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Disney, gender stereotypes: Avoidable?

Boy_and_girl Over on Twitter, several of the parents I follow have been talking about gender stereotypes. We were amazed to find that two of our children (Everett, who's five, and a little girl who's four) had recently made the oddly-worded identical statements: "Pretty stuff is for girls, and cool stuff is for boys, right mama?" It's not the worst gender stereotype in the world, of course, but Everett's always enjoyed "pretty stuff" (I have the box of much-loved gaudy buttons and beads to prove it) and, speaking as a girl here, I hate to have us all banned from "cool stuff." (Is an iPhone cool or pretty? But I digress...)

We darkly attributed the identical statements to Dragon Tales, which we find that both of our children watch, and several other parents chimed in about the gender stereotypes promoted by most (if not all) of the children's programming, especially Disney with its princess gestalt. Whether they come across it at home, at school, or on a trip down the grocery store aisle, it's highly difficult to protect children from Disney, and out-and-out impossible to eliminate gender stereotypes from a child's world.

Protectionism definitely isn't the answer, and thus far I've just countered Everett's many cultural influences by working on projecting a couple of good role models and pointing out where stereotypes aren't borne out. And, as I said on Twitter, I spend a lot of time digging in the dirt (lately, I get the feeling that a connection to earth heals all wounds). Where have gender stereotypes surprised you -- and what have you done to counteract them? Want to come dig in my backyard, too?


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Ok, I am not a Disney Princess fan. I grew up playing queen in my house and I had to come up with my own costumes, such as my mom's old pettycoats and my old pink lacy curtains. I prefered the Disney Princesses when they were downtroden and poor. I do not like them lumped together for marketing purposes. Some of the stories are ok, I like Alladin and Beauty and the Beast ok, but not now in their "regal glory." So imagine my grief when I am at the drug store trying to find TODDLER TRAINING PANTS for my 2.5 year old, and the stinking diapers are split up between the requisit pink (girl) and blue (boy) types, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE GIRL ONES has some sort of Princess theme! Arg! I almost bought the "boy" pullups which have the "Cars" on them, but I didn't like those designs either. Who decided that these rotten regals got to go on diapers???? Even the store brand had their own version of the princess fad on them, cleavage and all (on a diaper!). I had found one girl training diaper in the recent past that has cartoon girls on them, one caucasion and the other I am assuming African or African-American and they appear to be doing normal toddler things on them, but I don't remember where I got them. DIAPERS!!!!! Not to mention the hand-me-down football I found in a bag of clothes embedded with the faces of 4 Disney legends! If not for the Pooh clan and Mickey and Friends (and sue me, I think High School musical looks like something I would have adored as a teen!) I would have no use for Disney. Bring on some strong female role models who haven't married into the monarchy!!!!!

yeah, i know. right now my 4 year old is on a campaign to get a "princess back pack". two months ago I eliminated all Disney books, just in time for her birthday & another one showed up...it's clock is ticking....
and now i'm starting to think about the brother's grimm.....I'm not sure I like the female values promoted in their stories either...perhaps I should start reading the Bible to her. Or, another project, let's start exploring Aztec & Mayan "fairytales"...I have to admit that I'm not sure that this is the battle I should be fighting. maybe I should start to focus on eliminating the capitalist coercion to want more stuff instead?

ps: Capella, when my girl picks up a princess item in the store, I usually say to her, "put that back, those are dumb." Ok, I guess mom really needs to look at her own personal values and fight the proper fight. Good point!

I have a 4yr old daughter and have given into buying some of the Disney princess stuff for her, I am not crazy about it myself nor is her Dad but my thought is that this is more of a phase and it will pass or at least I hope. The princeses are everywhere and on everything a child could want, just last week I had to talk her out of the princess pull-ups. We will be getting her a bigger bed soon and she wants a princess bed, that will not happen but maybe is it time to pull the plug on the princesses? or as previously posted is it a battle worth fighting?

Yes, the battle is worth fighting. There's plenty of subversive princess books out there to re-program your daughters. Try The Paper Bag Princess, The Princess Knight, Princess Smartypants, Maid of the North and Tatterhood tales. Yes, Disney movies do need a careful hand. Pocohantas, Mulan and Belle are great. Ariel is horrible. Watch them yourself first and get an idea of what's being presented here.

I can't help you on the pull ups. As a cloth diaper family, we also did cloth training pants. Bedrooms should never be themed like cartoons... it's a waste of money. Very soon, your kid will want the next character and you'll be out at the big box store plunking down a couple hundred dollars. Don't decorate that way.

I gotta say I think there's just something to that gender stuff. In my mind, it's equal parts socialization and biology. You can expose kids to all kinds of different images and encourage all kinds of non-stereotypical activities, but some girls are going to gravitate towards "girl" things and some boys towards the "boy" things. And the kids that do the opposite are always going to have some struggles because of the peer aspect of it. I'm not saying that's right, I just think changing that is a long way off. I say expose them to alternatives, and try and keep some of the stuff in check, but why fight it all together? My boys have dolls and cookware, which they love to play with. They dress up, have a dollhouse, and wear my jewelry. But you know what? They love their cars and trains more than anything else. If I were to insist they couldn't have those things, first of all they would find something to represent them and do it anyway, but I'd also be giving them the message that something is wrong with them because they do like them. Is a princess bed really so bad? I have to say I'm far more classic and practical so couldn't see one myself because I think it would be outgrown, but why not rig up a princess curtain on a regular bed if princesses are the thing? And then climb into it at night with the subversive books.

