I recently spent a magic-filled week at Walt Disney World located in Orlando, Florida. Going into the trip I expected to see certain fairy tale gender dynamics played out; you know: Prince Charming, beautiful princesses, and little girls fanaticizing about their own “happily ever afters.” However, I experienced something completely unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of princesses and gender expectations that would make any feminist cringe. But that has all been done. There are countless articles about the princess myth and how Disney perpetuates the role of submissive females. So, while those are all valid points and certainly provide much room for discussion, I wanted to take a different approach to Disney World. Just as I was shocked by my experience, I want you, the readers, to be shocked by this article. Otherwise it would be the same old white noise: “So, did you hear about the feminist who went to Disney World?” The inevitable punch line would revolve somewhere around feminists being angry, man-hating, humorless, over-analyzers. With those thoughts in mind, I encourage you to throw out all your preconceived notions and expectations about this story. It won’t be the stereotypical feminist critique of Disney, for my experience was certainly not stereotypical.
As I ventured from attraction to attraction, I noticed a reoccurring theme (other than the giant mouse ears). There were numerous dads carrying what I assume to be their daughters’ backpacks – not the standard backpack, but rather backpacks adorned with glitter and rhinestones in shades of pink and purple complete with frills and feminine flair. These fathers were sporting Disney Princesses, Tinker Bell and her fairy friends, and Barbie backpacks. In a culture where masculinity is defined by homophobia and all things polar opposite to “girlie,” it was refreshing to see these fathers breakdown the barriers of femininity and masculinity. I applaud these Disney dads for disregarding the gender expectations and simply being good fathers. It was nice to see men adorned with socially-regarded feminine articles, in addition to the fact that these men were often paired with their daughters and responsible for carrying her belongings (instead of Mom always being weighed down by an overflowing stroller and arms full of stuffed animals, balloons, cotton candy, and snow cones). I give props to these Disney dads for being equally responsible for the care of their children and for providing an example worthy of being emulated. Hopefully the thousands of boys and girls that experience Disney World will see beyond the characters and see these true role models: the gender neutral Disney dads.
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