To my daughters and others,
I know I probably sound like a reactionary to modern trends that result in expanding opportunities for women in some parts of the world. I am happy that my daughters are living in such a time, where they can raise their voices… and be heard. But I know that women in past ages have not had that opportunity, even though they had talents and voices that should have been heard.
What I don’t like about the trend of princesses in movies (looking at you Princess Diaries 2 and the new live action Aladdin) that at the end, and with just a token change of mind in the ruler, the problem of the capable woman not having a chance to rule or be heard is flicked away. Everyone sighs with relief. Of course- this is what we want! She’ll do great. One thing I’ve learned from the time I’ve been on earth is that governments change oh so slowly. I am not saying women cannot lead- women are amazing and certainly have the gifts to lead. But an entrenched society where they never have had the opportunity or that opportunity has only been within certain limits will not change quickly.
Why do I care? Two reasons.
First, I don’t want my daughters growing up thinking that the world will always be on their side and doors will open because things aren’t fair. I want them to know that their mothers and grandmothers worked hard for the freedoms women enjoy today. The expectation that these changes can happen in a day or a weekend- or that they’ll even be accepted- is wrong. It takes generations of people working for change. I think this might be why people today get so angry about things they’re passionate about. They think a change should happen right now. Change is hard. Stick with it. Don’t give up. Don’t call opposing voices names. And don’t give up. Equality must be hard, because we’re still not getting it right, even though we’ve managed to fling humans out to the moon and back in the mean time.
Second, is the other takeaway from Jasmine becoming Sultan in medieval Arabia or Persia that since something like that never happened*- that no women of that day were capable or good leaders? Absolutely not! But I don’t think a teenager in America today can even fathom how little attention was given to women’s voices hundreds of years ago. Even men who we might generally think of as ‘good’ didn’t necessarily treat women well. A woman who rose up like Jasmine did in Aladdin would probably have been laughed at, at best.
Yes, it’s a movie, and movies must finish the story by the end. But if you’re going to treat the topic of women’s equality, actually do it. Don’t let it be the side arc thrown in because there was nothing else you could think of to give depth to a woman in the show. Don’t let it be solved right at the end all because the ruler says “you’re right- you should rule!”.
But I’m making a big deal about what is, literally, a fairy tale. Instead of having a problem with parts of it not being true to life, I should just enjoy the genie dancing. And I did.
* if you do have an example of a woman ruling in medieval Arabia or Persia, I think that would be an incredible story!