If you don’t already know about the Bechdel test, and you care about what influences (you and) your children are exposed to – watch this video for a brief explanation. Then read on to see how and why we should ensure our children are exposed to positive, healthy role models.
I recently reviewed the film Jack and the Giant Slayer, and accurately described it as rubbish. In short, the film’s nothing more than a load of special effects mixed in with a stereotypical storyline about a princess who needs to be rescued (by a man, of course!). Not exactly the kind of female role-modelling I am keen for my daughters to see, and if I had sons, I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking that women were helpless. Click here for the full review.
I ended my review by recommending Disney Pixar’s Brave as a good film to watch if you’re looking for a strong princess character. I hadn’t yet seen this video about Disney’s updated definition of a princess.
Until the release of Brave, the Disney Princess franchise had long perpetuated the stereotype that the only thing a princess needs and wants is a castle and a prince. Hit the Disney Princess section in Toys R Us and you will see it loaded down with tea sets, strollers, princess dresses, tiaras and all good princess must haves. If you’re beady-eyed like me, you will notice that there is no Disney Prince section – Hmmm. I wonder why there are no Disney Prince outfits for sale? No big swords for little boys to play rescue princess games, and no toy versions of whatever it is princes presumably need.
Why is that???? Is it because these Disney Princes can’t compete with the ton of super hero comics, films, toys, and other paraphernalia, or is there another reason already out there?? I would hazard a guess that it’s a heck of a lot more to do with gender-based marketing and assigned gender roles, than a lot of everyday people realise. But I think the parents of sons (and the marketing aimed at boys) have already cottoned on – no-one’s going to buy their sons Prince costumes and tell them to play at rescuing princesses. But we still buy our daughters princess crap and show them the films about princesses who need rescued by men – and don’t get me started on the number of female villains in those Disney Princess movies. The overwhelmingly predominant message is clear – the strong women are either wicked bullying step-mothers or the evil witches, and the weak women need rescued by men. The men are either the heroes, or the fools who’ve been duped by witches.
Many parents have already made conscious decisions not to expose their daughters to Barbie and Disney Princess type toys. I was fortunate, my daughters were just not very interested in this sort of stuff – hopefully because I exposed them to other, better play things and entertainment. Is this updated version of the princess enough, though? Is it too late??? I hope not.
Parents, I beg you – don’t “train” your kids to be or admire heroes or princesses. Think about the long term message, the unconscious message that children are soaking up. Think about what you WANT your kids to grow up and believe. In his Ted Talk, Colin Stokes explains it here.
Here’s what The Double Parent believes all children need to grow up knowing:
1. Women are not damsels in distress, men are not rescuers of women.
2. Just as men don’t need to aspire to marriage, home-making, or child-rearing to be happy, neither do women.
3. Women and girls can do anything men and boys can do. No sex/gender is better or stronger, or weaker and more dependent.
4. Gender is learned. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Don’t be what society, what advertisements, marketers, and the corporate world dictates – be what is true to you. And do whatever it takes to find that true you inside.
5. Finding that real you is a journey that will last you your entire life. Enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to be different, or wrong and don’t be afraid of change.
Click here for Mickey Mouse Monopoly.