Here's an optimistic story - my niece (who is now 11) was pink CRAZY and loved stories of princesses and Disney crap. Now, she is a very down-to-earth girl who doesn't want to be "fashionable" like the other girls at school and who thinks she would love to save gorillas. She's not into makeup or buying lots of stuff. She turned out fabulously despite having a pink room at age 3 and 4.

Here's an optimistic story - my niece (who is now 11) was pink CRAZY and loved stories of princesses and Disney crap. Now, she is a very down-to-earth girl who doesn't want to be "fashionable" like the other girls at school and who thinks she would love to save gorillas. She's not into makeup or buying lots of stuff. She turned out fabulously despite having a pink room at age 3 and 4.

Oops! Sorry, didn't mean to post twice...

I thinking digging in dirt, with hands or trowel, rivals drinking wine! Love it.

Environment and biology both play parts here. We were at friend's house last weekend and one of their 3 girls likes to play with Power Rangers and loves Spiderman while another is into all things princess.

My friend is super "girly" and was a little uncomfortable with daughter #1's affinity for "boy" stuff, but decided to let her decide, let her be comfortable in her own skin. This means she wears a soccer uniform everywhere.

I really respect the idea of letting them decide. Doesn't mean I won't try to steer clear of certain things or make concessions on others. I loved Cinderella and all her being saved by a man glory and I have not or ever been a gal looking to be saved by my man. Sidebar: It's not that I haven't needed saving or help, but I just haven't relied solely on any one person, more of a combination of myself, family, husband friends or any combination of those.

Princess schmincess...

Who knows. I am the mother of a shoe obsessed 18 month old girl. None of us have a thing for shoes, but...
We have no princess items yet. However a much loved grandmother who adores my daughter and provides free baby sitting has a set of toys and mokes for her which include 2 completely innane books books about a princess who loved her gown and annother princess who was to pretty to be asked to dance. My daughter loves these book as they have a little button you can press that says one phrase over and over (I'd love to dance; look at my gown). There are also multiple princess dresses, etc.
I have also seen the princess pull ups on vacation recently. We mostly do cloth. However, I know that 7th generation makes plain pull ups.

One resource or "tool" to help combat gender stereotypes is to check out the children's book section at In Other Words, Portland's very own independent feminist bookstore. They have an amazing selection of children's books that celebrate all kinds of diversity and break gender stereotype molds.

We may not have a lot of control over commercial products out there (ie, Disney industrial complex) that encourage and reinforce gender stereotypes, and certainly changing people's attitudes is a whole other ball of wax, but at the least we can control how our children learn about sexist and gender-oppressive stereotypes at home and provide models and examples through real AND imaginary life.

What a great topic to discuss! I have a baby girl and often wonder what's in store for her when she starts being a little girl, teenager and eventually woman in this world. I'm all for personal choice, and I believe there's something to be said for biology, but MY GOD even buying clothes for girl babies is sometimes a trial. I've ended up buying dinosaur and other "boys" clothes for her because I think they're cool, and it's unfortunate that they're "boys" clothes. A small thing, but it makes me miss the spirit of gender equality and self-expression of the ERA "Free to Be You and Me" movement of the 70's.

For what it's worth, there are studies that have demonstrated that monkeys display similar "gendered" preferences for toys:


I am not sure how established this research finding is (whether it is well-replicated, etc.), but it is, nonetheless, interesting for an evolutionist to consider...

I am the mom of the four-year-old that also made that confounding "observation." I accept that, biologically speaking, individuals are going to follow the gender type that they identify with. But that wasn't the point. What got me is that some TV show (likely)put a whacked idea in my kid's head. I have no idea if it was Dragon Tales or not, we only went with this by process of elimination. I agree you can counter a lot of that with modeling. I just wish TV writers were more careful about the language they used. Kids at this age are looking for clues about how the world is structured and don't always absorb the whole dramatic arc of a show that says things like "girls like pretty things and boys like cool things" even if the point is to counter that notion.

And, as a tangent, here's another story about roles, from the same Clara, at age 2.75: After being in daycare 4 days a week her whole life I started working at home shortly before our 2nd child was born. At the same time, a neighbor who'd been a student and mom graduated and started job. One sunny morning, after I'd been working from home for only 2 weeks, Clara and I saw this neighbor drive off to work. "Where is she going?" Clara asked. "To work," I said. Her reply: "Mamas don't work!"

Gah. At least I could let go of some of my WOHM guilt.

