I’ve been challenged lately to think about the types of media characters that are a part of my daughter’s world. I’m talking about those of the Disney princess ilk. The types of characters that trade primarily on their looks.
Think about it. Rapunzel has the great hair; Cinderella the beautiful clothes and shoes; Snow White was famed for her pale skin and dark hair, and so on. ( I realise these characters were not created by Disney, but it’s Disney version of them that I’m getting at.) What is more, these girls don’t actually ‘do’ anything to get anywhere in their stories. They don’t create anything, build anything. You could argue they are overcoming circumstances or difficult people, but they are not using talents or intellects. In short, they are characterised by their passivity and looks- which fit a stereotypical mould. The typical fairytale princess.
What kind of message are these characters sending to our daughters? That their looks are all that count? That someone else- a man- will come along, sort things out for them and they’ll live happily ever after? And don’t even get me started on the notions of romantic love these tales are centred on! Like getting the man is all that counts, and that even when, if, you do get him, it is all happily ever after- we all know that is a fairytale!
These characters are our girls’ earliest role models, and how important and influential these early role models are. As young as two and three, our daughters are aspiring to be like them. They send a message to young girls about just how far- or not- they can go in life, how much they can do for themselves and what about their own beings they should and can capitalise on.
“It’s okay to be strong, adventurous, spirited, and an individual. You can be amazing without the focus on beauty and romance.”
How refreshing! To hear a media character (and a Disney one at that!) tell us of all the things we can be even if we’re having a bad hair day.
It was the Brave Girl Alliance that got me thinking about this whole area. (Please do check out their website, it’s a campaign that is well-worth supporting.) There’s also been the recent campaign launched by Mayor Bloomberg of New York to address the self esteem of girls. (Bizarrely though, it tells girls they are beautiful the way they are, thus again placing the emphasis on looks. Kind of frustrating and contradictory, but lets assume they are talking about inner beauty- hmmm).
I want my daughter to understand that it doesn’t matter how she looks. An interest in fashion, make-up, jewellery and all things image related is fine. But I want her to value and treasure her God-given abilities and always know that they are at her disposal to use in life; and its these aspects of her character that her greatest assets.