Oh my God, Cinderella’s ball gown ate Mulan!!! No!!!!!!! The one Disney “princess” (though she is no princess and never marries a prince) I loved, the one I gave my daughter to stave off the others, the one I scoured ebay to find has been made pink and pouffy! Poor Mulan, this against everything the character stands for! It was bad enough that the old Mulan doll came wearing a hanfu, which, if you’ve seen the movie (as I have, approximately forty million three hundred and seven times) she despised. The hanfu (a Chinese kimono) was how they served her up hoping she’d bring “honor to us all” by being pretty and marrying well.
But Mulan didn’t want to do that, even before she snuck off to join the military. She always wanted to be her own person.
And NOW look at her:
Pinker, pouffier, sparklier (Rebecca thought of the headline on this post, too). I’d like to remind the Disney people of the song that THEY put in Mulan II and is still one of my favorites:
Meanwhile, Rebecca took photos of the other dolls as well, noting that they’d all had sparklified remakes. They did resist putting Pocahontas in a ball gown (though the’ve tried before); she does, however, have inexplicably high-heeled feet. And sparkles. And rounder eyes. AND LIGHTER SKIN. Especially as the mom of a brown girl, I’m with Rebecca on this one—TOTALLY uncool, Dudes.
Anyway, bear with me here as I free associate. Because I was thinking about all of this while reading an article in HuffPo about a study by MIT Economist Esther Dufflo. Dufflo traveled to 495 villages in India to determine whether there was a gap in parents’ expectations of their female and male children. Here’s what she found: in villages that never had female political leaders parents were 45% less likely to expect their daughters to go to high school. The girls themselves were 32% less likely than boys to believe they’d continue their education. In villages where female leaders routinely served in local government, however,—such as in the state of West Bengal, where for two decades a third of local posts were specifically reserved for women—parents had the same educational expectations for their daughters as for their sons. The girls themselves had higher expectations s as well. Given the importance of girls’ education to ameliorating global poverty, this is vital information. The study’s author attributes her findings to “the role-model effect.” “Perceptions and giving hope,” Dufflo said, “can have an impact on reality.”
I know we’re not India, but when all our little girls see are princesses and divas–and they see very few women in leadership in business, politics, STEM or the arts–what is our role model effect? Ponder this, for example: according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report, women account for just 5% of directors working in Hollywood, down from 10% in 1998, when the number peaked. Meanwhile, only 14% of Hollywood writers, 18% of executive producers, 25% of producers, 20% of editors and 4% of cinematographers are female.
Don’t believe this under-representation has an impact on how and whether women and girls are portrayed on-screen? Check out the new material in the paperback of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, or take a look at the magnificent Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
And finally, for those of you who’ve read this far, I want to thank you for making Cinderella Ate My Daughter a success. The paperback doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but they’ve already gone back to press! The pre-orders have been through the roof. I’m so grateful and thrilled that the book’s message of broadening images and opportunities for BOTH boys and girls is getting heard! Please check my events page (if you haven’t already) and come out and say hi if I’ll be in your town.
Also: I’ve updated the resources page on how to “fight fun with fun!”