My two daughters have been remarkably unsullied by stereotypes seen on t.v. since we get no reception where we live and don't have cable. They have watched very, very little t.v. and only a handful of movies. They are completely unaware of a lot of those stereotypes and have a variety of interests. What gets me is, even though they're interested in all these cool things (hospitals, bangladesh, hippos...) people still persist in thinking they're "just" interested in princessy stuff. Someone just recently gave them Ariel pajamas and said, "I mean, I know they don't know who that is, but they're just so girly and cute!" Drives me nuts. I noticed a HUGE difference in how people treated my first daughter and her boy cousin (four months older) from the very first day. People were approaching his cradle saying, "Hey, BOY!" loudly in his ear and moving him quickly while holding him; people spoke gently and softly to my daughter and held her gently. No one said, "Hey, GIRL!" Those studies about monkeys preferring certain toys offer some insight. But does anyone remember that other one about people being shown a video of a crying baby? The people who were told the baby was a boy said he was crying because he was angry. The people who were told the same exact baby was a girl said that she was afraid! Weird, huh. It's nature AND nurture, obviously. Since nurture is the only thing I can affect, believe me, I'm doing my part to make sure my daughters can really be themselves, whatever that may mean for them.

I believe there's truth to gender preferences, but I'm also a big fat skeptic that believes studies like the one mentioned above are sponsored by toy companies. :)

Regardless, I agree with the post above that it's nature and nurture...there's no definitives...except one. And that's corporations spend tons of money to market and sell to our children (esp. since Reagan came in an de-regulated the FCC). On the one hand, fine, if they find out princesses sell, good for them. But on the other hand, they spend a lot of money figuring out how to make children want stuff which is a little creepy. Personally, I'd rather raise my children without having marketing, logos and advertising everywhere...but even without TV it's unavoidable.

By the way, the princess thing is genius...it means you're not into just one character, you're into all of them. Which means collecting more, which means buying more stuff.

I'm not real entrenched in the disney princess thing. Actually no connection to it at all... but we received a hand me down book the other day called "Jane and the dragon" that sort of briefly addresses the issue and the outcome being that Jane, despite all of society's (mom, dad, others, king and queen) wishes becomes a knight. I think I even saw clips of a cartoon on TV to the same effect... but we don't turn it on that frequently. My 4.5 yr old son loves the story and is seeing at least that stereotypes can be broken (that's sort of the message for the story for both Jane and the Dragon).

My daughter (4) loves princesses, knows I don't care for the Disney variety, and frequently engages me in discussions on why. I often explain that if she wants princess stories, I will buy and read her the real ones (not any better as far as gender types, but classic literature???). I also find myself explaining a lot that I don't like that all they are is pretty. A REAL princess, I tell her, would be a leader of her country and would be smart, worldly and strong. (I get funny looks, but she actually seems to get what I'm trying to say). The result of this oddball explanation? Recently, my daughter is in OMSI with my husband and sees a couple. She says to her daddy, "Wow! He's sooo lucky!" My husband asks her why and she explains, "Because she's sooo beautiful. She must be really smart!" (Did I mention she's only 4?). Okay, not really what I meant...
On the plus side, my uber-princess also loves outer space, dinosaurs, animals, and all sorts of other gender neutral stuff.

The aforementioned Free to be You and Me is still available, both for sale and for free in segments on YouTube. My daughter loves "William Wants a Doll." The YouTube comments for that one are "edifying" -- amazing how many brave YouTubers feel the need to call poor William a sissy. [Rolls eyes]

When she's got the attention span for it, my daughter will start listening to the tale of Atalanta, which is a little like the Jane the Dragon story in its intention. [It's a little too long right now for a 2+ yo to sit thru] I recommend "Free to be You and Me" to anyone looking for an antidote to all the rigid gender stereotyped tripe that's out there.

I have two girls - 6 and 2. Neither my partner nor I are princess types but the girls like them. They have a few things that have Disney princesses on them but we balance this. They also have trucks and spend a ton of time outside on their playstructure and digging in the dirt. To me, elimination is not a realistic goal so I try to do moderation.

What also drives this my attitude of moderation even more is that my oldest is in public school. In her pre-k class over half the girls wore a Disney princess outfit for Halloween. The same happened this year. The first year my kid was a ballerina fairy and this year butterfly fairy - still on the same type of theme but made from things around the house. Still, she has a Tinkerbell lunch box. We just try to balance things.

My partner was raised on Free to Be You and Me and we have it. We also have the new one that came out a few years ago - Thanks and Giving. We find Free to be very heterosexist. Thanks and Giving we really enjoy and it has more modern themes.

A great book for the older ones is "Nineteen Girls and Me" about a boy who shows up for Kindergarden and finds that he is the only boy in his class of 20. His brother, a 2nd grader, warns him "Those girls are going to turn you into a sissy". And he insists that he will instead turn them all into tomboys. I like this one, since rather than pretend the gender divide doesn't exist in school, it addresses it directly. Definitely a story for the child who has come home saying they won't do that "'cause it's for girls".

Ouch, Sarah C makes a good point about FTBY&M being heterosexist. Consider yourselves advised accordingly.

