ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Are Disney Princesses Anti-Feminist?

Updated on February 24, 2018

And they all lived happily ever after. Or did they? We all know the iconic Disney Princesses. Most girls grew up watching their movies, learning their songs, and dressing up like them. However, this seemingly innocent behavior can have many negative repercussions on a girl’s view of themselves and the way the world works as they grow up in reality. Although Disney has been taking strides towards making their princesses more modern, Disney Princesses are harmful to young girls because they impart negative beauty standards on them and perpetuate gender roles and stereotypes that hold girls back from becoming independent women.

Many people could argue that Disney is working towards making their princesses more modern by centering the movie around strong, independent female protagonists, such as Rapunzel from Tangled, Merida from Brave, Anna and Elsa from Frozen, and Moana from Moana. In these movies, the female character saves herself and does not have a love interest, which is, honestly, very refreshing. Brave shows Merida refusing her arranged marriage and saving her family from a curse. Moana sails the ocean and fights a lava monster to save her island. There is no arguing the “girl power” in these plot lines.

And while Disney is working on its gender stereotyping in its movies, it is still lagging behind in its depiction of the female body. For example, in Frozen, Anna’s wrist is smaller than her eye. “This sends the message that women should be small and thin compared to men[…] This message can hurt girls’ self-esteem if they feel that they are not skinny[…]thus making them feel that they are not pretty either” (“The Problem With Princesses.”). Even Merida- the closest Disney ever really got to portraying a girl who looked like the rest of us- fell victim to Disney’s princess beauty culture. Disney stores remade Merida with better hair, slimmer waist, makeup, and without her iconic bow and arrows. “With this, Disney conveys the message that in order for a product to sell, it needs to be pretty and girlie (which does not include a bow and arrow). This further makes girls feel that they can only gain attention if they are beautiful and woman-like” (“The Problem With Princesses.”). Because of the fact that Disney still cannot accurately portray the female body, these negative beauty standards are still absorbed by young girls who now believe that they need to be pretty to be loved, wanted, or even a hero. This leads to an increase in low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders (Hains) in young girls who don’t understand why their bodies do not reflect the heroines in their favorite movies.

One of the reasons that the Disney princesses are harmful to young girls who watch their movies is that the Disney princess are basically flawless. “Princesses and other female protagonists are displayed with a size zero waist, skinny limbs, and even small feet. This unnatural, and unhealthy, body size presented in Disney's animated characters however, is what society calls for” (“Body Image.”). This causes girls to believe that to be pretty, or successful like their childhood role models, they also must be skinny and beautiful. Not only this, but evil characters are portrayed as people with societably undesirable traits such as being old, fat, or ugly. As little kids grow up, they learn to associate these undesirable traits with evilness. “When a movie is consistent with its physical indication of evil, the physical indication begins to stick with the child watching because their brain has correlated evil with old, fat, or ugly” (“The Disney Princess Effect”). When children see beauty representing good and ugliness representing evil, they associate that to the real world. This is extremely harmful for young girls who can’t possibly live up to their own expectations of what they think beauty is. Furthermore, girls who are larger only see themselves represented in evil characters. This is shown in Melissa May’s poem “Dear Ursula” where she admits that “[Ursula, you] were the only Disney character that ever looked like me” (ButtonPoetry). All of this combined causes girls to have lower self esteem, body image problems, depression, and eating disorders. All these girls want to do is be a princess, but they can’t because their reflection will never match what they see in the movie screen.

Disney Princesses are not only harmful to young girls because of the way they look, but the way they act as well. The gender stereotypes that they pander to are seriously outdated and yet we continue to expose our young girls to them. Girls memorize the lyrics to “Part of Your World” while memorizing the fact that Ariel gives up her voice for a man. Symbolic? Unquestionably so. How about in Beauty and the Beast where little girls learn that you can fall in love with an abusive partner? How about Cinderella where Cinderella waits for a man who can’t even remember her face? Even watching Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, little girls learn that you don’t even have to be conscious or even alive for a man to kiss you. Do these sound like positive messages to send to young girls, especially in the world today? A study found that “The more the girls in the study engaged with princess culture, the more they behaved in stereotypically feminine ways”(Hains). This means that exposing girls to these outdated gender roles translates to the more they absorb them into their everyday lives. Disney teaches girls that they should be beautiful, quiet and always, always, always sacrifice for the men in their lives. In today’s society that is completely the opposite of what we should be teaching young girls. We should be teaching them that you don’t need a man to save you, you don’t need to be beautiful to be successful, you don’t need to be quiet to be loved, you don’t need to look like a model to be a good person. But as Naomi Wolf writes in her book The Beauty Myth, “A beautiful heroine is a contradiction in terms, since heroism is about individuality, interesting and ever changing, while “beauty” is generic, boring and inert” (Wolf 59). The gender roles that Disney continues to place on their characters are harmful to young girls because it teaches them these outdated gender roles that they believe they cannot violate, less they become unbeautiful and therefore unwanted.

Personally, I never really had this problem as a little kid. I feel like I mostly avoided the “Disney Princess childhood” largely because watching the movies made me extremely anxious. However, even watching them with my little sister now, I feel the negative effects of watching these disproportionate girls get a man because she fits the definition of “Western beauty”. I watch Ariel tell her father that she’s sixteen and can handle herself. I look at myself in the mirror. I am sixteen also. I am not tall like Ariel, not skinny like Ariel. My hair isn’t long like hers, my face isn’t clear like hers. I wonder why I do not look like her, when I really should be wondering why she doesn’t look more like me. And I feel so conflicted. I hate myself for not being as beautiful as the animated characters. I hate Disney for making me feel like this is a beauty expectation I have to live up to. I hate the fact that I am living in a world where women’s growth is allowed to be ridiculed and stunted, seemingly unintentionally, by children’s movies. And I look at the new Disney Princesses. I look at Moana, which Disney tells me is an accurate portrayal of a girl about my age. I watch the movie end, the credits roll. And in the black screen that’s left I see my reflection and I am not what Disney says I should be.

In conclusion, Disney princesses are harmful to young girls because of the impossible beauty standards they impart on them and the gender roles they perpetuate through their plotlines. This is because it leads to an upswing in depression, body image problems, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and eating disorders. None of this is good for girls who need to grow up to become the strong, brave leaders of the next generations. We need girls to speak their minds, and if they’re trapped in a tower or gave away their voice or are waiting for a man to save them, they will never save themselves.

Works Cited

“Body Image.” The Rhetoric of Disney.

ButtonPoetry. “Melissa May - ‘Dear Ursula’ (WoWPS 2014).” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Mar. 2014.

Hains, Rebecca. “Why Disney Princesses and 'Princess Culture' Are Bad for Girls.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 June 2016.

“The Problem With Princesses.” The Odyssey Online, 14 Nov. 2017.

“The Disney Princess Effect on Young Girls and Feminist Theory (with Images, Tweets) ·sternb13.” Storify.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used against Women: with an Introduction by the Author. Vintage Books, 2015.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)