Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Female Sexual Autonomy Under Siege (Part 1)

Hi folks! This is the first of a series of posts on the issue of hypersexualization that I plan to share over the next few weeks. They are part of a literature review I conducted this past spring through my work with the Resisting Violence project at the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association. Read on...


Not long ago I spent a weekend in a small university town with my cousin, who lives in a communal house with friends who are artists and activists. The house is characterized by wood floors and walls, colorful carpets, hip posters, musical instruments and organic food. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I was in the kitchen having a glass of water and noticed a hot pink lunch bag sitting on a nearby counter. Upon further inspection, I discovered that it was a Disney “Tinker Bell and Fairies” lunch bag (see image below), and its front displayed an image of four attractive women – or were they girls? I soon came to the alarming realization that these characters were indeed supposed to be girls, but they had unusually womanish features and were arranged in sexually inviting yet childishly innocent poses. Irritated, I thought: “Why are we exposing girls to such awful images, and what is this lunch bag doing in a hippy house?”

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(The culprit: A typical accessory marketed by Disney to young girls.)

The second question I will leave for a later conversation with my cousin and her housemates. The first question, though, demands some immediate attention. As a society, are we fully aware of the impact of such images on our daughters and sons? As women, do we know how these images have affected and continue to affect our body image, self-esteem and sexuality?

I decided to investigate the story of this lunch bag a little further, and I discovered that there is a whole range of paraphernalia containing images of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends that can be purchased online, including fairy costumes, toys, home d├ęcor products, collectibles and accessories. I then did a Google image search of Tinker Bell and fairies, and it generated an assortment of images that confirmed my suspicion that this stuff is far from innocent. Two words quickly came to mind: child pornography.

I will not indulge in a full critical analysis of this image – the presence of the male gaze, the (only somewhat) subtle racism, and the downright pornographization of children – but the point of this story is merely to highlight that this stuff is everywhere. Even in the places where we least expect to find it.


  1. Although I cannot argue with your point at-large, I do think that Tinker Bell is an erroneous example to use.

    Despite the fact that Peter Pan is a Disney film about "staying young forever," my understand is that Tinker Bell was always meant to represent an adult faerie. She has a somewhat materialistic role toward the Lost Boys and her character was modeled after 24 year old Margaret Kerry: http://www.tinkerbelltalks.com/images/tink_pouting.jpg

  2. This is the perfect example of how Disney is sexualizing girls at a very young age and putting a nice clean innocent face on it. You don't have to watch the "Family" channel for very long to realize what's going on. There's a cartoon character for every kind of body that could be idolized by all the girls out there, and a disney girl for every complexion, hair color/length, style and cultural background found in America. (if you're not sure which one you are, try this handy quiz http://www.selectsmart.com/FREE/select.php?client=eghjksdcvkd)

    Unfortunately little girls don't realize what's going on until they're dealing with their programmed insecurities much later in life. Its sick, and what's more (as a father of one and soon to be two girls) its damn near impossible to avoid. You have the choice of sheltering them from it, in which case they will eventually rebel and things will be even worse, or you can allow them to have the things they think they want and educate them. This requires awareness of what your children are doing and interest in what they are watching.

    They have to know that these things are just eye candy and its fine to indulge but they're ultimately pointless and if they know this (even if they pretend not to care) they will eventually leave it behind.

    As a side note, I love the tinkerbell movie (kids have no idea who peter pan is btw). Its actually about tinkerbell finding herself as a "Tinkerer" fairy, one that finds lost things and repairs them or returns them... its a story about self-acceptance, ironically. However, she IS portrayed as a girl in this one (Sorry Jon), having just been born in the springtime when the movie is set. She herself is not overly sexified in the movie, but her friends and the antagonist are. And of course, they're all good-looking. All Americans are... aren't they? Of course I've never been there, I've only seen the ones on TV...

    Disney goes beyond sexualizing girls though. they've pretty much hijacked our entire mythos Cinderella, Snow White, Pinocchio etc... Disney never created anything. They just stole old stories and butchered them beyond all recognition and twisted them towards their own ends. Also, have you ever heard about lemmings jumping off cliffs? Yeah that doesn't happen. Disney "Learning" made that up. The lemmings everyone saw in their "Nature Films" had been used in another film and were then herded of a cliff to certain death. That was subsequently filmed for their educational (though completely misleading) film.

    Are you starting to see how deep the Disney hole is? All the way down to Walt's special place in Hell with the rest of the White supremist nazi bastards.

  3. I never knew that there was a Tinker Bell movie. I thought we were discussing Tinker Bell from Disney's 1953 "Peter Pan."

    I stand corrected.