Several months ago, I took my nephews to see Brave because I wanted them to see a fairytale with a strong heroine and not just one that sleeps in a tower somewhere waiting for a man to rescue her. All too often, children grow up reading (and subconsciously believing) that the role of the woman is to wait for her prince and the role of the man is to rescue her. Clearly, those roles have changed considerably, but I think a little bit of the damage from those old-school fairytales lingers at times. I still see it amongst my own group of friends. When things go wrong, or the car breaks down, they revert back to that little girl state and start looking for the white horse to come riding in instead of working it out on their own as they would with any other problem.
Now, you might wonder why it is so important to me to teach this to my nephews. Here's why: 1) I don't have nieces and 2) We can't expect gender roles to change if we don't change them from both sides. Many of the divorced men I know confess to feeling undue pressure, whether real or perceived, to "always take care of everything" and that, ultimately, they were responsible for carrying the weight of the entire family. That way of thinking puts a lot of undue pressure on both the man and the relationship. Couples are supposed to be partners. I know I would prefer to be a partner than to be perceived as the baggage weighing someone down. I want to contribute equally in all matters and to be thought of as an equal partner.
As for the boys, this life lesson comes in the form of a cartoon, not some big sit-down talk. They are just children, after all, but I don't fill their heads with the fairytales I grew up on because I don't think they are productive in today's world. I laughed for ten minutes during Shrek the Third when Fiona's character gets trapped with the other princesses and they "assume the stance" and wait to be rescued which meant napping, laying down and various forms of sitting pretty. Fiona, being the take charge ogre that she is, proceeds to find a way out and kick some serious butt in the process. Now, we just have to move even further away from the myth that you can't be feminine and kick ass at the same time... baby steps. So, when I watch cartoons with the little men in my life, I prefer to watch this type because they plant a very important seed early on and, with a little guidance, I hope they will be better men for it someday!
For women that have already been raised on old school fairytales, I recommend the following: SheNow.org, theconversation.tv and SheQuotes.com. They are all run by very strong women and they have continued messages of support and empowerment for women by women.