THE BLOG

Which Disney Princess Most Embodies Feminist Principles

02/04/2015 02:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

Which Disney Princess best embodies feminist principles, and why?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

In this answer I will evaluate the degree of gender treason committed by the following seven women, who so blithely bask in the glory of the patriarchy anointing them with the empty title "princess", thereby condemning innocent little girls worldwide to a life wracked by miserable, insatiable lust for a crown, a ballgown, and a 17-inch waist:

  • Aurora
  • Snow White
  • Cinderella
  • Ariel
  • Jasmine
  • Mulan
  • Belle

Princess aurora disney.png

Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
Theme song: "Once upon a Dream"
Gender treason: 5 corsets
Helpless damsel in distress

Pros:

  • None that I know of. Plays virtually no role in her life decisions. Does nothing to combat the oppression of the patriarchy.

Cons:

  • Defines her self-worth by attracting a man to such an extreme degree that she conjures up a faux man to dance with
  • Corrupted by an irresistible urge to adhere to traditional gender roles and spin yarn
  • Passive in deciding her future and, in fact, marries a man who molests her in her sleep
  • Gives up an idyllic life in the forest, where she is free from the oppression of the patriarchy, in order to don a sparkling pink gown

Snow white disney.png

Snow White (Snow White)
Theme song: "Some Day My Prince Will Come"
Gender treason: 5 corsets
Helpless damsel in distress whose life is ruined by excellence at fulfilling the patriarchy's beauty mandate

Pros:

  • None that I know of. Plays virtually no role in her life decisions. Does nothing to combat the oppression of the patriarchy.

Cons:

  • Her entire life story is based on her exceptional conformance to patriarchy-mandated beauty standards
  • Revels in domesticity. Gained the "right" to live with seven strange men by cooking and cleaning for them
  • Yet another princess to be taken down by adhering to her patriarchy-assigned role. She is poisoned by eating what she believes is "a wishing apple" whereby "all [her] dreams will come true." Her only stated desire is to be seduced by a prince.
  • Passive in deciding her future and, in fact, marries a man who molests her in her sleep

Cinderella disney.png

Cinderella (Cinderella)
Theme song: "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes"
Gender treason: 5 corsets
Housemaid of limited ambition (marrying well) who relies entirely on others to make her dreams come true

Pros:

  • None that I know of. Is conscious for all of her major life decisions but plays no active role

Cons:

  • Accepts a life of domesticity
  • Grieves exclusion from the Royal Ball, a perverted spectacle wherein women are paraded before the prince to be judged according to their adherence to the beauty mandate
  • Relies on supernatural powers to improve her position rather than taking any personal initiative
  • Enraptured by trappings of of the patriarchy's beauty mandate
  • Defines her self-worth by attracting a man
  • Life is changed by a high-heeled shoe

Ariel disney.png

Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
Theme Song: "Part of Your World"
Gender Treason: 4 corsets
Willful, brave, rebellious, and proactive but ultimately foolish

Pros:

  • Risks life and limb to satisfy her insatiable appetite for learning, which is forbidden by her oppressive father
  • Proactive about getting what she wants, even if that means making a pact with the devil

Cons:

  • Obsessed with a man
  • Wears a bra despite breasts' natural buoyancy in water, thereby perpetuating the sexualization of breasts and the wider commodification of the female body
  • Sells her soul in order to transform her body to impress a man

Belle disney.png

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Theme song: "Belle" (whose theme is an existence beyond this provincial life)
Gender treason: 3 corsets
Bookish misfit who rejects the superficial trappings of the patriarchy but does not break free from male oppression

Pros:

  • Yearns for opportunities not afforded by small town life
  • Reads despite mockery by the patriarchy
  • Rejects the patriarchal notion that a woman should marry the most "masculine" man available
  • Generally aloof to her innate adherence to the beauty mandate. Her favorite man in town is the elderly librarian
  • Doesn't cook for any suitor

Cons:

  • Enables the oppression of a team of cooking and cleaning workers
  • Persists in a relationship with an abusive man

Princess Jasmine disney.png

Jasmine (Aladdin)
Theme song: "A Whole New World"
Gender treason: 2 corsets
Tries to escape the trappings of royal life but is pulled back in, where she changes the patriarchy from within.

Pros:

  • Rejects the notion of marriage as absolutely necessary
  • Asserts her right to choose who she marries
  • Attempts to escape the charade that is princesshood
  • Overthrows restrictive patriarchal tradition of limiting her marriage prospects to a prince
  • Takes control of her sexuality to trap a predator

Cons:

  • Does not persist in her attempt to leave a life of royal oppression
  • Legacy of sexy costumes enables the patriarchy's objectification of women

Mulan disney.png

Mulan (Mulan)
Theme song: "Be a Man"
Gender treason: 1 corset
Gender bending icon.

Pros:

  • Did not take the patriarchy-mandated matchmaking ceremony seriously enough to memorize her lines
  • Was uncomfortable conforming with patriarchy-mandated beauty standards. Had to add a nonconformist personal touch before leaving the house
  • Deviates from the patriarchy-mandated standards of feminine beauty by cutting her hair and wearing men's clothes (including practical shoes!)
  • Brave, ingenious warrior who uses her intelligence to be a better soldier than men, who beat her in physical strength
  • Tears down gender stereotypes by dressing men in women's clothes
  • Overthrows patriarchal tradition in being honored by the emperor and all of China
  • Returns home to her family, forcing her suitor to come to her world rather than giving up her life for him
Cons:

  • Conforms by attending the matchmaking ceremony
  • Instead of acknowledging society's unfair treatment of women, grieves her inability to conform to patriarchy-mandated gender norms of subservience and propriety

Both Jasmine and Mulan succeed in being admirable role models in today's patriarchy-oppressed world (Belle falls short for staying with a violent man). The two "feminist princesses" resist the patriarchy's orders, opening new horizons for themselves and future generations of women. Can it be considered mere coincidence that they are the only two "princesses" to forego high heels, gown, and tiara?

More questions on Quora: