Like many girls, I went through a phase where I rejected anything “girly.” For me, it happened from about ages eight-twelve. During this time, I refused to wear anything that wasn’t pants, and forget about getting me to consider the color pink (though I’ve never been a huge fan). In my mind, “girly” was inferior. By being a “tomboy” I was superior to those “girly girls.” I didn’t know what my justification for this was at the time, but I’m sure it was an internalization of the patriarchal belief that anything traditionally feminine is inferior. And I believed it! I promoted it! (Not that I had much influence, being a child, but still.)
Of course there are traditionally feminine attributes that can tend to promote “female inferiority,” such as submission and acquiescence. Though these things can be useful in certain situations, being in a constant state of total submission and acquiescence can certainly lead women to be overlooked and pushed over.
However, there are many “feminine” qualities that, while not overtly representative of strength, do, in fact, show an incredible strength of character.
Take the Disney character, Princess Snow White. Firstly, let it be mentioned that she is canonically fourteen in this movie, and so is not a fully grown and developed woman. However, she still shows tremendous strength of character.
Snow White has lost her father, either physically by his death, or emotionally through his marriage to her stepmother, the Evil Queen. She has also been reduced from her status as a princess to a scullery maid, the lowest rung on the ladder of servants. She is forced to dress in rags and spends her days doing chores, and is largely alone.
Despite this, Snow White is kind, trusting, sweet, pure, gentle, and industrious. Despite the abuse and degradation from her stepmother, the loss of her father, and her solitude, she retains her optimism and belief in the good of others. The animals of the forest see her purity and so are not afraid of her after their initial meeting. She is gentle and kind to them in return for their help.
She trusts the hunter who takes her to the meadow of flowers, despite knowing his role in the castle as a killer, and does not suspect him of any ill intent. Snow White trusts the forest animals to bring her to a safe place to stay. She trusts the old woman who gives her a poison apple that it will make her wish come true, despite the knowledge that the Evil Queen is looking for her in order to destroy her.
Snow White also has a strong sense of fairness and justice. When she comes upon the Dwarves’ cottage, the first thing she does is clean it. When the Dwarves agree to let her stay with them, she takes up the role of house mother to seven grown men. She cleans for them, cooks their meals, and makes them treats, while giving them affection and a little bit of sass.
Snow White went through a lot – abuse, loss, and degradation. Yet, despite this, she retained positive qualities, and did not let her circumstances affect her as a person nor her outlook on life. If this doesn’t show strength of character, what does?
Just because someone is traditionally feminine doesn’t mean they are not strong. It means they are strong in different ways. I think we all – men included – have things to learn from Walt’s “original three.”