Cinderella and Africa

This isn’t an anti-princess rant, honest. Been there, done that, several times.

Today, I heard an interesting perspective from a mother at my daughter’s school. She coordinates a local book drive for the African Library Project. Each year, her girl scouts collect at least 1,000 donated children’s books and raise $500 to ship them. The books eventually find their way to schools in Africa. Titles not appropriate to send remain with local charities.

Most countries in Africa teach English or French, so a language barrier isn’t an issue. Some collected books are weeded out because they are about American holidays. Other books are weeded because they convey things that are completely foreign to them, such as a board book about a fire station. But there are a lot of things the kids do relate to, such as animals, even animals not found in their native countries.

This subject caught my attention because I’m in the process of setting up a children’s used book store (a story for a future date) and routinely weed out books containing merchandised characters and Disney movie books. What Disney movies these days aren’t about girls appreciated for their pretty faces?

The Cinderella story is included in my list of yechhh! books. My family owns the anti-princess books The Paper Bag Princess and Cinder Enda. I’m not a fan of a fairy tale where a woman must be rescued by a man, a man who initially becomes interested in her because of her nice clothes — and likes her at the end of the tale because she’s beautiful.

However, this mom told the story of a girl in Botswana whose favorite book is Cinderella. She could relate to it in a most personal way.

Video embedded after the jump.


6 Responses to “Cinderella and Africa”

  1. Traci says:

    “What Disney movies these days aren’t about girls appreciated for their pretty faces?” the last two Disney movies that had girls in lead roles were The Princess and the Frog and Lilo and Stitch and they are both are not about “girls appreciated for their pretty faces”. Disney has seemed to focus on male characters lately. Supposedly the new movie Tangled also has a strong “princess” who doesn’t need to saved by a man at least that’s what the press releases say.

    September 3rd, 2010 at 6:09 am

  2. AJ says:

    I realize there are a few Disney films that don’t involve princesses and classic gender roles, although with Princess and the Frog they still couldn’t escape this notion of making the female lead a princess in name.

    September 3rd, 2010 at 7:18 am

  3. Lindsey Whitney says:

    I had never heard about the Paper bag princess and Cinder Edna. I would love to take a look at them though, because I know Disney princess gives unrealistic worldviews about a lot of things pertaining to girls/women. I was just reading an article about how the princess theme is the first step to the sexualization of girls. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but something to ponder.

    September 6th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  4. AJ says:

    In kindergarten, my daughter declared that she didn’t like princesses. Many of the girls at her school were adorned with princess clothing or lunch boxes and she said she didn’t understand princesses. And by princesses, she was referring specifically to the handful of Disney faces that are marketed in every nook and cranny of our society.

    Her exposure to princesses to that point had been through the free toothbrush her dentist gives her at every visit, always a gender-based color brush adorned with Disney princess stickers. At doctor’s visits we narrowly avoid the issue by selecting Dora stickers instead of Disney princess stickers. The stickers and tooth brushes are free to doctors and dentists to hand out. The goal is for these marketing images to permeate your home life.

    I don’t believe people who say girls are naturally drawn to this stuff. It has everything to do with exposure and how the people around the child react when exposure does occur.

    I’ve raised an anti-princess girl by deliberate action. Most other parents raise pro-princess girls even if the parents are indifferent. Taking no action is the same as being pro-princess because the world being marketed to girls is pro-princess. Parents must take conscious counteraction if they want to have an effect on the pervasive phenomenon.

    September 6th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

  5. Victoria says:

    My 5 year old son had a brief princess period because he plays with allot of girls at his home care. I let him go with it, but I was a bit worried that he would go the opposite extreme the first time he was teased at school. Luckily, that didn’t happen and though he now claims to not like pink, his choices for most things are pretty gender neutral. Spongebob wins over spiderman every time.

    September 9th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

  6. Dollhouses says:

    I think most boys go through that. Disney honestly has never impressed me with many of their princesses and their heroes.

    In Little Mermaid, for example, Ariel completely disobeys her father, does everything she is not supposed to and is rewarded in the end. Reality? Not really.


    September 15th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

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