Warnings about the horrific effects of Disney’s Princesses on America’s girls

Summary: Feminists warn that Disney Princesses encourage America’s girls to become thin, passive, and submissive — and make them psychologically disturbed. They teach this to young girls. It’s delusional, and illustrates a serious problem.

Disney Princesses - original six

When researching the effects of feminism on society, I stumbled on this presentation by Jaden Maxwell and Cheyenne Taylor, seventh grade students at Mount Pleasant School: “Princesses as Role Models“. Its quality is far above anything I did at their age (they also won 2nd and 4th prize at the math fair). It illustrates one aspect of the education of modern American girls.

Princesses as Role models

Princesses as Role models

They say other ill effects of exposure to Disney princesses are “dependence and submissiveness”.

Impressively, the girls cite sources. The most significant is “Point: Fantasy Princess Role Models Teach Young Girls To Be Dependent And Submissive And Help To Foster An Unhealthy Body Image” by Micah Issitt (in Princesses As Role Models For Young Girls, 2014). Google revealed a large body of works exploring this theme. Sadly, dipping into this sea of feminist advocacy found little research supporting these claims.

That should not surprise anyone, for the concept appears quite daft. Snow White, the first Disney princess, hit the screens in 1937. The mass merchandising of the followed Andy Mooney’s (chairman of Disney’s Consumer Products division) genius invention of the “princess franchise” in January 2000. How has Disney changed America’s women during the past several generations?

American girls are often described as “princesses”, but not for those qualities. Rather, it describes the opposite: aggressive girls with high self-esteem (who are also privileged and materialistic). The earliest use I found of this was “Jewish American Princess“, which became popular after WWII — and was still popular when I was in college in the 1970s.

For the next generation: realistic Disney Princesses!

As for body image issues, Disney princesses are rail thin — but few US teenage girls attempt to emulate them. Roughly 1-2% are anorexic (about half of those become bulimic). The opposite problem gets little attention in these articles about princesses. A study in the January 2014 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 31% of US 15 year old girls are overweight (BMI >22.8) and 15% are obese (BMI > 25.4). The international averages were 15.3% and 5.5% (see the stunning table). Perhaps girls receive too little exposure to Disney princesses.

Also debunking the “princesses are guilty” theory: the rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese teenage boys.

About modern girls’ “passiveness”. Anybody who believes the American girls and women have become more passive during the past few generations has not been paying attention.

What about psychological problems? Girls increased treatment with antidepressants and other such drugs suggests their psychological problems have grown worse. But we dose boys far more heavily, with a wider range of powerful behavior modification drugs. Our medicated children — with roughly 15% of teenagers taking some form of psychiatric drug at least once — is a phenomenon unique to America. It points to a problem more serious than over-exposure to Disney Princesses.

Conclusions

Looking at the education of American girls reveals some of the oddities that torque our society. The condemnation of Disney princesses (to which Disney responded with its new feminist-role-model-princesses) illustrates a more serious problem: our preference for discussing trivial or even imaginary problems instead of our more terrifying and serious problems.

Let’s hope we wise up. Otherwise the 21st century might be unkind to us.

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13 thoughts on “Warnings about the horrific effects of Disney’s Princesses on America’s girls

  1. annie999

    I agree with the author that though the presentation is nicely “staged”, the idea behind it is “quite daft”. A decent essay on the topic, with reasoned argument, would have been more impressive, but probably would not have convinced me to agree.

    Once past the “princess” stage, young girls morph quickly into young adults and have countless film and TV possibilities as role models presented to them, in ubiquitous young adult fiction – with females equally, or more, prominent and dominant, in lots of derring do, leading, bossing, etc. Memories of those somewhat anaemic princesses will fade quickly, I feel sure.

    This new wave of ultra-feminism – looking for ,and if not found, inventing “wrongs” in all the wrong places, does far more harm than good to the cause, in my opinion.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Annie,

      Thank you for posting a woman’s perspective on this. As a guy, I wonder how girls watch modern films and TV — with their increasingly unisex gender roles. In practice, that means girls are esteemed to the extent they conform to traditional male forms of dress, action, values, and speech.

