Diversity in Disney princesses (and all characters) are long overdue
Self-acceptance is not easy, especially for women. There is always some level of concern about how we look and it can take up valuable mind space as to what’s really important. But for some of us in the quest for self-acceptance we bring out the best – not only in ourselves – but for a broader, yet equally important audience.
Instagrammers Michelle Elman and Amy Wooldridge recreated anew version of their own Disney princesses and what they “should” look like — and they are perfect. “Did you know that the women who play Disney princesses in real life, in Disneyland or Disney-world can’t be larger than a size 10?” questioned Woolridge in an Instagram post.
It is astounding this can still be a thing.
How amazing would it be if there was more representation in media? If children were able to watch cartoons with diversity in? How much more would we achieve if we didn’t spend so much time hating our bodies? I’ve lost days of my life fantasising about being smaller, counting calories and obsessing over any bit of me that wobbled. Like it or not, our perception of ourselves is tied to how we see people like us being treated. We see fat being treated as undesirable so we assume it is. We see being desired as a goal, and so we do whatever we can to reach that goal – regardless of how detrimental it may be to our mental health. And when we fail on whatever diet we put ourselves on, we feel worse about ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s why I want a fat princess. Not a princess whose story is about being fat. A princess who has all of the amazing adventures that her predecessors had while being fat. We need representation of all the magnificent and wildly different bodies there are, and stories that don’t primarily focus on that. Sure, show the struggles that different bodies may face, but don’t reduce these vibrant and brilliant characters to their bodies. 👑💖 My princess companion is the amazing @scarrednotscared and the photo was taken by the glorious @the_feeding_of_the_fox 💃💃
The two friends decided they’d had enough and that all women needed representation no matter their body type and no matter what environment. “It’s time we had a fat princess,” Elman wrote. “Disney princesses are seen as the epitome of beauty and even as a young girl, I quickly learnt that meant I wasn’t beautiful.”
As a little girl I would stare, wide-eyed at the princesses on the screen and when I first met Jasmine at Disney World I was stunned into silence because I had never seen anyone so beautiful. In my head I am, and have always been, part of the unofficial Princess Line. It didn’t escape me that all the princesses were a very small dress size and were considered absolutely beautiful. And that the fatter (and thus “uglier”) characters were the villains or the comic relief. Ursula or LeFou. Queen of Hearts or Philoctetes. In fairytales it seemed that the thin and beautiful got the happiest ending, and the fat and unconventional, for the most part, didn’t. Disney has such a special place in my heart, but it’s undeniable that it sells a very particular beauty ideal, and we place a lot of value on that ideal. Then we grow up and realise they’re just cartoons and not real people, but we’re still fed a more human (albeit unrealistic for many) version of that ideal. In all honesty, I’m tired of seeing the same bodies represented again and again. It’s time we had a fat princess. A princess with scars. A trans princess. A princess with a disability. A princess that hasn’t had her body drawn from the same stencil as all the others. And so, with that in mind, I give you @scarrednotscared and myself. A fat Rapunzel and a Snow White with scars, looking cute as heck. 👑💖 📸: @the_feeding_of_the_fox 💖💖
Elman said it never escaped her as a young child that “When her friend discussed that scarred characters are “always the villain.”and that all Disney characters, in particular, were the same size and held to impossible beauty standards. “There is such little diversity,” Elman said.
Did you know that the women who play Disney princesses in real life, in Disneyland or Disney-world can’t be larger than a size 10? What do you think that tells the average woman who is a size 16? (PS that’s actually @amyeloisew ‘s size, although I’d never call her just an “average” woman). So for all of those sayings, it’s just a movie. No it’s not. This size discrimination is everywhere! I remember the first time I was likened to a Disney princess. It was yelled at me in a club at university when a guy went “Oi Mulan, give us a snog?”. Apparently, I was Mulan. Of course, I was. Mulan would become a running theme in my uni days. If it wasn’t that, I was likened to Lucy Liu from Charlie’s Angels. I don’t look anything like Lucy Liu but that’s what happens there’s such a lack of racial diversity. You get likened to the only other Asian person that they have seen. Same with Mulan, every time we played princesses, I was automatically given Mulan. When I started my career, nothing changed. I started training other coaches, as soon as I was qualified. I was the youngest in the room at 21, with most of my students being double my age. It meant when they put their hand up and I went over to help, they would often ask for someone else or double check my advice with one of my superiors. That, I could put up with. But my tipping point was when one called me Pocahontas for the duration of the 2 week course. I told my supervisors that it made me uncomfortable. They told me to take it as a compliment and he was just flirting. Every time I’ve been referred to as a princess it’s felt like it’s being in a derogatory way, whether it’s flirting in a professional setting or using it as an almost racial slur in a club. It begs the question why the comparison was never made in a positive light? #ScarredNotScared • 📷: @the_feeding_of_the_fox
There are many women who, for a number of reasons, find it difficult to accept their bodies. Look no further than magazines and television to understand the societal pressure on women to be a certain size. As women we should love our bodies regardless of whether they measure up to some arbitrary number on the scale. Luckily when we are in doubt, we have women like Elman and Woolridge to remind us what is really important.
