Is It OK For Feminists To Like Disney Movies?

Anna and Elsa from Disney's Frozen

I’ve often spoken of my love for all things Disney. There’s something so magical about the theme parks, isn’t there? So much so, that at 18,  my best mate and I, er, went to Florida on holiday, when most girls our age would have gone to Ibiza. Honestly, we did. I sometimes want to go back to my 18-year-old self and give her a good talking to. But the theme parks are something special, and just walking into a Disney Store makes you feel a bit tingly.

But being a Disney fan and being a feminist don’t always sit well together with me. The movies don’t send out the most pro-women messages. The female characters usually have some kind of weakness and they’re saved by a dashing male hero. Often, all she wants is to fall in love and be whisked off her feet by a handsome prince (Some Day My Prince Will Come… well Cinderella love, he might not. And actually, that’s OK, because you’ll manage fine on your own.)

Frozen was a welcome change from the norm – with strong female characters and a twist at the end that sent out the message that true love doesn’t always have to come from a man. Sisterhood rules.

But at the moment, I’m choosing to turn a blind eye to my feminist instincts, which are telling me to stop my three year old from watching Tangled four times a day and Cinderella twice a week.  Is that bad? Am I the worst feminist ever? (Don’t answer that.) But I kind of think: well I watched Disney movies, growing up, and I grew into an adult who has strong feminist views. I think it’s because my mum is so pro-equality and brought me and my brother up to really believe that women are as important as men and should always be treated as such. I’m hoping to do the same with my daughter – balancing off Disney’s old fashioned ideals with feminist messages.

Something that really made me smile was a YouTube video that my daughter came across while watching clips of Frozen. (Don’t get me started on having to hover over her while she navigates YouTube, in case she stumbles across something unsuitable…)

This video is a Disney princess video that the feminist in me is HAPPY for my daughter to watch. Which is just as well, because I’ve seen it 17 times in the past 24 hours….

What’s your take on feminism and Disney? Can the two live in harmony? Or do you have to choose between them?




  1. March 16, 2014 / 12:24 pm

    It’s like you read my mind! Was thinking about putting Tangled on for the girls to watch then decided that actually the subject of another princess getting saved by a dashing prince didn’t sit right with me. Andes maybe that’s why Frozen is such a success. I love the overarching message of sisterhood, of Anna’s insistence that she can save her sister despite the men advising against it. So many little nuances that turn the normal man rescues pathetic woman message on its head.

  2. March 16, 2014 / 5:23 pm

    I think they can live in harmony as even Disney princesses can send strong feminist messages to little and not so little girls. Just look at Mulan, who really challenges gender roles and shows that women can be just as strong as men and sometimes even stronger – she rescues her comrades in the army, saves her dad from quite likely dying in the war and the emperor and the entire Chinese empire. Not bad, don’t you think?

    • Alison Perry
      March 17, 2014 / 10:23 am

      I haven’t seen Mulan, but from how you describe it, it sounds like it has a strong female lead. I’ll check it out…

  3. March 16, 2014 / 8:50 pm

    I think the newer Disney films have much stronger female characters than the older ones. And this definitely includes Tangled: Flynn may have climbed her tower, but she is pretty insistent he takes her to see those lights, despite his objections… and in the end she saves his life. I took from it that they save each other. Frozen, obviously, sends out lovely messages of sisterhood. I’d say the Princess and the Frog perhaps less so, but even that has a strong female lead who works hard to get her restaurant and isn’t up for relying on the prince, even when they are both stuck in the bayou. (can you tell we have a LOT of Disney films?) So yes, in short, I think you can be a feminist and enjoy a Disney movie. I certainly don’t think Disney is going to force the girls of this generation into being downtrodden little women having to rely on men.

  4. March 16, 2014 / 10:07 pm

    Ha! I loved that video.
    Since my 2 year old began loving Cinderella we’ve always focused on the fun and the other characters in Disney movies, as well as how gutsy the princesses are, and how much they can actually change for themselves.
    And we always remark on how dim the princes can be! I think Disney has moved well with the times – Frozen, Brave, Tangled are full of Heroines who make it happen for themselves x

    • March 16, 2014 / 11:00 pm

      Mulan and Pocahontas are great too and the second parts are even better in terms of Disney characters as feminist role models x

  5. March 16, 2014 / 11:00 pm

    I haven’t actually seen Frozen yet but I may have to rectify that very soon. Our little bear is obsessed with everything Tangled and I enjoy watching it with her too but I still have high hopes that she will grow up to be independent, just like I did…

  6. March 17, 2014 / 7:53 am

    I think Disney is becoming more modern with it’s female characters. Brave in particular was a very feminist film. x

  7. March 17, 2014 / 2:38 pm

    Oh my goodness I LOVE that song link! BRILLIANT! And I’m so with you on your dilemma since I too grew up with Disney. Another issue for me is the ridiculous body shapes. We watched Frozen this weekend, and both those girls would break in half if they actually existed to that scale! And I don’t buy that it’s a “style” thing since the male characters are regular size and don’t seem to need the HUGE eyes! Fab post x

  8. March 19, 2014 / 7:16 pm

    *Whispers* I don’t really like Disney films. Don’t hate me! I cringe at the cheese of it all and the thought of Disney Land makes me feel a bit sick… BUT, I DID love Frozen. Mainly because it totally smashed the whole, “I need a prince to rescue me” storyline out of the water. Frozen rocks, as does that song you found on YouTube!

    • Alison Perry
      March 21, 2014 / 10:39 am

      You DON’T like Disney? I don’t think I can read your blog, anymore, Molly.
      Nah, It’s not for everyone – and at least you’re more likely to bring up a daughter (or two?) in a vaguely less-Disney-more-feminist house 😉

  9. March 29, 2014 / 9:54 am

    that video is genius! i have watched more disney as a mother than i ever did growing up. disney world fills me with fear!

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