Disney and Gender Identity

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Disney’s Influence
Society cements certain roles for children based on gender, and these roles, recognized during infancy with the assistance of consumerism, rarely allow for openness of definition. A study conducted by Witt (1997) observed that parents often expect certain behaviors based on gender as soon as twenty-four hours after the birth of a child. The gender socialization of infants appears most noticeably by the age of eighteen months, when children display sex-stereotyped toy preferences (Caldera, Huston, & O’Brian 1989). This socialization proves extremely influential on later notions and conceptions of gender. Children understand gender in very simple ways, one way being the notion of gender permanence—if one is born a girl or a boy, they will stay that way for life (Kohlberg 1966). “According to theories of gender constancy, until they’re about 6 or 7, children don’t realize that the sex they were born with is immutable” (Orenstein 2006). The Walt Disney Corporation creates childhood for children worldwide. “Because Disney are such a large media corporation and their products are so ubiquitous and wide spread globally, Disney’s stories, the stories that Disney tell, will be the stories that will form and help form a child’s imaginary world, all over the world, and that’s an incredible amount of power, enormous amount of power” (Sun). Because of the portrayal of women in Disney films, specifically the Disney Princess films, associations of homemaker, innocence, and dependence are emphasized as feminine qualities for young children. Thus, children begin to consider such qualities normal and proceed to form conceptions of gender identity based off of the movies that portray the very specific and limiting views of women (...

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Wohlwend, K. (2009). “Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts through Disney Princess Play.” Reading Research Quarterly 44 (1), 57-83.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that society cements certain roles for children based on gender, and these roles, recognized during infancy, rarely allow for openness of definition.
  • Explains that disney's influence pervades society, and the kaiser family foundation conducted a study of children in 2003 and 2005 to observe the amount of television watched per week.
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