Where Are Their Mothers?

The 7yo Original Pigtail Pal asked me an interesting question while she was playing mermaids in the bath tub last night. She was deeply concerned that most of the Disney Princesses did not have mothers. She had just checked out a book about Ariel from the school library (groan, another post for another day) and apparently had been giving it quite a bit of thought. She was upset and quiet, asked me to come and sit by her tub, and close the door because she didn’t want her little brother to hear.

I said that I had noticed that too and that it made me sad because family is so important. I reminded her that Merida and her mother Queen Eleanor loved each other very much and nothing could take them away from each other. And in “Tangled”, Rapunzel was reunited with her mother. We haven’t really watched any of the other Disney Princess movies, but she knows most of the princesses do not have living mothers.  In OPP’s library book it features the story of how Ariel lost her mother and why King Triton bans music from the kingdom.

I told her that I think the story writers know how very important mothers are, so that is the element they take away in the story to draw the reader in. Amelia said she understood, but didn’t like it. I then reminded her that this is one of the reasons that our family focuses on other stories.

“It just feels like they are trying to break apart the girls, like they are trying to split us up.” -OPP

“Honey, the world has known for a very long time that the most powerful place to be is in the center of a circle of women. There are many, many examples of people trying to break apart or control women. Our family doesn’t believe in that. That is why you see me being connected to Gigi and our aunties and cousins, and why I love my girlfriends so much. You may have boys that are your best friends or you may even fall in love with a boy some day, but I think you will find there is nothing like an awesome group of girls to surround yourself with. Your girlfriends will feel like sisters.” -Me

“Well I don’t really like stories where the girls are broken apart. I like to be in circles. Animals do that. But I guess the guys who write stories are scared of groups of girls.” -OPP

“I think that is one of the reasons why we need more girls writing the stories.” -Me

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I’d be interested to hear how you explain to your kids the absence of mothers in so many of Disney’s stories. Taking into account the role of women in society during the time these stories were originally written, do you approach the idea of women being used as cautionary tales with your kids? Why are so many of the stories about women being cruel to each other and jealous of each other, specifically over the ideas of youth and beauty?