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1 year ago
Can Everyone Stop Photoshopping Disney Princesses’ Bodies, Please?

I was in the seventh grade when I wore a bikini for the first time in public. Technically it was a monokini, with a thin connecting strip of nylon fabric running down my bleached happy trail, but that extra bit of material didn’t keep me from feeling completely exposed while walking with my girlfriends along the sand-dirt hybrid bordering the local lake. We moved quickly, attached by elbow tips and arm hair.

Puberty had served many of my friends well. Before that day, I had never noticed just how big some of their boobs had gotten or how flat their tummies were, and I had never compared the size of my calves and thighs to theirs. But here everyone was, stripped of their Guess jeans and oversized T-shirts, and thus began a toxic but all-too-relatable habit of comparing my physical appearance to every other living and breathing woman’s.

The key words here: “living” and “breathing.”

If you spend any time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly seen stories featuring Disney heroines Photoshopped to look more like everyday women. A quick scan of BuzzFeed turns up Disney princesses reimagined with realistic hair, Disney princesses reimagined without makeup, Disney princesses reimagined with “normal-sized eyes,” Disney princesses reimagined with realistic waistlines, and Disney princesses reimagined with mom bods, among many other themed mash-ups. (Full disclosure: WomensHealthMag.com even published an article featuring our favorite Disney heroines on the covers of our magazine.)

The before-and-after images are clever and are presumably meant to impart a message that no girl needs to aspire to look like a fictional, animated character with unattainable measurements and foot-long eyelashes. Thing is, young women are pretty hip to the fact that these heroines are just that: fictional, animated characters. The most powerful influencers of their self-perception are their actual peers, says Mary Pritchard, body image expert at Boise State University.

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“Although there are a few different factors that contribute to girls’ self-perception, as children grow into pre-teens and teens, they are spending much more time with peers,” Pritchard tells WomensHealthMag.com. “This, combined with the adolescents' drive to be liked and respected by one's peers, makes peer influence the most important influence during that time.”

In other words, changing the beauty standards for Disney princesses should not be our focal point if we truly want to help improve young women’s self-esteem.

“Disney Princesses aren't the problem,” says Pritchard. “Girls—with the exception of very young girls who are focused on the princess part—don't want to be like the Little Mermaid; they want to be like America's Next Top Model.”

Sure, Disney heroines have absurd proportions and are very quick to accept marriage proposals, but I’d argue that they’re not half-bad role models. Consider the following:

  • Disney heroines do not obsess over food and the size of their butts. They do not crumble under the pressure to meet beauty or body standards, and their mothers do not glare at them while they reach for one last potato chip.
  • Disney heroines do not sing about how much they love pot (ahem, Miley); in fact, they belt out inspiring tunes about letting go and being part of the world.
  • Disney heroines do not pine over their love interests, anxiously waiting for them to call or text a simple “whassup.”
  • Disney heroines are friends with the entire animal kingdom, even crabs and birds.
  • Disney heroines get shit on constantly by their sisters or evil witches, but they do not retaliate with insults or violence. Their revenge is staying true to themselves.
With all of these virtues, does it really matter that some clueless old men gave them poufy hair and waists with the circumference of a quarter?

While I do respect the intent of articles like This Is What Disney Princesses Would Look Like if They Were Plus-Size, they seem misguided. We shouldn't be pointing the finger at Cinderella’s and Elsa’s petite frames for setting unrealistic goals for girls if we truly want to help them love and accept themselves just as they are. The onus is on all of us real, live adults to vocalize that physical appearance doesn’t hold a candle to intelligence, kindness, and strength of character.

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