May 20th, 2013
When is The Walt Disney Company Going To Support Young Girls as Future Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Engineers and Scientists? (just to name a few)
Why Do They Continue to Promote Their Princess Vision on Today’s Girls?
As most of you know, even if you are not in the United States, a backlash has come up against The Walt Disney Company. This blog post is about the attitude and practice of discrimination, bullying and disrespect towards today’s girls and young women by The Walt Disney Company. It is about Disney diminishing girls’ capacity to think of themselves as entrepreneurs making changes in our economy with sustainable businesses, leading change as non-profit founders as well as becoming future leaders. It is about Disney’s Consumer Products Division attitude that in the end, looks and a specific body style are all that matter for girls. After all these looks will lead females to their “Prince Charming.” This is the same goal Disney has always promoted and now even more so. They like to make all their female characters into their “Princess” mold even if the movie or television show does not. Sounds a bit creepy to me, don’t you think?
If you have not seen Pixar’s animated movie Brave (click here to learn the entire plot) or heard about the storyline you may not understand what all the fuss is about. Merida is the young, independent and outspoken daughter of Scottish royalty. Her father, the king gives her a bow and arrow for a birthday gift. As she grows into a confident and strong teenager, Merida would rather practice her archery and explore their kingdom on horseback (not in the fashion of nobility). Of course her mother the queen is quite upset with her daughter’s attitude and actions. Merida is not practicing the traits of a young princess to attract the suitable choice in a prince.
The animated Merida wanted to realize a vision independent of her family and tradition. The creator of Brave, Brenda Chapman, intended Merida to be an attainable role model for today’s girls and young women; a role model that shows character is more important than having a pretty face and waiting around for Prince Charming. (Seriously I thought the Prince Charming on his white horse died in the late 1960’s.)
The Disney Consumer Products Division decided to redesign the Princess Merida for her royal coronation as its 11th Disney Princess. They used their normal Disney Princess mold to change Merida’s appearance from a 16-year old with natural beauty to look like a 22-year old sexy Hollywood starlet wannabe. Their actions emphasize that body type; clothing size and physical attractiveness leads to success and popularity. Can you imagine your high school friends having a teeny waist and big breasts with a willowy body?
Additionally Disney’s message today to girls undermines the importance of individuality. The message cultivates bullying and discrimination. Why? Because many times students, especially girls, do not accept others who do not fit into their perception of physical attractiveness, clothing size, and choice in clothing styles. Have you ever been taunted for your spirit of individuality? This can happen in middle school and all through college.
Even Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has taken a stand against Disney’s message to girls. He has two daughters and definitely does not want them to turn into the vision Disney wants girls to follow. Here is what he had to say about it on his May 16th show.
Why do you think Disney’s Consumer Products Division decided to redesign a teenage character considered a barrier-breaking role model? Here’s a thought: Perhaps there is no imagination or innovation with the Disney Consumer Products Division. They do not know how to think outside their cookie-cutter mold for creating role models for girls.
If they had left Merida as she was in the movie Brave, there would have been no backlash. They also did the same to the character of Fa Mulan
Why do you think the Walt Disney Company manufactured the new Merida for a special with Target?
They claim Target will only have it on a limited basis. Perhaps they did it for Target because the “limited edition” would be a big seller and it would be an excuse to manufacture more of the same for other retails.
Why didn’t they look at the popularity of the movie and produce it as Merida really looked? What is wrong with the original Merida? Perhaps they have not seen the ABC hit series “Storybook.” If you did not know Disney owns ABC. Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Grandma, Snow White’s princess daughter Emma and the other female characters are strong, intelligent, and stand up for what they believe. They are of average size and looks. When Snow White is in character she uses her bow and arrow as protection, dresses in costumes appropriate for being in the forest and even rides a horse at times. This Snow White is not your typical Disney “Princess.” The same is true for nearly all the female “Storybook” characters
Do you think these strong female characters are allowed to exist because the president of the Disney/ABC Television Group is a woman? Anne Sweeney is the co-chair of Disney Media Networks, and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, which includes The Walt Disney Company’s global entertainment and news television properties, owned television stations group, as well as radio and publishing businesses. She is also considered one of the most powerful women in business in the United States.