      Look at the transcripts for modern films and TV, with the names omitted. Guess at the gender of each character. They appear to be almost all-male casts. Is this good for girl’s self-esteem?

      It’s not just in the arts. In 15 years as a Scout leader I never heard a dad speak with more pride in his daughter than when he described her as acting like a tomboy — a boy. This always struck me as sad, but of course I nodded and smiled.

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  2. annie999

    @ Editor of Fabius Maximus ~ Hi! It’s a difficult topic to really get a useful handle on, there are so many strands feeding in to today’s changes in gender roles and perceptions.

    I’m old – old enough enough to have grown up with just film, radio and books as stimuli. Now, with a plethora of opportunity via TV, video games, YouTube, computers, smartphones, social networks, the world has completely changed for kids growing up. Societal values and customs have changed. It’s not surprising that ideas (for good or ill) spread so rapidly now, and become reflected in the kinds of roles and dialogues, and fashions we see and hear in TV and film; in books too I guess.

    Femininity proper won’t ever be entirely lost though – hormones will see to that! :-)

    I try to see people as humans first, rather than concentrating on gender, I find that more comfortable – but I’ve been in trouble for this position on more than one occasion online!

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Annie,

      “Femininity proper won’t ever be entirely lost though – hormones will see to that!”

      Animal’s relations are governed by hormones. Human society creates a scaffolding to support the complex economic and psychological structures required to support the family. In the For More Information section are links to posts discussing this in more detail.

      “I try to see people as humans first, rather than concentrating on gender”

      I’m not sure how that level of abstraction helps to better understand people. Gender, nationality, profession — all these things and others help us to see people as individuals. These are the things that give texture and detail to people.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. epagbreton

    Im not sure if this singular Princess issue is a trivial or a terrifying and serious problem.
    I suspect it is symptomatic and somewhere in the middle of the gender issues these little young girls try to write about here and are being pushed by a small group today. And I mean exactly that, “pushed”.

    Looking at the citations they footnote in this presentation authored by these very young girls you can find a Tutorial on how these young people are possibly being taught:

    If this is how these young Australian (I guess) girls and boys are being taught, that itself is simply bizarre. No one can take seriously the digitized opinions of 13 year olds who are opining on a subject that they can simply have no experience with. They don’t even have a nominally formed sense of self.

    The teacher of these children would be better prepared themselves if they had a operating understanding of the basic discussions about the nature of human nature and should spend time reading people such as Steven Pinker, as in his The Blank Slate. Unlikely as that may be.

    Show me a presentation by Seventh Graders summarizing some major points of Aristotle’s Politics. That is impressive and is the way to prepare little ones for Life’s universally difficult questions (which are not so easily answered digitally)

    This Princess presentations and discussions causes confusion in little people. Television is even more insidious, watch it carefully in the Advertisement portions especially. And that confusion naturally carries over into the home. Such things as this are simply propaganda and political; agenda driven and I dare say I wonder who thinks about the young ones being lead down these roads. Or maybe that’s just the Point.

    Breton

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  4. annie999

    @ Editor
    You responded: “I’m not sure how that level of abstraction helps to better understand people. ”
    It is the ultimate help – to me anyway. We each have our own methods.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Annie,

      This is the horror of epistemology — knowing about knowing. You don’t know if it helps you see more clearly (imagine the level of testing required to get a reliable answer). I, of course, have no basis on which to even guess at how well your system works for you.

      But ours is the era of ideology. I’ve grown up in it, and at 60 I’ve long lost confidence in ideologies. Hence my comment.

      A crude example might help. In discussions about climate science here people have often said that they answer these great questions by reliance on their own knowledge and logic. As if they can personally understand, let along test, the fantastically large edifice of climate science. It’s a daft claim, but one in which these people have sublime confidence.

      We each must craft our own epistemology, and apply it to the countless questions of life.

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    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website Post author

      Some great notion,

      “thanks for deleting my comment then putting it back like a mentally balanced adult™”

      (1) What are you referring to?

      (2) I deleted your obscure one line comment. The spam filter deleted the other 8. This website gets several dozen obscure one-line comments. The spam filter gets most of them. Some have to be manually deleted.

      (3) If you have a useful comment, state it in a fashion that is understandable to other people. Otherwise it’s just trolling.

      Like

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