Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lessons for girls, or why I hate Disney

There has been a great discussion over at Historiann's place this week on anger, and society’s implicit messages that anger is not an appropriate emotional outlet for women. As Historiann pointed out:

Girls are subjected to an impressive load of anti-anger propaganda. Snow White and Cinderella, at least in the mid-century modern Disneyfied versions we’re stuck with today in U.S. popular culture, are both specifically praised for remaining sweet and good-natured in spite of the fact that they’re turned into indentured servants by their stepmothers.

The lesson for girls? Forget Disney’s parade of simpering cheerful victims. It’s okay – hell, it’s healthy! – to get angry (though generally, it’s not okay to punch people or kick them in shins, tempting as that might be at times). Now I personally don’t have too much of a problem expressing my anger, but it does my head in that the response I often get is not acknowledgement that this may be a valid reaction to the situation at hand, or even rational argument to counter the reasons for my anger, but patronising advice to ‘just calm down’ and ‘don’t get hysterical’. This generally results in me becoming more spitting mad, because it is an obvious silencing tactic – whether deliberately deployed or not – that ignores or invalidates whatever I have to say and denies me my voice.

Disney also taught us that nice girls always do what they’re asked to and never say no. Did Cinderella ever say ‘take your chimney cleaning rag and stick it where the sun don’t shine’? No, I didn’t think so. For me, learning to say no has been a tougher lesson than being okay with anger, and it’s one I still haven’t fully mastered.

I succumbed again yesterday when I agreed to do an urgent task for someone at work, derailing my own research plans to start ploughing through the 21 books I have lined up to read in the next couple of weeks. I could legitimately have said no – I’m engaged to work three days a week at this company and today wasn’t one of my days, plus I didn’t have the information I needed readily to hand. But the words ‘sure, no problem’ were out of my mouth instinctively before my brain had even fully engaged with the request. I don’t begrudge the person who asked, as he is often the first person to offer help to others, but in hindsight it does strike me as disturbing that it didn’t even occur to me that saying no was an option until it was too late. I was never a fan of Disney’s ‘princess stories’ even as a kid, so it seriously pisses me off that some of those twisted Disney values have managed to weasel their way into my subconscious anyway.

2 comments:

The History Enthusiast said...

I have the same problem!

Also, welcome to the world of women bloggers...judging from your profile it looks like you are new. I am adding you to my feed reader.

Bavardess - said...

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I am pretty new to this blogging gig but so far, so good.