Girl Power

18 July 2017 | Liz Bowen

The plight for gender equality is nothing new. From the Suffragettes to the Spice Girls, women have been campaigning for women’s rights for generations.

Gender stereotypes are constantly being challenged. Only this week has the Advertising Standards Authority announced plans to get tough on adverts that feature gender stereotypical roles.

The review comes after that infamous 2015 Protein World advert asking people if they were “beach body ready”.

While ads have been banned in the past for being overtly sexualised and objectification, never before has it breached guidelines to feature men and women in stereotypical roles or to mock those not in ‘traditional’ roles.

Another brand which has recently pledged to fight against stereotypes is Disney, which has teamed up with the Football Association to encourage bigger participation among girls in the traditionally male-dominated sport.

The UK-wide campaign, Dream Big, Princess, is aiming to shatter the definition of what it means to be a ‘princess’ in the modern-world.

With the surge in popularity of women’s football, it’s a smart move. Naturally then, England women’s football team is involved in the campaign too.

Several lionesses, including captain Steph Houghton, have been filmed offering advice to young girls about the attributes which have got them get to the top of their game.

Members of the public are also being encouraged to join the campaign by sharing their own motivational images of young girls using the hashtag #DreamBigPrincess.

It’s not the first time Disney has challenged the definition of being a ‘princess’. Over the years, more and more of its characters are depicted as independent and fiercely determined heroines, rather than damsels in distress.

Following the release of the recent live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson – a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador who launched the HeforShe initiative with a rousing speech for gender equality in 2014 – revealed she had signed up to play Belle because of the character’s desire to cast off the social norms expected of her in the film. 

The reality is both women – and men – can and should be able to do whatever they want to do and be whoever they want to be. While it’s a shame pop culture has taken a little while to catch up, hopefully this is the start of something big.

With a huge organisation like Disney pioneering the change in gender stereotypes, let’s hope others follow suit.