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Saturday: July 16, 2011


The Changing Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity (Part 1)


My daughter has a collection of books called "Princess Stories by Disney". This collection showcases the classic old folk tales of

Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Each of these choices describes

in essence the same central female figure: she is young and physically beautiful; of exceptionally good character with an innocent and

naοve faith in the goodness of all; is a friend to animals; curious and intelligent with; despite a diligence for the servitude of others; and

has a tendency towards being passive. With the exception of Aladdin, this paragon of traditional virtue is pitted against the dark-side

of femininity embodied by the wicked step-mother/queen/fairy who has a propensity for using black magic, is extremely vain, vengeful

and has an unmitigated, active drive for power and the control of others with particular focus upon the theft of, if not neutralisation of,

the princess’s personal power. In the case of Aladdin, this figure may alternatively be represented by Jaffar who looks like a

cross-dressing female and otherwise embodies all those other qualities described above. 


Given the reliable repetitiveness with which these feminine archetypes are portrayed, the

storytellers at Disney were driving a clear-cut, but nevertheless subtle, agenda to groom the

masses into their ideals of femininity. The hypnotic messages which so effectively insinuate

themselves into sub-conscious core beliefs are simple: "Good women triumph over Bad

women"; "Good women bring out the best or worst in others"; "Good women win favours with

other through loving kindness"; and "Bad women are vulnerable to the betrayal of others". 

These core beliefs undoubtedly have a great deal of utility on an individual and collective

basis but what of the less-obvious and more insidious messages contained within, such

as: "Good women are passive and submissive"; and perhaps worst of all, "Good women

are young and physically beautiful".






On the right, we show a depiction of the Queen and the Magic Mirror by

 Gustaf Tenggren for his work on Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

Gustaf Tenggren - ''The Queen and the Magic Mirror''


Certainly the spirit of the age is evolving on from these archaic ideas related to ideal feminine behaviour as demonstrated by the

changed-nature of the stories that are now being told where women and girls can take on the mantle of hero in whatever role she

chooses (as long as she is Good). The adult population driving society currently is comprised of Baby-Boomers and Generation X-ers. 

This demographic grew up on a diet of Disney-defined-femininity, and given the shift away from this trend, driven predominantly by the

Generation X-ers as they rise up through the ranks of social influence, it does seem that such fodder was deemed an unpalatable serving

suggestion for future generations. Nevertheless, the shadow-side of these messages, such as "Good woman is synonymous with being

young and beautiful", still repeats itself in our popular media, like a bad case of indigestion from too much spicy sausage.


This shift in mentality is certainly weaving its way through our society in other ways too. In at least one kindergarten in Sweden, it has

been reported that they have gone so far as to remove gender-based language from their everyday curriculum, whereby the children and

teachers refer to each other as "friend" and other gender-neutral terms - one wonders what is read at story-time.


The subtext of this course of action suggests that the individuals responsible for setting the kindergarten's radical pedagogy deem that

gender-identities are undermining our effectiveness as human beings to such an extent that we would be better off without them.


In our next Blog, we will explore this seemingly ambitious idea some more by exploring how gender-identities create and deny power

between individuals and groups.


Also, in closing, we would mention that we welcome any thoughtful feedback or discussion - and we thank you for reading.




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Blog Archive


• Saturday, 30 July, 2011

• A Brief History of the Illustrated Book


• Friday, 22 July, 2011

• Masculinity and Femininity (Part 2)


• Monday, 27 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part 3)


• Friday, 20 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part 2)


• Tuesday, 14 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part I)


• Friday, 7 June, 2011

• Archetypes


• Friday, 27 May, 2011

• Morality through Narrative


• Monday, 16 May, 2011

• "The Sea Battle" by Arthur Rackham

• and comparisons between Buccheim's

• variant and the description of Thor's

• battle with the Midgard Serpent in

• the original from the "Norse Edda of

• Snorri Sturluson"


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