Isms

21 Jan

It’s neither groundbreaking nor sufficient to say that the world is full of Isms. The human pain caused by acts of stereotyping, microaggression, discriminiation, and violence toward historically oppressed people is untold in quantity and depth. These acts can take an infinity of forms: racism; classism; heterosexism and homophobia; transphobia, cissexism, and cisgenderism; ableism; sizeism; ageism; anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, nationalism, and ethnocentrism; and others.

The sexist stereotyping of boys and men – a group that holds power and privilege over girls and women in almost every culture – in ways that glorify heteronormative gender roles, traditional masculine qualities, and misogyny, is one way in which prejudices are taught and perpetuated.

This blog will document, explore, and question instances of this type of sexism (the application of stereotypes of masculinity and other heteronormative notions) in the media, my work and studies, and in my own everyday life. I also hope to explore the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, and culture as they relate to the examples I submit.

I’ll start with a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: Disney movies. As a child of the late 1980s and 90s, I saw in theaters, owned on VHS, and constantly rewatched most of the Disney movies produced through 1997 (when I turned 13 and became “too cool” for Disney). Most of the VHSs that eventually broke from overuse were the animated films, although I held a fond appreciation for the live-action ones, too. Here are 12 that I remember loving:

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Mighty Ducks (1992)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • A Goofy Movie (1995)
  • Pocohontas (1995)
  • A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Hercules (1997)

Looking back at these movies, it’s clear that many (if not most) of Disney’s animated movies are guilty of promoting masculine stereotypes in ways that may be damaging to children and society in the long-term, due to cumulative exposure. Through their: dominant use of hero-princess dichotomies in which the hero always, without fail, saves the princess; reliance on physical stereotypes of successful, heroic men as young, strong, and handsome, and of cowards, useless men, and villains as frail, fat, short, old, and/or ugly; and genderized depictions of violence in which the man who fights the best and defeats the other is the hero, these films perpetuate negative stereotypes of masculinity.

What Disney Company teach men about

The lessons boys learn are how to: think about women (as objects, as creatures to be saved), appear physically (tall and muscular), and behave during conflict (aggressively) [1]. In the fictional worlds created by Disney, there is no room for fatness, weakness, emotions, gays, sissies, pacifists, intellect (even Aladdin, who is initially sharp but ultimately shown to be foolish by wasting his wishes), or old age. The day cannot be saved by anyone but a good-looking, aggressive male.

[1] – Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CWMCt35oFY.

Image source: http://media.photobucket.com/image/disney%20men/Perfektionisti/Funny/what_disney_princes_teach_men_about.jpg

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