Disney Princesses and the Cautionary Tale They Tell

There we were in the Spirit Halloween store in search of the perfect costume. I had been urging my four-year-old daughter to go with Wonder Woman. We headed straight for the section that had the complete selection of Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman costumes, along with a handful of other less known female superhero characters (I know these characters have their own history of sexist stigma, as far as my four year old os concerned they’re just girl superheroes, equal to the men).

But no. On the wall off in the distance was a sea of pink, glitter and lace. The princess section. As I held the Supergirl and Wonder Woman costumes in my hands I yelled after her “Wait! Don’t you want to be one of THESE?” But it was too late she was already gone. And the costume chosen was Sleeping Beauty. The year before was Cinderella and the year before that was Belle. Well, 2009 was just another princess year at my house.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the traditional fairy tales as a girl. And that part of me is still drawn to pink and lace and all things girly. It’s ingrained in my female soul. But as an adult I’ve found many things to be disturbing about the princesses. Especially in recent years as Disney has worked hard to make the Princess genre one of the most highly marketable genre in children’s clothing, toys, movies, music, and of course costumes.

My daughter is four. I cannot ban the Disney princess’s from my house. So I let it be, even it if it does get my goat.

But recently I read a book that helped me take another look at the classic fairy tales and rethink my perception. I read the Women With the Alabaster Jar. The book takes a closer look at the feminine in religion, kind of a more detailed look at the story most people heard about in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.

In this book there was an entire section devoted to how woman are perceived in the classic fairy tales of yesterday. And the point of view was a new one. You see the theories discussed in this book were about the need for feminine and male balance in the world. The age old law of Yin and Yang. Basically a world without balance of both the male and female falls to ruin.

Look at these fairy tales in that sense. The men in these tales are empty. They are completely lost without a feminine equal. So lost that they are willing to risk their lives battling dragons or traveling aimlessly across the countryside in search of their feminine equal. Because without the feminine equal they are nothing. In Sleeping Beauty when the female half falls asleep, the entire kingdom falls asleep with her. The world in a sense stops without the feminine character.

This is exactly how I see the lack of representation in the world as well. Think about it. If we truly had both the male and female represented in politics would the healthcare debate be raging on? Would we still be trying to gain equal pay? Would we still be struggling to make crimes against women and gays considered hate crimes? Do you think crime would be as high as it is? Unemployment? Who’s to say for sure, but take a look at this recent report from the Global Gender Gap Report.

Finland & Norway ranked in the top five. Is it a coincidence that both countries also rank in the top five for female political representation as well (41% and 47% respectably)? Not at all.

Could these classic Fairy tales actually just be a cautionary tale for why the world is in disarray? I like to think so. It’s not about getting more women than men in office. It’s not about women being better than men. It’s about equality. It’s about not being able to have a happy ending without both male and female being represented and being present.

We, as women, as Americans, and as members of the Human Race will never really be able to start solving the world’s problems until we achieve balance. Until the Prince stops prancing around and admits that’s he’s nothing without the Princess. Only then will the rest of the kingdom awaken and the world will truly change.

Old Stereotypes Die Hard

In honor of Women’s History Month, a lot of publications and websites have come out with articles about the history of the women’s movement and how far we’ve come. And though in some areas that might be true, many women feel we’ve got a long way to go to truly reach gender equality here in the United States and especially in other parts of the world. The current women’s movement is not just about laws and fair pay but about changing a biased attitude that has been around far too long.

Attitudes like the ones expressed in an article in the Vatican’s newspaper titled, “The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax ” examine how the washing machine has done more for the women’s movement than any other invention in recent history. The article also tells the tale of how the increase of women in the workplace was in large part due to the washing machine. Once we had help with the laundry, we could go to work elsewhere. It was a small step, but an important one.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, keep in mind the gender biases that still exist. As well as the reasons why a Presidential Commission on Women is so vital not just for protecting and preserving our rights, but about helping to change the stereotypes that still run so strong.

Let the world know that we are not here because of washing machines. We are here because we are strong enough and smart enough to be here.