One of the first pop-cultural references that children get when growing up is Disney movies. Right from Cinderella, Snow White, to Elsa from the Frozen series, their role models are animated boys and girls fighting for good over evil.
What can you read in this article?
- Children Exposed To Disney Stories Have Positive Views On Gender Role Identity
- Disney Stories Now Focus On Capable And Self-Reliant Princesses
- Tips For Parents With Disney-Loving Little Girls
To be fair, it’s hard not to expose your children to these movies. They are practically everywhere and children obviously find a natural attraction towards these movies and shows.
But in a rapidly evolving world that is now more gender fluid than ever, the traditional Disney movies may come across as sexist. As parents, you may fret if these movies send the right message when it comes to gender role identity.
You wonder if fairy tale princesses can negatively impact your child’s mind about a girl’s body image. Moreover, the damsels in distress like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White can reinforce the idea of a woman’s helplessness.
But a new study suggests that this might not be the case.
The study states that children who are fans of Disney princesses actually have a healthier outlook on gender role identity.
Children Exposed To Disney Stories Have Positive Views On Gender Role Identity
Image courtesy: Pixabay
The study revealed that by the age of 10, children who were obsessed with princesses were five times more likely to have “progressive” views on gender role identity.
They understood that boys shouldn’t repress their emotions.
Meanwhile, the study also concluded that both boys and girls who were Disney fans had better self-esteem about their bodies.
While certain characters in select Disney stories can give rise to toxic masculinity in the minds of young boys, that does not seem to be the case.
The study interviewed 307 children at the age of five years about their likings and interest in princesses by researchers.
It was found that those girls who loved to play with princess toys in preschool and watched princess TV shows were less likely to adhere to the stereotypical female interests a few years down the line.
Disney Stories Now Focus On Capable And Self-Reliant Princesses
Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot
Credit also goes to the new set of stories from Disney that seem to be more socially aware. Many Disney movies have changed their storyline in recent years.
They have shifted more towards focussing on princesses that are capable and self-reliant. For instance, the pan-wielding Rapunzel or the seafaring Moana.
However, the study showed that even those children who were fans of Sleeping Beauty in preschool also held progressive views about gender roles.
Sarah Coyne, the author of the research had also previously worked on the same subject. In 2016, she and her colleagues interviewed many preschoolers for a study.
They concluded that both boys and girls who like princesses predicted more female gender-stereotypical behaviour a year later. Sarah highlighted that these behaviors could be limiting in the long run for young women.
Furthermore, the study found that girls with worse body esteem tend to engage more with Disney princesses, possibly to seek out role models of what they consider to be beautiful.
However, Sarah’s new study finds that this stereotypical behaviour will not be there with the child in the long run.
The potential explanation which researchers could think of is that parents may use princess movies as a topic to speak to their children to discuss gender stereotypes. These stories give the children an opportunity to see girls as protagonists.
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“Results Can’t Be Generalised”
Now you may wonder if all the children exposed to princess stories will have such progressive views. Well, the answer is no.
Researchers spoke to children from Utah and Oregon in the US, and about 87 per cent of them were white. Therefore, Professor Rebecca Hains says,” It’s not right and safe to generalise the results.”
Having said that, if your children are too obsessed with Disney characters like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, there is no reason to panic.
It doesn’t mean that your girl will start believing that they will grow up to be damsels in distress and boys will come as their knight in shining armour.
Tips For Parents With Disney-Loving Little Girls
It is normal for your children to be obsessing about princesses. But make sure they don’t frame any false notions about gender roles.
For instance, if they are craving to have a body like Snow White or be as fair as Ariel, then you need to step in.
- Teach them to treat everyone with respect and love their body.
- Help them to identify other traits in the characters like Cinderella’s love for animals.
- Children often like to be in their fantasy world, but make them understand the difference. They can’t be striving to be the prettiest girl and waiting for their Mr Perfect to come and save them.
- Children learn from their parents and they watch their actions closely. So, make sure before you teach them about gender equality and you also practice the same at home.
Strong Female Characters From Disney Movies
Image Source: Wal Disney Pictures
With Disney’s ever-increasing library of movies and TV shows, there’s never a dearth of characters to expose your child to.
And to help your child find inspiration from the right role models here’s a list of strong female characters in the Disney world that do not conform to the traditional gender role identity.
- Moana, Moana
- Elsa, Frozen
- Rapunzel, Tangled
- Belle, Beauty and the Beast
- Anastasia, Anastasia
- Mulan, Mulan
- Lilo, Lilo and Stitch
- Kiki, Kiki’s Delivery Service
- Merida, Brave
- Pocahontas, Pocahontas
- Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
And finally, actor Scarlettt Johansson. While she may not be an animated character, the actor definitely is the “queen” that your children should look up to, simply for challenging the media house with the Black Widow controversy.
Push your daughters to dream big and make her the queen of her own castle!