I have a 4 y/o son and 2 y/o daughter. For our family, the value of FTBY&M as feminist propaganda outweighs its heterosexism problem. My kids do relate to having one male parent and one female parent, because that is what they have, and I try to encourage queer-friendly points of view in other ways.

Meanwhile, I would love to inoculate the kids against relentless (and relentlessly gendered) corporate marketing. But with little control over the grandparents and the day care peers, it's a losing battle. I agree generally that the children should have freedom to choose for themselves from a wide range of "cool," "pretty," and neutral toys. If they must have toys at all. ;)

I also struggled specifically with the same "Cars or Princesses?" question mentioned by many others above. I finally settled on alternating between the two at every shopping trip. The kids willingly wear whatever is on hand, though they have still managed to get it into their head that Blue/Cars are "boy pull-ups" and Pink/Princesses are "girl pull-ups." Despite my own princess aversion, I decided that it was important not to privilege stereotypical boy stuff over stereotypical girl stuff. I don't want to send an unintended message that frilly pink things are inferior because of their alleged girliness, or that girls are therefore inferior by extension.

I haven't seen FTBYandM for years. I need to see again to tease out the heterosexism. I know there is a part about what mommies and daddies do, and the mommies do some cool things. I remember Rosie Greer saying it's ok to cry, and William wanting a doll. The girl that says "ladies first" gets eaten by a lion. The babies girl wants to be a fireman and the boy wants to be a waitress. What parts am I missing?

There is a great cartoon movie, I think it's Quest for Camelot, where the daughter of a murdered knight wants to come to the rescue of her kidnapped mother and enlists the help of a blind man. They end up heros and they are both knighted. I have it in a box in my car. I love the movie. I also love The Paperbag Princess. I can't wait to check out the feminist bookstore kid's section. I feel I have a real advantage as I am a single mom and I don't have a classic "daddy's little girl/princess" although she has a fabulous male role model who loves her very much. But I have to be both mommy and daddy, do a lot of the rough housing and the nurturing, so my daughter sees that a woman can do it all. I am hoping that she sees me as a positive female role model, even if I don't encourage Disney Princesses! (or if I call Tinkerbell "stinkerbell!")

OK. I've seen a ton of input about the messages we send to our girls about whether to princess or not to princess. What do you think about how we create gender roles for our boys? How can we be more neutral about it?
At fourteen months its pretty clear already that my son fits a lot of the stereotypes of many boys. He likes big trucks, trains, buses, any toy with moving parts or buttons or dynamic sounds, etc. That's not to say that he doesn't also like animals, butterflies, and sparkly things, **obsessed with the broom and dustpan**. But he leans heavily towards the typical boy things. We are already taking a music and an art class with him to try to give him a balance.
But as his mother, I am also a product of my environment and have a whole lifetime of my own conditioning behind me. I reconize that I have many of my own biases whether conscious or not. What I need help with is learning to change my own dialogue so there are not little underlying messages about the things he should or shouldn't be/like/do etc. Of course on their own these little things seem silly. But added up I recognize how they might change a persons self image or feelings of self worth. I also need a way to communicate this concept to my husband and get him to fully invest in it as well. He has very good intentions and a wonderful sweet heart...but was raised by a very old school father. He tries hard not to let it show but I can tell deep down in his subconscious there is still a piece of him that thinks a doll or a purple shirt might give people the "wrong" impression about his son.
So...I have the minor task of "unconditioning" myself and my husband in order to give our son the most accepting balanced love we can, I guess is what I am saying. No biggie right?
What are everyone's thoughts on resources for this concept. Someone mentioned the feminist book store on Killingsworth. Any other ideas? Does anyone else have these issues with their partners? How have you over come them, or have you at all? What are your ideas for toys, games, (too young for tv yet),etc for the kids themselves?

I've always been fascinated with the Princess discussion, so I felt I had to comment. I've always wondered why the conversation of gender roles has whittled itself down to Disney Princesses--I guess I understand that the idea of needing to be saved or pampered is bad for any child (girl or boy), and that the mass-market consumerism that is rampant in our society is certainly bad, but what I don't understand is how Disney Princesses are the end-all be-all of gender stereotype marketing badness.

I never see any discussions of not buying pirate or cowboy stuff (or Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, etc) for boys; I don't see that women that I know who grew up with Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty (all the bad sort of princess that needs to be rescued in the end) became inept divas who need their husbands to take care of them; I don't see us taking a look at the current sub-cultures that spawn this sort of attitude, like the debutante/belle of the South or the Catholic baby-maker stereotype; lastly, in response to the question at the end of the initial post: I do see a lot of gender stereotypes in parenthood, and the marketing surrounding that.

Does a male feel immediately comfortable posting on a site called Urban Mamas or Activistas? Maybe, but you could certainly argue that it's geared toward women. I know that there are many men who post on this site, and that's great, but if we're discussing marketing, you have to own up to the gender specificity of the site and its language.

I realize that it's a trick of fate that the magazine "Mothering" is a much better one than the magazine "Parenting," but it still irks me. What really bothers me, though, is that there are plenty of marketing agents out there that are capitalizing on parenthood. I'd throw out questions like: How many parenting books do you own? How many do you actually need? Is it OK to throw exorbinant amounts of money at something just because you tend to agree with the general concept? Marketing analysts hope so, I would think.

