When people say the words Disney Princess, many things come to mind; beauty, elegance, great musical numbers, talking to animals… but one of the things that may not come up is feminist. Whilst nobody is denying their greatness, they are hardly the best role models at times (yes kids, it’s a great idea to eat the food that random stranger is giving you! What could go wrong?). However, whilst some princesses seem to lack that girl power, other make up for it in spades and that is what we are here to prove today.
Below is the ranking of each Disney lady from least to most feminist. Who is out there to prove exactly what a girl can do and who just wants to be fairest of them all? Scroll down to find out!
Her name may mean dawn but the last thing this princess is doing is ushering in a new dawn of feminism. The fairies blessed her with beauty and kindness but maybe they should have considered giving her a personality as throughout her entire movie, she speaks only 18 lines (the lowest of any Disney Princess), sleeps for three quarters of the film that bears her name and it’s the prince who has to rescue her with a kiss. Plus, she seems to make no choices of her own in the entire movie. Let’s face it; if this princess was in your corner, you might as well just give up and take a nap.
#14. Snow White
Snow White is famous and beloved for being the first Disney Princess to grace our screens but, despite being the fairest of them all, her movie isn’t actually fair to women at all. The main conflict arises because the Evil Queen is upset that Snow White is prettier than her, which kind of explicitly suggests that looks are the most important thing to a woman, and then when Snow White is running for her life, she finds a cottage and thinks “I must clean this place and become the maid of whoever owns it!” Hardly the most forward-thinking here.
Cinderella is another princess who just seems to cook and clean, though granted, she has been kept so distant from the outside world by her stepmother that maybe she isn’t wit the times- being stuck in a house just working all the time would do that to you. Still, her actions can hardly be seen as inspirational; her whole movie is essentially about nabbing a rich man who better remembers your feet than your face to whisk you away from all your problems. If that’s the only wish her heart makes, then Cinderella deserves her place on this list.
I think many people are a bit too harsh on Ariel; she was the first more modern Disney Princess (meaning she wasn’t actually perfect the whole time as her hoarding shows) and she has a few points in her favour- she’s got a bubbly personality, she is curious and constantly questions her father’s rules, she wants to explore and she doesn’t conform with what everyone expects of her. However, it is hard to ignore the fact that she did give up her entire world and her tail for a man she didn’t even talk to, plus for a lot of the movie, she can’t even talk. Though she may be just 16, it’s pretty hard to justify those decisions. Sorry Ariel but good try.
Belle is another princess who I think is given too rough a time. With all the mention of Stockholm Syndrome surrounding her, it can be easy to forget that there is some feminism in her movie; Belle is shown as smart and ambitious which shows young girls that it is fine to think for yourself even if your whole town doesn’t want you to, and not only does she reject the jerk Gaston but she won’t give the Beast the time of day until he starts acting like less of a jerk, showing that you don’t have to put up with men behaving that way. However, it all goes downhill at the end when all the princess tropes come out and we find it is OK to be beautiful on the inside… if you give a girl your library. And of course, this lesson only seems to apply to men too, sorry ladies. Maybe Belle needs to read a little more feminist literature first.
What is really good about Rapunzel is she is nothing like the passive figure of the old fairy tale. Instead of waiting patiently for something to happen, she educates herself in a whole array of subjects from chess to music to reading to practical things. She also uses her hair in a really kickass way, fighting with it and using it as a pulley system. And another awesome weapon she uses? The classic symbol of feminine oppression, the frying pan, in her hands it is deadly! What is cooler than that? True, she may end up in the usual finding love plotline but it is crucial to remember that wasn’t her main intention- she actually just wanted to see the world and falling for Flynn Rider was just a happy accident (and I for one, can’t blame her for that). Now, where’s my pan? I need to brush up on my hand-to-hand combat…
Now this is where it starts to get good. Jasmine is a princess who clearly won’t be pushed around; she rejects a guy in her very first scene (and then sets a tiger on him which is a nice touch), she defies the oppressive rules of the palace and escapes them and then, when first introduced to Aladdin, she delivers the epic line “I am not a prize to be won!” She faces the challenge of an arranged marriage head on and by the end of the movie, she has her father change the rules so she can marry who she wants. Now that is the mark of a true feminist.
