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These 7 Disney Princesses Are Feminists

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

With the relase of Disney’s newest live action recreation of their classic animated movies, “Beauty and the Beast” (in theaters March 17), why not reacquaint yourself with some of Disney’s more badass gals in the princess lineup? Whether they’re warriors, business owners, archers, bibliophiles, or royalty, these girls know their worth.

1. Mulan

Not necessarily a princess, but most likely the first on your mind as you think of the most feminist characters Disney has to offer, Mulan has become a symbol of female power, inner strength and independence for girls — young and old — everywhere. Even after she is revealed as an illegal woman in the Chinese army (facing the death penalty), she perseveres and follows her army bretheren to the Emperor’s palace, trying to alert them of the Huns’ survival in the mountains. She defies the traits she is given to fulfill at the beginning of the movie: “Quiet and demure, graceful, polite, delicate, refined, poised, punctual,” goes on to use her skills and creativity during training and battle, defeats the truly terrifying Shan Yu via rooftop firework, and saves literally all of China.

You go, Mulan. Get that arrow. 

2. Merida

Merida, the first canonical Disney princess to not have a love interest, demonstrates that even as a princess, boys do not have to be a priority in life. While the premise of the film’s conflict is Merida’s desire to not get married, the rest surrounds her relationship with her mother and the folklore and stories of her people. Many Disney princesses are not portrayed as ever experiencing difficulties with their parents — especially with their biological mothers. This real-life portrayal of understanding and forgiveness between a mother and daughter is a wonderful and refreshing dynamic for a Disney princess. 

3. Tiana

Although the time she spends in human form is brief, Tiana embodies everything we want to inspire in young girls: big dreams, hard work, and loyalty. Heck, she starts her own business and names it after herself. When she does meet Naveen, he’s actually in the role of the one who needs to be saved, instead of the other way around. 

4. Belle

Belle, a true intellectual and free spirit, pulls away from her village’s — and society’s — expectations of who she should be and what she should do. She successfully navigates her way out of an unwanted marriage proposal with style. Yes, she does eventually fall for the Beast/man who imprisons her, but only after they both show their true colors and learn about each other. Belle gets angry. She gets frustrated. She gets sad. But she also demonstrates a balance of empathy and self-worth, which are both equally important for all to learn. 

5. Eilonwy

If you have never seen Disney’s 1985 animated film “The Black Cauldron,” you’re missing out. Eilonwy is a delightful, well-rounded, plucky character who joins young assistant pig-keeper Taran (the hero), minstrel Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi (the comic relief) on a journey to find and destroy the all-powerful Black Cauldron, capable of bringing dead warriors back to life. While certainly not a well-known Disney princess (and perhaps not even a canonical one), Eilonwy always stands up for herself and definitely never needs rescuing. 

6. Jasmine

Aside from not being “a prize to be won,” Jasmine executes incredible personal agency for a woman in her position. Rather than being interested in boys and marriage, Jasmine yearns for freedom and a life of adventure. Outright refusing to be objectified, desiring something out of her determined role, and maintaining a clever and sassy persona, Jasmine is a role model indeed. Also, how incredible is Rajah’s side-eye?

7. Rapunzel

Although her frying pan is not as badass as Mulan wielding Shan Yu’s sword, Rapunzel is not afraid of anyone who dares to challenge her. She’s hopeful, loyal to a fault, and only falls for Eugene after her personal dream has been realized and she finds that they share a real connection. Rapunzel realizes that aspects of her life are unfair, and goes about finding a way to change that. Although initially naïve to the ways of the world outside her tower, she’s a quick learner, and secures her own happiness — rather than having someone tell her how she is supposed to feel. 

Images/GIFs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78

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Rachel Walman

U Mass Amherst

Double major in English and Communications. Commonwealth Honors College Class of 2019.
Contributors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst