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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  • Rick H

    These types will never be happy until every man, woman and child identifies with LGBTQQXXVVV….

    • Ruahine

      You have missed LOOPE. Living on other peoples earnings.

  • Gazza

    I sit here at the keyboard wanting write a comment but I find that after three attempts and some furious deleting I must walk away otherwise I will be banned from commenting on WO for life…

  • Woody

    When I’m in the shower, whenever I look down, I identify with being male, I am guessing that my wife identifies with being a female in the same circumstances, I know I do when I see her with her kit off. Funnily enough, this works for us and I suspect that the same goes for the silent majority who just go about their own business and couldn’t give a toss about the weird academic thinking which tells us that we should all be different to the way we were born.

    • TM

      well said – so important to remember that the vast majority of us just want a normal life, bring up kids, go to a good school, go on holiday occasionally and have a decent house etc. This is the same for all races, religions, sexual orientations etc etc.

  • Curly1952

    Who pays these wombles for drivel like this? If these numbskulls have their way we will all be bred from a test tube and have no personality differences whatsoever.

  • AF

    Imagine telling your 5yo I am confiscating your favourite toy because it reinforces gender stereotypical behaviours. Good luck with that!

  • Martin

    I’m in a Disney princess storm at the moment as the father of a 5yo girl. There is all sorts of other toxic crap also to fret about. In cartoons everything happens via magic ie, without effort. Dolls that look like dead prostitutes, a preoccupation with romantic love and so much must-have plastic crap to step on . . . It would be great to have a non-toxic kids channel, and I’m thinking about an “only allowed toys you can name” rule.

    • Nessie

      Turn off the tv. You are the big person here and have the deciding vote. Much as you love your little girl she still has to live in an adult world, and you set the standards for her expectations as she grows up. Teach her how to entertain herself with books and puzzles. Take her out on her bike (or on yours) to give her Dad-time. Be the sort of man you would like her to end up with when she is grown up –

  • Dumrse

    Obviously the instigator of the articulate has sufficient evidence to support his/her contention. So, share the names of 10 Princeses that now associate as blokes or anything inbetween. Waiting………

  • Jonat

    At the moment, it’s mainly only the lefty academic elite that believe this nonsense. Problem is, their unnatural ideology is being presented as rational thought, and has somehow been allowed influence. So much money is being wasted on gender neutral initiatives, not to mention the psychological damage it’s going to do. You watch as our weak politicians go from tolerating it to embracing it while the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief.

  • Brian_Smaller

    I bet less 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.

    Actually…..seeing as you mentioned it SB….



    • spanishbride

      I was just joking…I had no idea about those articles. Just goes to show that you can analyse anything to death. Take for example Noddy and Big ears. As a child I never for one moment thought that they were gay. It was adults many years later who decided that they were more than just friends.

      • Usaywot

        Read Alice in Wonderland as an adult! It’s totally different e.g. the dope smoking caterpillar. I had no idea as a child.

        • Miss McGerkinshaw

          That’s the problem, adults viewing things as adults rather than through a child’s eye.

          That said aren’t some of the modern day children cartoon film made with ‘adult’ bits in them that children won’t get and yet that seems OK / acceptable? I’m thinking of Shrek which was even sort of promoted that way.

        • kayaker

          Really!? I never knew about that caterpillar’s dopey habits. What have I missed? FOMO. Fifty years on, I’ll have to go back and look at my childhood storybooks.

          • MaryLou

            Yes, you must. Keep an eye on those magic mushrooms too.

  • KatB

    I grew up with a mum that was the traditional stay at home mum. She cooked and sewed but she was also very sporty and mowed lawns and painted the house and chopped firewood and I hardly ever saw her with any make up on. Never any colour in her hair. I grew up without any Disney/Barbie type dolls. I love make up, nail polish, clothes, shoes, all things girly. Seems to me you are what you are, a lot from the inside. My sister’s eldest child was a boy. When her daughter came along, there were a lot of boy toys in the house already. My sister was really surprised when her daughter revealed her big wish for her birthday, a broom and hearth shovel and hearth brush. Stereo-typically woman’s work but something that hadn’t been forced upon her, just something she really wanted. She too has grown up to be a very girly girl, her sister more a tom boy. We are what we are. Disney’s not a threat to our girls, the people involved in this article are.

    • Hill16

      It totally ignores the reality as you’ve said, that no matter if you try to steer kids a certain way, most of their preferences are in built and innate. And more importantly, it ignores the fact that parents and significant adults in a child’s life should be the main influencers when it comes to reinforcing what valuable and unique people they are…..not a plastic mirror.

      • KatB

        You’re so right about the parents being the main influences in their kids lives. I might add also, those of us lucky enough to have amazing parents and great relationships with our dads, we knew handsome princes were a reality because we already had one on our lives, we didn’t need Disney to tell us that.

  • Miss McGerkinshaw

    So soon we will have to ban Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and other fairy tales.

    And even if it does reinforce stereotypes what’s wrong it? Hey folks, surprise, surprise but we’re different and we all perceive beauty in a different way anyway.

    To me this is simply another attempt to totally wrap children up in cotton wool, away from anything that may be perceived as negative so they end up not being able to face reality and hence the huge surprise that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily think they are perfect thus the requirement for these ‘safe spaces’ once they get into the real world.

  • Andinz

    The difference between any fantasy world, no matter how much it might be non-PC, is quickly overcome by parent-child discussion. Hows that for a hypothesis to earn a PhD in?
    Methinks there is a bit of biology that shouldn’t be ignored either.

  • Hill16

    It’s a bit rich to assume that once we’re adults in the big wide world that our total world view and sense of ourselves has been completely shaped by watching Disney movies when we were children. It negates every other influence and experience we have ever. I think these academics have a far looser grip on reality than most pre-schoolers.

  • oldmanNZ

    over many years, research have found that many research has been useless, what was found to be bad was good, then bad, then good again.

    The public has found that researchers have no idea what they talking about, even old wives tails were more convinvincing.

    Most useless research get spread on Facebook, which then get pick up by MSM as it has a lot of likes, it must be factual, thus get reported as serious research.

  • iera

    As a I child I had the weekly MICKEY MOUSE CLUB without wanting to become a mouse or duck, and BEANO and only trended a little towards THE BASH STREET KIDS.
    But worry not – the next Disney Princess is Hawaiian (MOANA) …

  • kayaker

    Our two granddaughters (5 & 2.5) often visit dressed in their favourite Disney dresses or tutus, sometimes jeans, or a combo of some sort of colourful, eclectic micro-fashion ensemble they’ve put together themselves. Then they disappear into ‘our den’ which is full of their mum’s and uncle’s toys and books from when they were little. They play happily with all sorts from dolls to Lego to cars to the wooden humdinger, they read and draw. Happy in their own skin and confident and loved. That’s all that matters.

    Edit: missing word

    • Miss McGerkinshaw

      “Happy in their own skin and confident and loved. That’s all that matters.”

      100% the only thing that matters, and the ‘loved’ bit is what helps them be happy in their own skin and confident.

    • MaryLou

      Exactly. My son was happiest in his Superman outfit, but it didn’t stop him having a crack at his sisters Snow White outfit from time to time. Including heels. Nothing dainty about it, but hey – who cared! I really don’t understand why this is an issue.

      • kayaker

        We’ve got the most amazing picture of our then 3yo son (with shoulder length curly blonde hair) dressed in his cousin’s pink tutu and ballet slippers. He used to love playing with his older sister’s Barbies (if only to throw them in the pool). Then it was the super hero outfits, especially at kindy. One year, the kids got girl/boy pressies at kindy – boys some sort of vehicle and the girls got a broom! He wanted the broom so badly that a girl swapped with him. He loved sweeping the floor, but that went out the door soon enough! Now a 25yo, perfectly well adjusted.

        • MaryLou

          And probably doesn’t do housework now, huh…:)

          • kayaker

            He’s got his own place in the US. While his room was a trash heap as a teen when he lived at home, his own place is neat as a pin!

          • MaryLou

            Funny that :)

  • Whitey

    In the education sector we do have a problem with girls avoiding some subjects, or being less confident in those subjects, because of gender stereotypes about what subjects girls are good at. But I don’t believe Disney princesses are to blame. Blaming Disney is just a way for parents to avoid responsibility. If you are a parent, you are responsible for the expectations you have of your kids.

  • Muzman349

    Where do these people come from. Are they themselves from deprived childhoods and want to ensure that others suffer as they possibly did. My daughters have grown up well and balanced nothing to do with such nonsense.

  • AF

    We should confirm (ore refute) these findings with the Dunedin study.

  • Mick Ie

    About 20 years ago, my lovely friend decided she wasn’t going to allow her daughter to have dolls or her son to have pretend guns because she decided they needed to choose for themselves without any external influence.
    Whenever her daughter came to our house or went to play centre the first thing she did was gravitate to the dolls and dress up area and son went straight to the cowboy dress up and cap guns and if there wasn’t one around? A stick would suffice.
    Sometimes it’s just chromosomes.

    • Nessie

      lol, my daughter LOVED guns although neither of us parents had anything to do with them. One day I took her to a fire sale auction – she was 4 – and the auctioneer got her to run the sale tickets back to the office, which she did willingly. At the end he said she needed to be rewarded for her good work and what would she like ( probably thinking of ice creams) and she pointed at a box of toy plastic guns. We went home on the bus with her carrying a big brown plastic machine gun with a rat-a-tat repeating trigger.

  • JC

    “When I’m in the shower, whenever I look down, I identify with being male,”

    When I look down I can’t see past my gut!

    I assume the genderless types have the same problem and they don’t have much imagination.


  • Genevieve

    Coyne is ignoring the harmful effects that cartoons characters have on animals.
    Our cat used to watch Tom and Jerry all the time and now he walks on two legs and blows up mice with dynamite. ?