Sitting in my Women, Gender and Ethnicity class this week, I was pretty close minded about learning how women are portrayed in Disney movies. I thought to myself: this is all probably just a huge exaggeration. People are over-analyzing kids movies just for the thrill of it. Women in kids movies aren't sexualized. But after the lecture, I walked away with a totally different perspective on how the media portrays women.
Women in the media are often portrayed as objects; an accessory for a man. This is no news to me. Even fast food commercials sexualize women to lure in more customers. But when it comes to Disney movies, I had never looked deeper. Even re-watching these movies as a teenager, I had never put more thought into what was playing on the screen. However, in my WGS class, I realized that even in children's movies women are desired only for their looks; their viewpoints, words and thoughts disregarded.
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The Little Mermaid is a Disney classic. Ariel wants to become a human and live on land in order to be with Prince Eric. However, there's a price to pay. She won't have a voice and must get Prince Eric to fall in love with her within 3 days or else she'll have to stay a mermaid forever. The disgusting thing about this film is that Ursula repeats the notion that guys don't like girls for what they have to say but rather for how they look. "On land it's much preferred if ladies not to say a word," and "they're not too impressed with conversation, true gentlemen avoid it when they can." These lyrics give off the impression that men don't care about what women's viewpoints or opinions. To Ursula, having a voice won't be a problem as long as you're beautiful.
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In the 1995 film Pocahontas, John Smith and his people had the intentions of colonizing the land that Pocahontas's tribe lived on. The Jamestown settlers planned on killing her tribe to conquer the land. But of course, since this is a Disney movie we're talking about, there's always a happy ending with a boy and a girl. When Pocahontas sang Colors of the Wind, she mentioned how John Smith views her as an ignorant savage. Her and John Smith are polar opposites; in fact, their goal was to go to war with one another. After Pocahontas sang her song that lasted 3 minutes at most, John Smith fell madly in love with her and wanted his people to halt all plans to colonize the land. How is it that a man can fall in love with a girl after just a few short minutes of singing about her culture? I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that she was wearing a short dress and had the ideal body of a woman with big hips and a small waist, right? Wouldn't it take a little more persuasion than a 3 minute song to make John Smith fall head over heels? Although this is by far my favorite Disney movie because it teaches a lesson of equality of all humans, the romantic aspect is laughable.
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Another Disney movie where women are sexualized and adored only for their appearance is Cinderella. We all know the classic tale of the poor girl who gets verbally abused and ordered by her step sisters who suddenly is granted one wish to attend a ball wearing a beautiful dress and outstanding hair and makeup. There she meets her Prince who falls madly in love with her as they dance without ever saying a word to her. Not a word is exchanged between the two, but he's certain she's the right woman for him. This film gives off the impression once again that women are desired for their beauty, and their personalities are left in the dust.
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The most infuriating thing about this is that children are watching these movies and looking up to these princesses and these women. Women aren't objects and it's frustrating to be so brainwashed into thinking it's normal for women to be used as business bait and as marriage material simply for the looks they were born with.