To the young people currently experiencing Disney films for the first time, something to bear in mind: Belle isn’t just a pretty face. She’s smart, bold and different. Jasmine isn’t just long, flowing hair. She’s fierce, independent and brave. Tiana isn’t just a tiny waist. She’s determined, dedicated and hard-working. Cinderella isn’t just huge, doe eyes. She’s humble, sweet and kind. Each and every princess is so much more than their physical features. They’re loving, considerate, daring, and a million other things. Take it from a fat Rapunzel and a Snow White with scars, there is far more to you than dress size, ability, or any other conventional beauty standard. It’s a shame that I even have to say that but almost every piece of mainstream media we engage with sells that idea. That’s why representation is so important, we need to see ourselves in the princes and princesses. We need to watch people like us getting treated with love and respect, then we’ll extend that same kindness to ourselves. 💖👑 With my babe @scarrednotscared 💖 photography by my other babe @the_feeding_of_the_fox 💖
It’s true, most kids look up to some larger than life caricature at some point in their lives. And when they do, it’s imperative they have someone that they can identify with — someone they feel connected to. How great would it be if there were someone out there for every boy and girl looking to be inspired.
WE NEED A FAT PRINCESS. Growing up with Disney, my heart hurt a little. None of them looked like me but you know what made me feel worse? Scar from the lion king. This is just the beginning of the life long stigma against scars. Think about how many villains have scars! Then I got older, and I got bigger with each surgery. At 7, my head and stomach were already covered in scars and I was already bigger than my friends. Disney princesses are seen as the epitome of beauty and even as a young girl, I quickly learnt that meant I wasn’t beautiful. This was emphasised even more when we shopped for princess birthday parties. There were never any in my size. Things haven’t really changed. It was sooo hard for @amyeloisew and I to find these in our sizes. I actually wanted to be jasmine so I could be a Scarred princess but no surprises that people still continue to assume fat women don’t wear crop tops. How incredible would it be for little kids to grow up and instead of saying “I want to look like her!”, they could say “wow she looks like me!”. How incredible would it be if the epitome of beauty and the envy of many little girls wasn’t so equated to thinness? Until @disney makes that happen, Amy and I would be honoured to fill the childhood dream you never knew you wanted of having a fat (and Scarred, although you can’t see it!) princess. #ScarredNotScared 📷: @the_feeding_of_the_fox
Elman continued, “How incredible would it be for little kids to grow up and instead of saying “I want to look like her!”, they could say,“Wow she looks like me.” It is such a small but profound distinction for all of us to remember.
So there was an article written about us being fat (and a Scarred) Disney princesses on a health website, posing it as a question up for debate. It makes me think why every other article written about me has been written as a statement but this was a question. But there was something else that got my attention, throughout the article, they called us “fat” even in the title, they called us “fat” princesses. Amy @amyeloisew and I are not “fat”. We are fat. Fat is not a dirty word. I want to address the fact that people will assume a fat princess will promote obesity? It’s going to come since people also think fat people existing promotes obesity. A BIG FAT NO. Representing bodies is simply that, representation. Fat people deserve representation because fat people exist and pretending in your cartoons and tv shows that we don’t exist has never helped anyone. We don’t need more shame and silence around fatness, we need to be seen, heard, represented and destigmatised. I also believe everyone deserves to feel beautiful. Yes, beauty should not matter but in our world it does and I personally believe people stop caring whether they are beautiful, when they feel beautiful so I want to make it a priority that everyone FEELS beautiful. Yes, even fat people. Yes, even unhealthy people. And no, those two are not equivalent. It’s this whole health debate right? First of all, let’s stop with this thin = healthy. Second of all, would it be so bad to have an unhealthy princess? I wish I felt beautiful lying in a hospital bed. It’s not glamorising illness. Instead, it’s telling young kids everywhere that their worth and beauty is defined so much more than simply their health. I think that would make a remarkable Disney movie. Health is not a choice remember, it’s a privilege. And it’s frankly a toss of the coin that I ended up with 15 surgeries before the age of 19, and you didn’t. All surgeries were not weight related and all surgeries caused weight gain. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Life saving surgeries that made me live longer, also made me fatter. #ScarredNotScared • 📷: @the_feeding_of_the_fox
Woolridge told Scary Mommy that is was both “heartwarming and heartbreaking” that so many women have identified with them since they posted their pictures. “it’s only in the last 25 years that we’ve started to see princesses that aren’t white,” she said.
Amen to that.