How Disney Teaches Gender Roles

Thursday’s Thoughts on Gender: This video was introduced to me by a Gender Roles in STEM course I’m taking, and it really cuts down the traditional roles of gender that our kids are bombarded with — without pause. Yes, Disney movies are great and fun, but the lessons that come out of them, the lessons that our children acquire about their own gender and the roles they are supposed to play are limiting and untrue. The basic and archaic attributes of femininity and masculinity derived from the beloved Disney characters define not just the roles our children will play in life, but also their potential. We need to start rethinking gender, and who is going to teach our kids about it: us — their parents, or Disney and other stereotype perpetuating television shows and movies? And if it is up to us, then how are we going to model for them that boys and girls are not so different — that they are equal and that they all deserve equality, potential, and positive representation no matter their gender? Gender must not define how well kids do in school, in sports, or in life. And we need to help them learn this sans ridiculous and old-fashioned representations of the female and the male that were constructed for profit in the first place. They don’t care about our kids and their potential; we do.

What about you? How much influence do you think Disney and other television shows and movies have on our kids’ sense of their roles according to their gender?

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About Marinagraphy

Marina is a writer who focuses her work on the need for female empowerment. She writes articles, books, and blogs centered on female experiences related to motherhood, female agency, feminism, and building positive images for young girls and women. She currently teaches Literature, Writing, and Women's Studies on the College level.

8 Responses to How Disney Teaches Gender Roles

  1. Edward Machain II says:

    Professor DelVecchio, now that Disney released Brave, are you going to write an article about how that film challenges the stereotypical gender roles portrayed in other Disney films? I have yet to hear one good article defending Disney in this manner.

  2. Jasmine says:

    I watched Disney when I was younger. I ignored the whole sexism thing and focused on the talking critters. I get where you’re coming from, though. Now the princesses are more independent, but still. I think you might be interested in My little pony: frienship is magic. It’s one of the few kids shows without these sort of problems. But before you start judging it watch a few episodes. The show’s gotten grown men to love it and admit it. They call themselves ‘Bronies’ (Bros+Ponies).

  3. April says:

    I have to say that I don’t agree. The only time that this can be considered harmful, in my opinion, is when we don’t teach our kids the difference between reality and fairy tales. I am an independent woman, a single mother, and I enjoy working (when it’s what I want to do), but I believe that there is someone for everyone (not always just one as in widowers, divorced, etc.) but there is a God-given person at one point or another for anyone who is meant to be married and not live a single life as called by God. I also believe that we are princesses in God’s kingdom. And I believe that we were made to be submissive to our husbands according to Ephesians 5:22-33. Does this mean that we are to be doormat? No, but it does mean that in God’s eyes the husband is the head of the household and the one who will ultimately answer to God. I think we have to have a good balance of independence and submission and femininity, etc. This is just one person’s opinion I know, but that’s how I see things based on my own observations, research, life and walk with God.

    • Hi, April. How are you? I definitely understand where you are coming from. Thanks for commenting with such frankness and thoughtfulness. It’s very true that parents have a great influence on how kids perceive certain messages that come from the “box.”

    • sandy says:

      Yes, I strongly agree with you ” There should be a balance between independence, submission and feminism”. Amen

  4. Karen Berner says:

    I was never fond of the “Some day my prince will come” mentality of the older Disney princesses. I often wondered why they did not fix the situation themselves, instead of waiting for a man to do it. Of course, those are the older movies. The newer ones have more independent princesses in them.

    But who wants to be a princess anyway? When I was young, I wanted to be Queen. 🙂

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