disney film collection, however, and I think Rapunzel has become one of the best Disney heroines in the past decade.

The finest quality that Rapunzel possesses is her authenticity. She wants to leave her tower but is scared of the reality. When she actually gets the opportunity to do so, she wonders if its the right choice.

“Look at the world – so close, and I’m halfway to it! Look at it all – so big – do I even dare? Look at me – there at last! – I just have to do it. Should I? No. Here I go….”

Sounds like the day I left for college. The fear, the excitement and finally the self-support to start a new page.


Bonus Princesses!

The Disney women don’t need to be defended – they’re feminists from head to toe!

Mulan from “Mulan”

Has to dress as a man, but saves China and destroys Shan Yu in the end. The toughest Disney lady to date.

Jasmine from “Aladdin”

Another woman looking to explore a different side to life, Jasmine unapologetically rebukes any type of arranged marriage and sneaks out of her palace walls. She stands for what she believes in – a great message to teach young girls and boys.

Merida from “Brave”

One of our newest Disney princesses, Merida’s story doesn’t focus on a romantic love but a family love. The bond between mother and daughter moves the film through its entirety. Plus “I’ll be shootin’ for my own hand!” Bullseye for feminist Disney fans.