Again, why do you think Disney’s Consumer Products Division decided to redesign a teenage character considered a barrier-breaking role model?
Here are some thoughts:
- The Consumer Products Division was instructed to do so from the top.
- They saw the popularity of the Merida character in terms of increased profits if she looked like all the other Disney Princesses.
- Consumer Products Division does not have a clue about today’s girls’ and their interests or visions for their own futures.
- The Consumer Products Division does not have the creative and innovative minds to step up away from the old ways of doing things.
- There are too few women in management leadership roles at Disney, which is the area where the Consumer Products Division falls.
- The female members on the Board of Directors do not have a say as to the message the company gives to young girls.
All of these reasons may be right. However, the last two reasons may be the key.
- Disney’s Leadership Management Team has 17 leaders. How many women do you think are on the total management team which is divided into Corporate and Business? Four only! On the eight-member Business team there is only one woman. Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, is the only woman on their Business Team.
- There are 10 members of the Walt Disney Board of Directors. Actually there are nine since the CEO is on it. The odds are better on the Board than on the Leadership Management Team. Four out of the nine are women including Sheryl Sandberg. In fact all the women on are powerhouses. Ms. Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer for Facebook and has been in the news lately about women gaining leadership on Board of Directors and in the business world. So what happened here?
Do you think Disney believes in women as leaders? Do you think they consider young women as leaders?
I realize some people think that what is going on is foolish and has nothing to do with how girls look at themselves and their friends. Think about it:
- Girls want to be leaders and many are in school clubs and outside of school.
- Some girls want to be President of the United States, play competitive sports more than ever before as well as attend top-tier colleges.
- Girls and young women are starting businesses while in school. They are ready to be change agents and make the world a better place.
So why is The Walt Disney Company continuing to promote the “Princess” agenda on girls? Why does Disney want to radically change their female characters? It makes no sense except that they just do not want to change. They want to stay mainstream rather than show their two major competitors, Mattel and Bratz the real visions of young girls are more important than looks, appearance and an unrealistic or over sexualized body.
What do you think?
All of you who read this blog know the mission of the Girl’s CEO Connection™ is to engage and equip teenage girls as entrepreneurs and future women leaders. You also know the Realizing a Vision conference is designed to support that mission. All the women who participate in the conference are role models. They want to cultivate all young women as leaders and business owners. They know:
- Girls across the world are quite capable to make a difference as business owners, no matter where they live. Some of you are on your way as change makers while others are deciding the best trail to blaze.
- All of you have the capability to grow sustainable businesses that will contribute to the economic stability of your country.
- Success in business and as a leader depends on being strong, independent, confident with positive attitudes.
- Physical attributes do not determine if a woman will be a good leader.
- Young women who are financially independent are in a position to help others. It gives them the ability to pursue opportunities to lead without being dragged down by financial worries.
There is more to this question as to why The Walt Disney Company continues to use a cookie cutter mold to redesign their heroine characters. Perhaps Disney does not really want to support young girls as future leaders. Perhaps we will never know.
One thing I know for sure. The Girl’s CEO Connection™ is going to continue creating unique programs to engage and equip high school girls as entrepreneurs and leaders. We will continue to share with teenage girls wisdom along with strong ethical and etiquette knowledge found in successful women. Additionally we will continue speaking up and out about girls and young women as future entrepreneurs growing and leading sustainable businesses; the future women leaders in business and society.
By the way: The made-over Merida has an adult woman’s breasts with an unattainable teeny waist. It reminds me of when young women wore corsets to create an excessively tiny waist (like 14” and 15”), which then exaggerated the size of the breasts. These types of corsets laced up to suck in the waists to look tiny beyond reality. The modern-day corset is similar yet may be part of the dress or worn over a blouse. They may be worn as under garment to make a wedding or prom dress look more appealing (even if you cannot breathe in it).
I plan to have more posts starting today. We are still looking at spaces to hold the Realizing a Vision Conference. I am shooting for Saturday June 28th. If you want more information please email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for following.
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Sylvia R.J. Scott
Author: Realizing a Vision, The Path for Teen Girls to Become Successful Entrepreneurs. (Scheduled for September 2013)