Disney’s Influence On Girls

Consider the following Image:

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I want you to consider your initial thoughts such as what do they look like, body language, clothing, and figures. Possible answers could be very thin, little waists, revealing clothing, seductive looks, and beautiful faces. Now having analyzed this photo, I want you to consider how this could affect young girls. They might not understand these persuasive tactics, but they are seeing and taking in the importance of physical appearance. I feel it is important to focus on Disney Princesses direct effect on young girls because in today’s society young girls are pressured to be “perfect” all day and every day.

A survey released in October 2006 by Girls Inc. said, “school-age girls overwhelmingly reported a paralyzing pressure to be “perfect”: not only to get straight A’s and be the student-body president, editor of the newspaper, and captain of the swim team but also to be “kind and caring.”

In an article titled “What’s wrong with Cinderella” author Peggy Orenstein responded to the survey’s results by saying, “Give those girls a pumpkin and a glass slipper and they’d be in business.” In other words Orenstein is indicating that perfection can only exist in fairy tales and is impossible to achieve in real life.

Various studies have been done in order to better determine the common gender roles and stereotypes children are commonly exposed to. An article written by England and Descartes, six Disney movies were evaluated including Snow White and the seven dwarfes (1937), Cinderella (1950), Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995). The authors from this study found that Princesses were typically born into power rather than seen attempting to achieve power. Princesses did not show ‘typical’ masculinity including physical power or withholding emotions. The princesses appeared to be more cooperative, nurturing, tending to their physical appearance, and troublesome.

In “Things Walt Disney never told us” written by Kay Stone, similar findings on stereotypes and gender roles were found, but Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella were the only princesses analyzed. Stones results concluded that all three princesses were pretty and passive and all three had female villains. This strongly enforces a popular stereotype of innocent beauty victimized by villains. Furthermore, Stone found all were patient, obedient, industrious, quiet, and all required to be saved by men. Finally, Stone discovered that their freedom was restricted. Take Rapunzel for example she was locked away in a tower, Snow white was sent out to be killed, Sleeping Beauty was put to sleep, Cinderella was a slave to her stepmother and evil stepsisters, and Ariel had her voice taken from her. The author also suggests that children might view themselves as the helpless underdogs (the princesses) who eventually triumph over the power of witches and ogres (their parents).

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All of the findings listed above have a critical and direct effect on young girls. It is important to be aware and consider the stereotypes and gender roles that are embedded in children’s lives through television, school supplies, magazines, clothing, and more. This awareness has the ability to better the lives of children in preventing self-esteem issues and conquering childhood as independent/original individuals and not as what society pressures them to be.

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