Tiana is another modern woman who has ambition. She’s strong, independent and she’s a true entrepreneur, working two jobs to get the money she needs to open up her own restaurant. She knows what she wants and goes for it, plus she shows the value of hard work (and honestly, I always feel a little guilty watching her because I feel so lazy about it). She may fall for the spoilt selfish Prince Naveen but they end up both learning from each other and fighting voodoo to get what they want… and if that doesn’t show a strong couple, I don’t know what does.
This Scottish redhead is another princess who has to go through with an arranged marriage. How does she get around this? Well, she competes for her own hand and stumps all the men at archery of course! She destroys gender roles (quite literally if you take her tight dress into account) by being a boss and acting like a tomboy. The movie also doesn’t focus on her finding love- instead it focuses on her relationship with her mother and by the end of it, it is agreed that she will be allowed to find love at her own pace. Marvellous.
Now this is a woman who knows how to fight social injustice. If she were around today, Esmeralda would be the kind of woman leading marches and getting stuff done because that is just the fighter against injustice she is. Discriminated against in Paris for being a gypsy, Esmeralda sets a great example by fighting against poverty and the oppression of minorities as well as making it clear to Frollo that she won’t have anything to do with a creep like him. She dances a daring routine in the movie but makes it clear that it doesn’t make her anyone’s object. To make things even better, she entirely subverts the whole whore vs saint archetype by not going with the creepy pervert who only lusts after her or Quasimodo who sees her as a perfect angel- she goes for Phoebus who recognises her for the complex and fiery woman she is. Hats off to you girl. You rule.
Megara (or Meg if you are her friend) is a Disney woman who goes against the classical image of what a Disney woman should act like. First of all, she isn’t sugar and spice and all things nice- her cynical nature and sassy lines actually make her personality more along the lines of villain Hades than anything (too long in the Underworld maybe?). This sets a good example- you don’t have to be happy and smiley all the time. Secondly, it’s clear she’s been in a relationship before and that makes her sarcastic both about love and men (we’ve all had that bad experience) and that is shown as OK too. Plus we get one of the best lines ever from a Disney movie from her “Well, you know how men are. They think ‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Get lost’ means ‘Take me, I’m yours.'” Well, if that ain’t the gospel truth honey…
Pocahontas is easily Disney’s greatest eco-feminist with a great love for the environment and all the living things around her (they do all have names you know). Another great thing about her is that she doesn’t put up with any of John Smith’s bull- she teaches him about the world and his own prejudice, she calls him out when he calls her a savage and offends her people and at the end of the movie, she doesn’t go back to England with him. She knows exactly where she belongs, who she is and she is proud of it. Painting the world with all the colours of the wind? Easy peasy.
Elsa is a Disney princess who means a lot to people. Not only is she from one of the company’s biggest movies, she also suffers from anxiety and bottling up her emotions (after her upbringing, who wouldn’t?) and she is taught to fear her own powers that come from within. This is a metaphor for so many things, from sexuality to gender, and when she is finally free, it is joyous to see her being herself. She also learns to control her powers through love but not with a man- instead it is the love of her sister Anna that gets her through, showing you don’t need a man to get by. And any fear left by the end of the movie? She just lets it go.
Mulan is a girl who just screams girl power. In a time where woman were forbidden from entering the army and were expected to just get married, she showed them all just how badass girls could be by taking her father’s place in the army and taking down a whole Hun army with just one firework! She challenges every gender stereotype chucked her way and smashes every gender construct like it’s a block of wood. She shows that women can do things just as well or even better than men and for that, we salute you Mulan. Dishonour on anyone who denies your greatness!
Moana may be the most recent addition to the Disney Princess line-up but she provides a wonderfully fresh outlook as her movie doesn’t focus on finding love or what will happen when she takes charge- instead it focuses on her own personal journey. “How far can I go?” She asks herself and then she sets out to answer that in a remarkable way. She explores further than ever before, she dares to do something different and she does it all to save her people and be a great leader. Her movie also teaches girls that it is OK to embrace your loves and your responsibilities, it’s better to work as a team and not let egos get in the way and it is also OK to not know entirely what you are doing at first because you learn along the way. The only thing you need to know is that nobody can tell you what to do- and that is why Moana is the most feminist Disney princess.