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Rosa Brooks: The Misogynist Marketing Of Disney Princesses

lmarshalls Icon Posted by Lucinda Marshall

April 2nd, 2008

Rosa Brooks recent column about the toxicity of Disney princesses is totally righteous. She writes,

“Start with some light feminist analysis. It will not have escaped you, Mothers of America, that Disney princesses — Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the rest — rarely slay dragons, play sports, pilot jets or do open-heart surgery. Instead, they fiddle with their coiffures, linger over invitations to the ball, flee ineffectually from evil crones and swoon.

You don’t have to be Gloria Steinem to realize that these are not, for the most part, useful professional skills in today’s world.”

But it was her reminder of just what Disney thinks of mothers that nailed the true depth of the misogyny that is implicit with their profit margin:

“Ah, yes. What happens to you?

You didn’t think Disney was going to stand idly by while you engaged in those little feminist critiques, did you now? Pause for a moment to consider the fate of the princesses’ mommies in those Disney movies. “Cinderella” and “Snow White”? Mothers killed off by mysterious illnesses. “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”? Mothers all missing; presumed dead.

Disney really has it in for mommies: Even when you leave princess-land, it’s the same pattern. Bambi’s mom? Shot dead by a hunter. Nemo’s mom? Eaten by a barracuda. Of all the major princesses, only Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Aurora; like all criminals, she often goes by an alias) has a nuclear family, not that it does her any good. But given Disney’s track record, I wouldn’t want to underwrite her mother’s life insurance policy.”

It does bear noting that their marketing to boys is just as insidious. The conversations I had in my head every time I had to decide whether to give in to my young sons when they begged for the paraphernalia that went along with the latest cartoon (and Disney isn’t the only company that is at fault here) mutant boy character were, trust me, enough to fill a book. I think it was the debate over the Power Ranger shoes that made me realize that there was a whole lot more to parenting than poopy diapers and that raising boys, no less than girls, was going to be a worthy feminist challenge.

Cross-posted from the Feminist Peace Network blog.

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