By Mira Khatib
I asked my 7 year old daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer surprised me and in many ways upset me as she said, “Just like Cinderella mommy, I will wait for my prince and be a princess.”
Here I was investing in her education, enrolling her in all sorts of after-school activities that would advance her skills and passions to give her future options. Setting aside a saving plan for her university education and wondering what her Masters degree and PHD be on, all along while her dream was to wait for her prince! I know I might have over reacted, as she is only 7 and I am sure (or hoping) that when the time comes she would want a lot more out of her life than just a husband to make her happy.
This made me realize that some of those wonderful and mystical Disney movie classics that we grew up watching time and time again, and now we share with our children might be giving out the wrong messages. Some of them characterize damsels in distress, being rescued by a man! And not just any man, but a handsome rich young prince. Or the other image of a woman is being portrayed either as a witch or a wicked step mother.
Why should Snow White have to run away from the evil Queen instead of facing her, and end up living with seven men that are total strangers in the middle of nowhere? And how does she repay their kindness? By doing house chores for them! Cooking, cleaning and running away are not the answers when the going gets tough. And what is more surprising is in the end she is saved by a stranger who kisses her while she is in her poisoned sleep. Boys shouldn’t think it’s OK to go around kissing girls that they don’t know while a asleep or passed out, just saying…
Cinderella is a different story, a beautiful kind spirit, baring the injustice of the world or again a cruel step mother. Being kind is one thing, but letting someone else take charge of your life and future and put you in a position of helplessness should not be accepted. A young girl should stand up for her rights and not just live in the world of dreams and only wait for her life to change when her fairy god mother appears. Girls should realize that no fairy god mother will change their future, only they are capable of doing so. And although there is a wonderful love story that comes out of it, and I am not against finding love and romance, but there is no such thing as a happy ever after; no wonder why many of us are not satisfied with our relationships when we are older comparing to the happy ever after that we dreamt so much about; because most of us know that after the romantic phase, life happens, bills, kids, chores etc… I say such story endings are very misleading.
Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Little Mermaid, are just a few more on the top of my head that I can find a few more discouraging messages in. I know it is not intentional and that we will never stop watching those amazing classics, but I think the time has come to make the woman the hero for a change maybe even a mother figure saving the man instead. Indicating a young girls dream to be something so much more than just someone’s wife, and her happy ever after could be achieved from her being self-confident, assertive, independent and successful in a path of her choice not having to wait for a handsome young rich prince; sure if romance comes along the way then that is a bonus but should not be the goal or savior for any young girl.
Just look around you, I am sure you will find many women role models that would make any Disney movie proud. They could portray more realistic yet amazing characters that make a difference. Hopefully when I ask my “future” granddaughter what she wants to be when she grows up, I would hear her say something like, “A humanitarian who travels the world, just like the character from a Disney movie.”