Long story short, for me, it comes down to a holistic attitude toward my daughter. I really don't want her getting the impression that I'm going to buy her merchandise of any sort. That's what holidays are for. My wife and I both grew up in non-consumer based households, and we intend to have our daughter do the same. Does that mean I didn't want a video game or an action figure when I was a kid? Nope, and my wife wanted Barbie at one point or another, as well. We didn't get them, or if we did, it was as a birthday present, once a year.

Sorry for the rant, but I really do feel strongly about this. Kids are going to want what they want, and like what they like. I'd rather my daughter grew up to be a Nobel Prize winning chemist, too, but I don't feel that telling her princesses are stupid is going to influence her decision one way or the other.

A comment as to the Grimm Faerie Tales; they are part of our cultural histor if you are of European descent, and frankly, all cultures have similar stereotypes, just like they all have flood myths. It is worthwhile to consider that your child needs cultural reference points and also to understand the archetypes in Folk/ Fairy Tales. Read some Jungian analysis or how about the 90s woo-woo book, _Women Who Run With the Wolves_. I do not believe these archetypes are binding (despite their name), but they are worth being aware of and exploring. For centuries, folk and fairy tales (oral tradition) were the only outlets the "common" folk had to express their beliefs and struggles. In other words, be discerning but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Oh, and the bible is probably worse than fairy tales when it comes to women, especially prior to the New Testament.

I have to say, I cannot abide most of the new Disney Princess videos, but like other readers, here, I enjoyed the original depictions of Aurora, Cinderella, Snow white, Belle, etc. Most of my objections are due to crappy storylines, horrible animation, and headache-inducing musical compositions.

My objections aren't against the individual princesses (although I would like my daughter to wait until older to see many of these films, just so she can have informed consent!) but it's the marketing that bugs me the most. I also don't like things that keep kids from using their own creativity and imagination. What is wrong with making a construction paper crown, or using a sheet as a cape, etc? The other day my daughter put on a crown that she made at OMSI and said "I am a princess" for the first time. I took the time to talk to her about princesses, kings, queens, etc, and in the end, at age 2.7, she decided she would rather be a queen. They make all the real decisions. But she has many varied interests, including bikes and cars and the outdoors, and nature, and sort of dinosaurs, etc, but somehow inherited the fear of spiders that took me years to overcome. Now I have no fear, but I have to remember that it was overcome, not genetics. So, I am not against girl interests, I am just against mass media and lack of imagination. I hate sequels, and I insist on reading the book before seeing the movie so I can picture it the way I think it should be in my imagination, not the way the producers/directors feel I should see it.

As the mother of a not yet two year old, I have to admit that I am still in something of that new parent bubble of naivety when it comes to how much control I think I will have over what my daughter is exposed to.

That being said, I would like to think that the values that are lived every day in our household will have more sway over our daughter than the values that she will dip in and out of in other places as she goes through life.

We don't have a tv and don't intend to get one; she is sure to be exposed to it in other places. We are not big consumers and so will be avoiding all that mass-marketed stuff, mostly just because it makes our heads hurt; she is sure to find all those toys somewhere else, and to be given some as gifts. But I would like to think that by being reasonably balanced human beings, we can demonstrate for our daughter -- and potential future sons -- that she can be whoever she wants to be. My husband really likes to fix things and drive tractors. I really like to chop wood and dig in the dirt. I tend to do the laundry, he does more dishes than I do. I am a better cook, but he bakes up a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies. I know none of that pertains to the toys and movies and tv mentioned above, but that's sort of my point -- by living life on the terms that I believe in, following my own heart, being honest about who I am, I hope that I can raise kids strong enough to know who they are in the face of all the ugliness that is in the world. I guess, for me, it comes down to integrity. I do what I can to make the world a better place, but I also strive to be true to myself when I encounter things that I cannot change. I think I got a lot of that from my parents, and I feel it is one of the most important things I can pass on to my kids.

Now, check in with me when I have a five-year-old, and I am sure I will be eating all those words. But for now, I will dream.....

OK, I just read my last post, and it comes across as incredibly self-righteous and twitty. It is meant to be an expression of hope for my family, not a lecture to others.....ok, back out to enjoy the sunshine.

I'm extremely concerned about gender stereotyping, pigeonholing, and unexamined assumptions w/regards to my almost-3-year-old son. Questions I struggle with, both in terms of answers and in deciding whether, in any given moment, it matters (usually, to me, it does! a lot! but to him?? I don't know...)-- Why, in a few of their (organic, "happy-to-the-earth") lines of clothing does Hanna Andersson offer only camo-print or sports-themed-wear for boys? Why, during 2 recent site visits to groovy, hip, preschools, did I see energetic, engaged teachers fall into the much-discussed, stereotypical classroom pattern of verbally ignoring girls and constantly verbally engaging boys (yes, who were antsy, needed "reminding," shouted questions, interrupted, waved hands, wiggled--while the girls, yes, waited quietly, "minded," were slower to raise hands)? Why is it my (male) co-parent and I can easily discuss scary/negative/annoying influences on daughters; but our fledgling conversations about equivalent influences on sons grind to a halt or end up in the dead-end statement, "you don't understand about boys--it's just like that"? I understand why people reflexively apologize when mistaking my son for a daughter, but why do I feel internal pressure to correct them in the first place (N.B. he's young enough, I think, to not always hear/notice what they say)? And, if clothing, preschool classroom dynamics, brief conversations w/strangers, and longer talks within a family are the fairly "easy" struggles we have now, good heavens! what are we in for in the next 16 yrs.?!

