Real Life Princesses; Ideal or Flawed?

The following article was written by Kunya (G10) as part of an English assignment.

The prince takes her hand and guides her forward, as they take over the dance floor— she moves, twirls, spins and turns fluently, her fairies whirling around her gorgeous dress along the notes of the piano. Sooner or later, your daughter digs into her trunk of toys, jumps into her pink tutu, puts on her tiara and dances around the house. What do you think is hidden in these scenes that persuade your daughter to do so? It’s not just one scene OR one cartoon— but it’s the constant exposure of the same gender concepts the TV throws at our daughter. The small hidden scenes. The pretty faces. The animations. The conversations. Everything. Now, let me ask you a question; when was the last time you sat and watch cartoons with your daughter? In fact, will we ever notice what is wrong if we don’t step in?

You better believe that cartoons and characters are filled with typical gender stereotypes. While you see your daughter seated in front of the television, chances are that you don’t recognise how their idolise characters has hypnotised them, populating their minds with ordinary concepts of feminine appearances, certain traits portrayed and certain roles assigned. Wondering what convinces your daughter to beg for the prettiest princess costumes? Let us take a look at a girl’s all-time favourite  Disney princesses, ranging from Aurora, Elsa, Ariel, Cinderella and Rapunzel- all presented with stereotypical features; long beautiful hair, an elegant dress, a tiara, glowing white skin, thin body, perfect lashes and baby pink lips.

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Eventually characterising a princess as an ideal aspiration for all young girls. In the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, Ursula said: “You don’t need your voice… You’ll have your looks! Your pretty face!…”, as Ursula overlooks the importance of Ariel’s talent in singing she hints that a girl doesn’t need intelligence to be successful but rather convinces that a pretty face is all that matters. Or could it be the song To be a Princess from Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper that instructs princesses “to maintain a regal gait”, “to own a thousand pairs of shoes” and “to always look your best”. Now… what do these princesses teach our daughters? That beauty is a girl’s number one priority? That girls have to look a certain way? Or is the message that beauty is the only value amongst the female gender? And that they’ll have to be perpetually nice and pretty to be accepted in society. You’ll be amazed when you find out that it’s not only the appearances that are troubled. All cartoons touch day to day activities and specific mindsets that conform to gender stereotypes. While you’re busy washing the dishes, leaving your daughter in front of the television—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, teaches her to be submissive. To conform to the housework and to conform to the role of a housewife; cleaning, washing, cooking and to say in the house. Living with 7 male dwarfs, yet having to be the one who cooks, cleans and does all the housework. As the modern industry continues to publish movies, shows and cartoons of the same classic gender norms.

What will happen next? Will our daughters grow up as fragile and meek princesses?

If you thought that this stuff went out ages ago, you certainly haven’t recognised that concepts related to gender don’t really seem to change with time, or at least they don’t change very quickly. Still, seeing the same message conveyed to girls in princess cartoons over and over again. Remember watching the beautiful skinny female in a beautiful ballgown and a unique pair of glass slippers that caught the attention of girls ALL over the world? Well, Disney published the original Cinderella in 1950. Watching Cinderella at the age of 5, you probably wanted to be like her as well. Though we saw her as a hardworking scullery maid— as girls we still looked up to her beauty. Loving tiniest waist she has, her attractive blue eyes, pink lips, the long beautiful hair she ties up and above all the gorgeous dress she wears. Now let’s fast-forward 60 years ahead in time. In 2013, Disney recently released a new show; Sofia the First. A brand-new and young princess loved by all girls, including your daughter. Like every other princess we know, Sofia wears a pastel purple ballgown— has the same glowing white skin, the same tiara, the same blue eyes, the same heels, the same flowing hair and the same set of jewellery. Excluding the advancement in how technology allows Disney to create their animations differently— we barely see any changes in the feminine appearances being portrayed. They still tell our daughters that females are princesses who wear tiaras and ballgowns and because of the plot, also tells our daughters that these princesses are who they are because of how pretty they are.

As your daughter grows up, notice they’re still mesmerised by the same concepts. Yes, the cartoons they watch changes. But, the concepts of gender in their favourite princess shows rarely adapts with time. And because of the fact that you’ve allowed them to become attached to these concepts as they grow older, it is now a hard task to detach these concepts from their mindsets. Now that they grow up developing gender identity and gender preferences with influences from cartoons. Your daughter still determines the value of herself by her beauty like what Ursula taught her. Still believes that she needs to be pretty to be accepted. Still believes that princesses are ideal females and still believes in the submissive role of females that Snow White taught her. Believe it or not, in the long run, these mindsets will become ingrained in their minds— reaching the point that it may affect a girl’s relationships, career choices, self-worth and possibly her ability to complete tasks to their full potential. Simply because they’ve been taught that way. Been seated in front of the television. Been adoring her favourite princesses and has been observing the same concepts over her preschool years that now allows her model behaviours princesses show them. What’s the result? The same shows. Same cartoons. Same princesses. Same appearances. Same dialogue. Same roles. Same mindset. Same message. Same harmful conclusions. Same false assumptions. Everything repeating in a loop your daughter can’t seem to escape growing up.

Are the princesses in cartoons really the right idol for our daughters?

Do you really want your daughter to fit into the cookie cutter definition of a girly princess? OR Do you want her to freely discover her own identity? For her to successfully grow up as an intelligent, talented and independent woman. It’s never too late for you parents to make a difference. To rebuild a better mind for your daughter. To emphasise the message. Tell her. Talk to her. Get rid of the outdated gender concepts. Happiness and worth don’t rely on beauty. The same beautiful princesses, hidden with nasty gender messages. Now… Would you sit your daughter in front of the television? Do you really think these cartoon princesses are ideal idols for your daughter?

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