Face of the day

Engagement with Disney Princess culture can make preschoolers more susceptible to potentially damaging and limiting stereotypes, says an expert.

Engagement with Disney Princess culture can make preschoolers more susceptible to potentially damaging and limiting stereotypes, says an expert.

Today’s face of the day is a Disney Princess. According to the following article a little girl isn’t even free to enjoy such innocent pleasures as Disney Princesses anymore because it might make her more likely to have “female gender-stereotypical behaviours”. In plain English, she might learn to love wearing beautiful clothes and want a man in her life capable of being heroic and providing financially for her and her children. Oh, the horror!

Engagement with Disney Princess culture can make preschoolers more susceptible to potentially damaging and limiting stereotypes, says an expert.

My five-year-old daughter has a Disney princess mirror. Inevitably, it is pink and plastic and emblazoned with a Disney crown. It is an interactive toy and, provided I keep changing the batteries, it coos to her about what a beautiful princess she is and how nice she looks.

While I loathe the princess mirror, my daughter loves it. It is her most treasured possession – she even sleeps with it under her pillow.

Although I’m not keen on the saccharine Disney drivel it spoon-feeds her, I’ve let it go because it makes her happy. But after reading new research about the effect of Disney culture on children I might have to review this position.

The study found the more interactions children had with Disney princesses, the more they subscribed to female gender-stereotypical behaviours a year later.

The research, published in Child Development journal, suggests that Disney culture isn’t as innocent as it is perceived to be.

Family life professor Sarah M Coyne says engagement with Disney Princess culture can make preschoolers more susceptible to potentially damaging and limiting stereotypes.
Disney princesses (even the modern ones like Elsa and Anna, picture) reinforce a “thin ideal” of women – and for the pre-schoolers who idolise them they are the first examples of an ideal that will be shoved down their throats their whole lives.

“Parents think that the Disney princess culture is safe. That’s the word I hear time and time again – it’s ‘safe’,” Coyne said.

“But if we’re fully jumping in here and really embracing it, parents should really consider the long-term impact of the princess culture.”

During the study, researchers worked with 198 pre-schoolers to assess how much they interacted with Disney princess culture (watching movies, playing with toys, etc). “Princess engagement” and gender stereotypical behaviour was then assessed via an interactive task.

The researchers found that 96 per cent of girls and 87 per cent of boys had watched Disney princess movies. But, while more than 61 per cent of girls played with princess toys at least once a week, only four per cent of boys did the same.

Well duh! Boys are different from girls. They do not conform to the sick gender-neutral straitjackets that the academic elite want to put children into these days. I bet fewer girls play with trains than boys but that doesn’t mean that it is time to ban Thomas-the-tank-engine culture before it makes boys too manly.

The researchers also noted that for both boys and girls, more interactions with the princesses led to more female gender-stereotypical behaviour a year later.

Is this a problem? Coyne thinks so. She says that gendered behaviour can become problematic because it can lead to girls avoiding important learning experiences that aren’t perceived as feminine. Similarly, gender stereotyping can influence the beliefs girls have about their opportunities in life.

While it is often dismissed as “political correctness”, the harm that comes from gender stereotyping is grossly underestimated. It may seem like a long bow to draw, but issues as serious and complex as domestic violence and sexual harassment are directly linked to gender stereotyping.

Even apparently innocent gender stereotyping such as my daughter’s Disney mirror helps to reinforce a culture in which women are seen as weak, submissive and judged on their looks.

Telling a young girl that she is beautiful won’t do her any harm if she is also told that she is smart and funny. But the mirror only has one track and it’s one that leads to a place where appearance is king (or should I say princess?).

Coyne’s research also identifies a concerning truth about body image. Disney princesses (even the modern feminist ones like Mirida, Elsa and Anna) reinforce the “thin ideal” – and for the pre-schoolers who idolise them they are the first examples of an ideal that will be shoved down their throats their whole lives.

Pre-schoolers adore the Disney princesses and want to be just like them. They want to emulate the Disney fantasy, but unfortunately they don’t realise that the princesses’ tiny waists and wrist-to-eye ratio is as much a fantasy as the plot.

Nope, the ones who don’t understand fantasy are the adults.

But while the Disney princess franchise is clearly having more impact on our daughters than we may like, it might actually be having a positive impact on our sons.

Coyne found that when it came to boys, rather than reinforcing problematic gender stereotypes, princess culture could actually be helping to balance the hyper-masculine superhero culture that they’re traditionally presented with.

God, give me strength.

– dailylife.com.au

 

 


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