We don't have a tv and for a long time (basically until kindergarten) my boy was oblivious to gender roles, other than biologically based ones, i.e. who could have babies grow inside them and make milk and who didn't.

Now that he's in 2nd grade, yeah, it's unavoidable, just in terms of what he hears from other kids and the fact that he's more tuned in to the larger culture.

But I think a lot of it does come from TV. I'm very laid back about him watching it at the in-laws, who only turn on PBS. And when he's watched Dragon Tales and other shows, yeah, I've been surprised at the blatant gender stereotypes abounding in a venue where I'd have expected a more nuanced approach.

And no, I don't deal with princesses. But when you've got an 8yo boy, there's a whole other kettle of fish to fry (mixed metaphor alert!) What with the lightsabers and stormtroopers and and lego weapons and "Hey Mama, look at this really cool blaster for the fighter pilot to shoot with!

I hear two theme in this topic, one is around marketing and those darn trucks and dolls, and the other is about gender identification. So, if you buy toys, buy both. But frankly, when I want to remember I'm a woman before a mom I put on a dress and like it.

hey, just thought I'd let you know, my 4 year old came across a great book at Powell's called "princess grace" (sorry don't have the author!). it's about an african american girl who wants to be a princess in her school's pageant but has to decide what kind of princess she wants to be so she finds out about all kinds of princesses (Amira, the warrior, etc.) and in the end she dresses up in African dress & even the boys join in and dress up in different historical/ethnic costumes. it gives a bibliography of alternate princess tales/multicultural Cinderella stories, many of which I have already read!
In the libraries they have a special section of folk/fairy tales & so far we've read the Egyptina, Cambodian, Mexican, Spanish American (etc, etc) Cinderella. I highly reccomend finding that shelf in your local Mult. Co. Library. However, I'm going to desist since my daughter is obsessed with deciding who she is going to marry & I think we need to find some stories with a different ending!

Hi ladies. I'm a sociology student at the University of Dayton and when "googling" a couple things for my senior thesis on Sex, Roles and Disney I found this site. First of all I'd like to commend you on "thinking outside the mouse" as I like to say and also that this discussion on here is one of the most articulate and well developed I've ever seen. I'm 22 years old and for the past few months I've dedicated my life to watching Disney films and basically picking them apart. After doing so I will never allow my children to watch one with the possible exception being Fantasia. While the idea of being princess is an amazing fantasy, Disney has made it a solution for the young women instead of following their dreams of being writers or adventurers ect... something that I'm sure we'd much rather have the youth of America aspiring to be and made love the focus of all these women's lives instead of themselves, heterosexual love as well. Like I stated earlier I refuse to allow my future children to watch Disney, unless, well maybe if represented more "real life" with a woman following her dreams despite society or love or monarchy and a gay character here or there wouldn't hurt. Major kudos to all of you.

THERES NOTHING WRONG WITH THE PRINCESSES!!!!! You are alll stupid who cares if you think they're "Bad Stereotypes" for women!! You are allll horribly moms for banning the princesses from your home! Love, Shelby

I stand proud as a "horribly mom." Somehow I don't find myself insulted by your post. Not sure why....

Per Shelby, because I don't ban the princess in our home, I'm not an "alll horribly" Mom. Sweet validation. Thanks Shelby.

How about Nala? "I laugh in the face of danger!"
They are not all bad :)

No they are not all bad. That is why screening (of anything you put in front of your kid...we tried to go to Horton Hears a Who yesterday with my nearly 3 year old...I think she is scarred for life, although all the others her age seemed fine...)is so important and talking to your child about your values before and after watching something is even more important. You can't judge any one entity (ie: Disney) as all good or evil. There are shades of gray.

"Mickey Mouse Monopoly--Disney, Childhood and Corporate Power" available through the Media Education Foundation (MEF) which examines and challenges the media is an absolute MUST SEE! The prices listed are for schools and institutions who teach Media Literacy courses, but it *may* be available at your local library or other location. We use it in our Media Literacy courses at our middle school.

