Princesses Don't Wear Glasses
This is a hard society to grow up in. For some, it is simply a hard society to live in.
Hate, intolerance, racism, sexism, ableism, prejudice… these things litter our headlines and news feeds daily. And, if you’re not watching or reading about some tragedy, hate crime, or any number of other heinous acts or deplorable beliefs, you may be able to catch all of the skinny, beautiful, flawless skinned men and women gracing absurd magazine covers, ridiculous commercials, or scantily clad billboards.
This world is hard place to fit in. I say this as a white, cisgender, heterosexual female with not a whole lot going against me. I’m overweight and a hot-mess mom, but I am lucky enough to not give a flying you-know-what in regards to how society views me.
So, imagine this world through your children’s eyes. Where do they fit in? What messages are we giving them— subconsciously, subliminally, and directly-- when it comes to image?
I grew up on Disney princesses. Think Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. I dreamed of being rescued by a prince and living happily ever after. And, I fit the stereotypical princess, too… I was white and grew up in the middle class. Any car that drove past my house could have been a carriage in disguise with a prince who wanted to see if I had the other Adidas sneaker or Jellybean sandal that fit. It was nice being able to identify as a soon-to-be-queen.
Recently, Disney has started adding more color to their princesses. Represented now are the Chinese (Mulan), Native American (Pocahontas), Arabian (Jasmine—who should technically be Chinese), African-American (Tiana), and Polynesian (Moana) races and nationalities. The princesses also have started to become stronger, less dependent on a prince, and even heroic. Rumor on Mommy Street says, also, that Elsa may end up enjoying more intimate company with the ladies in a sequel, if you catch my not so subtle implication. The message that Disney is sending to our children has definitely shifted over the years. Princesses—these characters that our children emulate and look up to so much—have definitely become more diverse. Now there is a mixture of races, abilities, aspirations, role reversals, and maybe even sexuality. However, there is still something missing.
Where are the disabled princesses? Anybody can take a look through British history and discover a number of ailments that plagued the royalty. Why can’t Disney represent this population as well?
Admittedly, this has never even crossed my mind. Yes, the race/damsel in distress/beauty thing has been on my radar for decades. But I never realized the ableism in Disney films until… and this is so small compared to what some are going through… my daughter got glasses.
Of everything that a child can suffer or live with I am very aware that I am lucky enough my child only needs glasses. Some people have expressed their sorrow and heartbreak that my poor little baby has to suffer and live with the agony of glasses. That’s bullshit. It’s not an ailment. She’s not disabled. She actually can see better AND now she has a fabulous permanent accessory that she matches with every outfit. Because she is…. a princess.
Except, “Princesses don’t wear glasses, Mommy.”
|My pretty, fierce Princess Delilah|
There comes a point daily that we struggle to keep her glasses on. My daughter is a sassy little diva who, like her momma, thinks she is hot shit. She has a trunk full of dress up clothes and when she is in her pretend, make believe kingdom, her glasses have no place. She cannot fathom that a princess could actually wear glasses because she has never seen one of her favorite princesses in glasses. Or with any other disability or “not perfect” figure or abilities.
She is sometimes a princess who fights. A princess without a prince. A princess with no need for a prince. She doesn’t bat an eye when she is Tiana, Pocahontas, or Ariel. Disney has made that message clear, and I’m glad this whole issue of race or male dependency or strength is not even on her radar. But it breaks my heart when she thinks she is “less than” simply because she has glasses and there is no representation of a regal, royal, or even cool princess with something along those lines.
My daughter even has the privilege of taking her glasses off. Even though it will get her into trouble, in a matter of seconds she goes back to fitting that societal image. What about the children in wheel chairs, need leg braces, suffer from any number of physical/neurological diseases or disabilities—the ones who simply can’t “undo” what makes them different? Where do they identify? Where is their place, their comfort zone, especially in something so iconic, recognizable, and influential as Disney?
My kids and I were in Target yesterday checking out. A mother and her son stood in line behind us. Her son was in a wheel chair and had visible physical differences than my children. Both of my children stared, much to my horror. I tried to distract them— I said things like, “help me grab this” and “who wants to push the PIN buttons”—so this boy and his mother wouldn’t feel like they were in a museum being scrutinized. Once we left, I told my kids a) it’s rude to stare and b) people are just born different. It’s just that simple. Nobody is the same and nobody is any better. My son replied that the little boy looked weird. In which I, again, just said it’s rude to stare and that people are different… not weird.
As uncomfortable as this situation made me, I could not fault my kids. They do not experience people with differences every single day. Images of people with disabilities are not prominent figures in their cartoons, in commercials, or always hanging out wherever we may venture to on any given day. Even my son made comments to my daughter when she got glasses. It is just not the norm… As a parent, I can only teach them how to react to a person who is different, whether that be racially, sexually, ability, or otherwise.
I am glad of the strides Disney has taken in making at least their princesses a little more diverse. They have a huge platform and potential for influence over our youth. It makes my heart happy to see a better representation of race and dependence, but there is still much room for improvement when it comes to disabilities or ailments that society views as making somebody weak or weird.
This society is hard to fit into. Everybody is struggling to remain politically correct, there is a continuous barrage of hate strewn all over media platforms, and intolerance is running rampant. It is our duty as parents and as adults to make sure our children feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin (and glasses) but also to help them understand that not everybody may appear to look like a Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty, regardless of what is reflected on the television or magazines.
|My Aurora saw Maleficent outside our house|