Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Princesses must be perky in every way, or, why “Babe” is just a pig in a cartoon

Barbies by jzlomek - morgueFile http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/797509
Just a few more princesses to throw on the pile of
interchangeable, disposable women
(Photo by jzlomek, morgueFile)

I know I might be coming into this ho-down a little late, but, hey, I have a life outside of being an outrage feminist.  But this is something that just needs to be said, especially because of a column by Peggy Drexler on CNN.   Drexler defended the recent Disney make-over of the princess from Brave.

First confession – I’ve never seen Brave. My son wasn’t interested, and see the first line – I just don’t always have the time I want or need.  But I do plan on seeing it because it is interesting to me that they have a princess that actually is a strong female character for a change. 

Second confession – when I first read Drexler’s piece, I almost agreed with her. I thought, “yeah, why can’t strong women be sexy, too?” 

And then it hit me – because we’re not saying that she’s sexy *because* she’s strong.  We’re saying that she must be both strong and sexy, and to be missing one or the other will somehow make her less. 

Because when the co-director and writer of the film steps up and says that the changehas made her a “blatantly sexist marketing move based on money,” maybe we should stop and listen.  This is the woman who created the character, and she feels that something has gone wrong here. 

So while it’s great that people like Drexler can state that “babes can be worthwhile role models, too, and no less so than women whose looks are most rough and tumble,” she’s missing the point that what Disney has said is that those “rough and tumble” women have to be babes.  That they won’t sell if they’re rough and tumble.  That they’re not good enough to be released into the world at large. 

Drexler may argue that we need to accept the labels placed on us – that pink is okay, that pretty is good – but that’s only true sometimes.  And Disney makes it every time when they come out with their heroines.  They don’t show that pink and powerful is okay – they strip out the powerful and make it pink because that’s what they think sells.  And, sadly enough, it does.

I’d like to see Disney come out with a real heroine in one of their cartoons and then not change her when it comes to sales.  Let’s see how America really reacts.  Because I have to say, in getting ready to research this piece, I went looking for a number I had heard long ago about how the daughter in Disney’s Invincible was underweight (according to the drawing they had done of her).  Instead, I came across a blog of awoman with an eating disorder

Maybe if we were more accepting of these “non-babes” that Drexler wants us to embrace we wouldn’t see this going on so often.  Maybe that photo from 2011 in the line-up wouldn’t exist.  Maybe we need to wake the fuck up and realize that telling people that they must be everything means that, in the end, they are nothing by their own standards, and that maybe, just maybe, we’re part of the cause.