Here are some links to info:



Hi folks,
I'm one of the moms that had originally said I would never let my daughter watch that awful Disney princess filth. Didn't want a single Disney or princess item in my house. Ever.
When my daughter was 2.5 we had a playdate w/a mom & her daughter who was just a few months older. Apparently the little girl would tell people her name was Princess. I cut the play date short and never called them again, feeling nauseous on the way to the car after witnessing such baby-consumer-brain. Poor little thing.
Then Granny bought Cinderella to have at her house for the grandkids. Granny who is so incredibly not like a princess. I think in 10 years I've only seen Granny wearing a skirt or dress 3 times. She's a pants Granny. She's a diggin' in the dirt, I take care of things myself Granny. She's an I love these grandkids more than life itself and will give you a break any time you ask and sometimes when you don't just because I want to Granny. She's the same Granny that gave us A Paper Bag Princess, laughing while she handed it over telling me how great it is. She's a pretty amazing lady. Needless to say, I caved. BUT we do not own any princess movies at our house, it's a special thing between the kidlet and her Granny, often involving the cousins. Mind you Granny has bought kidlet (now 5) a couple of Disney princess books to have at home. However, after reading each of them twice I simply declared that I didn't enjoy the stories and was done w/them. They sit on kidlet's shelf. I'm pretty sure she hasn't touched them in over 6 months. She's a ballerina now. Who bakes. Amongst a lot of other things. And she loooooves all the Laura Engalls Wilder books. We have now moved on to the American Girl books. I recommend starting w/Kit if you're new to the series and interested in a story where one of the friends likes princess life.
I don't know, life is so short, I guess all I'm trying to say is...
You don't have to fill your house w/Disney princess stuff unless you want to.
You don't have to hang out w/other families that fill their house w/it if you don't want to.
If you're wondering where the road leads because your child is still tiny - the road leads where you take it.
Find the balance that works for your family.
And be prepared to do a lot of explaining. No matter which direction you choose because those little brains are hungry for information as you well know.
Peace out!

Yes, my husband and I feel this is avoidable, or at least approachable, in a reasonable way...as a mama of a boy and a girl, we have to mention that we don't automatically do "trucks and cars" and "princesses" for our kids...we don't make "car" birthday cakes, etc.--both of our kids are interested in dinosaurs, dancing, gardening, flowers, etc....watch the above video/dvd mentioned ("Mickey Mouse Monopoly--Disney, Childhood and Corporate Power")--it's well worth it and rocked our world, for the better, we feel...

Well, I am not a mother, but I have this to say: I'm a 21 year old woman that was practically raised on Disney, was always dressed like a doll when I was little, and had some princess stuff. While the Disney princesses are dear to me because they represent my childhood, I am in no way shape or form a woman who represents these princess values. I'm independent, strong, down to earth, and actually get really pissed off about women stereotypes and those women that perpetuate them. I don't know what happened, but there was a turning point where I really started to hate being a girl because I felt like it represented and meant being weak and vulnerable where I wanted to be strong and tough so that I could kick anyone's butt. The funny thing is that my mom squeals whenever she sees Tinkbell stuff and says that's me (because I'm really petite, blonde and curvy). It can be annoying. lol. All I know is that when I do have children I will raise them to be as open minded and accepting as possible. I don't want them to be slaves to limiting stereotypes.

Currently as a teenager at the age of 16 my mom is still teaching and preaching to me her beleifs of what she wants me to know about the world. One thing she tries to instill in my mind is the fact that a prince (most likely) isn't going to come and wisk you away to some sort of beautiful castle or haven. That is the image in Disney's snow white's "Some Day my Prince Will Come" song. My mom seems to really want me to know that because when she was little that is what she actually beleived would happen to her from seeing those sorts of movies. She also had little parental influence trying to monitor what kind of ideas she was forming about the world. This entire list of comments is very interesting to me since alot of you seem to be very concious of the brain drains of the media, such as the gender stereotyping most of the Disney princess movies and tv shows (minus pocahontas and mulan, they're awesome)

Currently speaking as a teenager who grew up liking disney movies, reading this thread has certainly made me look back at how my parents kept me from a princess obsession, and the steryotypes that come with it. They did quite a good job. (Ironically enough, I found this thread because I'm writing a speech for an AP class about how Disney is warping my - and consequencial - generation's view of love.)

My parents allowed me to have princess things, but they were few and far between, and always supplemented with many other intrests. One thing they made a point of doing was to address issues they found objectionable with princesses with me at a level I could understand, even if that just meant questioning why it was fair that Snow White did all the cleaning while the Dwarfs got to go out and work. It didn't keep my friends and I from role-playing as faerie princess esheld hostage by an evil queen, but I remember that within these games much of our time was spent in earnest discussions about how our slavery was unfair and plotting revenge.

As for media that really helped me stay away from that princess ideal- as mentioned before, the Paper Bag Princess was one of the best. Another good place to look for books for younger children is the Osbourne book company- I dont' know if they're still in existance, but my mother sold them at shows much like avon shows. There's quite a variety of books for different ages, and I remember many, many of them were about strong girls.

