Scrolling through our Facebook feeds on a daily basis soon becomes a dilapidated activity, usually combined with a morning hairstyle bordering on ‘Hey Arnold’ circa 1998. Social media has become a platform upon which we express ourselves, perhaps more coherently than we do with our actual vocal chords in a meeting at work about sexual harassment. It has become the essence of contemporary thought; a digital means of sharing a global consciousness. Then why is it the case that most of its content feigns relevance to our reality?
A prime example would be the recent on-going trend of Disney princesses. You know, the kind of click bait Buzzfeed stuff that we read on the train to work with minimal facial expression, aside from wincing when the chubby guy next to us farts. There are so many to choose from: ‘If Disney did princesses with realistic waistlines’, ‘If Disney princesses had Instagram’, ‘If Disney princesses had short hair’. My favourite is ‘Disney princesses imagined as different ethnicities’ – what a way to transform our childhood nuggets of nostalgia into clones of Rachel Dolezal but with better outfits.
Our rabid obsession with fictional characters and analyzing their appearance, particularly of women, has provided a gateway for us to project our own insecurities onto outdated Disney characters existing within outdated, patronizing and sexist plots. One of the most popular posts was ‘Disney princesses with realistic waistlines’, a post manipulating Ariel’s waist to make her look ‘normal’ with the aim to highlight the ridiculous body standards that young girls are expected to uphold. This post was encouraging as it did analyse and tap into the unhealthy body standards that are thrust upon women by the media on a constant basis, and forced us to reflect upon those standards as a result.
However, instead of drawling lines over fictional characters and pointing out their perfections, it would be more refreshing and encouraging to discuss real women and real body issues, and I don’t mean how good Kendal Jenner’s legs looked in that mini-skirt last week. I mean trends such as Twitter’s #LoveYourLines, a hashtag used as a means for women to express pride and not shame for the natural blemishes of the human body. Despite there being many articles and trends on social media which are body positive, as Eleanor Birkett wrote in her controversial article in the NY times last month, ‘nail polish does not a woman make’. We are told that our appearance is the only thing that matters, even by good-natured Buzzfeed articles. These articles do not focus on strong female characters, or the intricacy of our essence as humans, they merely point out ways that we can morph fictional characters’ aesthetics to match ours – I mean, after all, aren’t we all princesses who just want to find our prince
Of course, these articles are just a bit of fun; I don’t mean to be a party pooper by turning a light-hearted post into something that requires deep reflection. But sometimes it’s worth digging out the underlying reason why these articles are so popular, so concerned with beauty standards and so blatantly directed at women. You won’t find any articles critising the body image of Disney princes, because remember men are heroes whatever they look like, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is an example of this. He’s humiliated because of the way he looks, but he still gets to be the hero at the end and save the damsel in distress.
As much as the Disney princess craze did highlight important issues concerning expectations of body image and helped women stand up against the issue, it was still a constant reminder that within our society, our worth as humans is based solely on our appearance. If only there would be more discussion of women as strong, motivated humans who contribute to society with opinions, dreams and feelings, rather than simply a walking set of pretty orifices who get annoyed when a cartoon looks better than them. Where have all the real women gone?
When it comes to being bombarded by social media posts such as the Disney princess trend, we should take some time to reflect upon the blatant subconscious indoctrination that these articles elicit rather than the sometimes-ok points they skim concerning women’s issues. So instead of stressing about your thigh gap (or lack thereof), or deeming yourself worthless if you can’t do the #bellybuttonchallenge, think instead of the countless women you know who are more than just bodies.
As the incredible Caitlin Moran once said ‘Batman doesn’t have to put up with this shit – why should we?’