For older girls, there are two sets of books I would strongly reccomend getting for your children. They made quite a difference for me. Both are appropriate for girls ages seven or eight, although the reading level is a little high. The first series is called the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede. This series is actually about a princess, but very untraditional one. In the first and best book, she keeps getting in trouble for being non-traditional (taking fencing lessons, cooking lessons, magic lessons), and eventually runs off to become a princess for a dragon, because it's more interesting. She ends up sending knights away, dealing with some very blonde princesses in a way that doesn't put a favorable light on traditionalism, and at the same time solving a case of regicide and usurption within the dragon court. In subsequent books she does marry a king, but goes on being stubborn and adventuring- one of the best quotes is 'for goodeness sake's, I'm pregnant, not made of glass!' They're the ideal series for breaking steryotypes, including many fun animals and a wonderful good portayal of traditional witches.

The second series is more an entire realm of books by Tamora Pierce, the best of which is the Lioness Rampant quartet. The main character switches place with her brother and, disguised as a boy, goes to train as a knight for eight years. In the process, she uncovers regicide, defeats demons- along the way having friends discover she's female, and treat her better for it- and eventually becomes the most powerful and reveared (and openly female) knight in the realm. And that's only in two books! A little romance is mixed in, but in ways that enhance the main character's image of a self-proficient, brave, proud woman who is proud of her gender.

Both are sets of books I still read with passion today, and if a child's reading level isn't quite ready, both are availible on casette (I don't know about CD).

I came across this article while doing research for an English project on *gasp* gender roles. My group decided to focuses on gender roles in Disney movies. We all agreed that they promote negative images, expecially for females, but all three of us were raised on Disney movies, and all three of us are female.

We love Disney. The music and the plots. Yes, Disney does change anything they can get their hands on to make it "happy" and kid friendly, but my friends and I can think of no negative impact, in the long run, that came from us watching Disney movies. The three of us are a couple of the brightest students at our high school, plan to go to college, and excell in life. None fit into the typical female stereotype.

So at the time, Disney may seem bad, but in the long run, is there really any impact?

Grimm Fairy tales and Disney fairy tales are NOT the same thing. In the Grimm version of Cinderella, for example, there is a magical tree, not a fairy godmother. Disney pretty much takes agency away from all of their female heroines. Tips for finding great options for girls: independently owned toy stores. My daughter is completely unfamiliar with the idea of blue section and a pink section, because we have a fantastic, thoughtful toy store owner. Providing entertaining movies - such as Kiki's Delivery Service - and great books - my daughter loves The Magic School Bus series - isn't that hard. You just have to work a little to avoid the traps that the marketers have set for you. Oh, and everybody complements her on the SpiderMan shirts she wears to school. Kids don't know what they want. They are fed what they want by marketers whose values are probably very different from your own. Give them better choices.

hi guys im doing a research project on how disney movies reinforce negetive gender and racial stereotypes and would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to answer

Hi. 27, male, and a huge Disney Princess fan. So screw stereotypes, they're stupid.

Okay, I'm a mom and I just don't get it...some of you say you hate all Disney Princesses except the older ones. Huh??? Those would be the simpy victims. Have you even seen a Disney Princess movie made past 1970?

Cause let's see:

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)---an intellectual outsider brave enough to be herself. She looks past physical attributes and societal pressures to see inner beauty and good in others. She also physically saves the boy. NOt to mention sacrificing her entire future and life to save her father.

Mulan: eschews conventional feminine roles to (again) protect her father. Routinely displays the superiority of creative strategy over brute force. Saves every guy in her platoon AND her entire nation. Is ultimately not only revered and accepted for who she is by an entire country, but most importantly her family.

Pocahotas: is comfortable with both feminine and masculine activities. Ignores racism to help others. Encourages respect for nature and living things.

Princess Jasmine: is disgusted by rampant materialism and refuses the marriages her misguided father repeatedly tries to foist on her. Also very independant and adventurous.

Princess Tiana: is independent, career driven and goal focused in direct contrast to racial and gender roles of the time. In the process, inspires others (her pampered friend and her future husband) to be better, more productive people.

I see all of these as excellent role models for any child, actually. And both Pochahontas's and Beauty and Beast's animation was considered ground breaking at the time.

As for bad influence, both my daughter and I exhibit plenty of "masculine" character traits: we enjoy excitement, are very direct, independent and strong negotiators. I can't say we learned these from movies or books, it's who we are.

My daughter never participated in organized sports and I only did so long enough to discover how much I hated it. I found it (as a child) to encourage rampant competitiveness, typical mean spiritedness jocktocracy (the "good sportsmanship" thing is a very thin facade) and exposed me to injury and very public humiliation. Nowadays we also know that many pedophiles will use coaching (along with other children's activities) as a screen for grooming thier victims.

Had she expressed an interest, I would've certainly enrolled her, but she didn't. I'm also not entire sure how the things above are "better" than a brief, pretty dress fantasy. If you want to argue in favor of visiting museums and more intellectual pursuits, we already do all that. Paleontology is practically a family hobby.

I'll lastly add, my cousins sought to raise their two daughters as gender neutrally as possible. Both girls have rebelled against it and hated it since they were tiny toddlers. The only thing it's done is create a LOT of arguments and tension in the household.

My daughter's extremely feminine, but also etremely assertive (and comfortable with herself in every way). Let your son or daughter do what they want and pursue what interests them. It's fine either way.

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