Girls Football and Disney – A Boy’s Perspective

Posted on: 04 September 2017

Does Disney’s #DreamBigPrincess partnership with the Football Association encourage participation or entrench gender stereotypes further?

It was recently announced that a 3-year partnership would be formed between Disney and the Football Association to try and encourage young girls to get involved in football. On the face of it, this seems to be an encouraging and positive move from both parties, especially given the clear gender disparity in the sport. Indeed, according to the FA themselves, out of the 3.35 million children who regularly play football, 2.49 million are boys. This discrepancy plagues the sport: England’s former woman captain, Casey Stoney, makes only £25,000 a year, compared to the £13 million her male counterpart earns. Nonetheless, women’s football is promisingly on the rise, as participation in adult teams has grown by 5.3% since 2010.

3.35 million children play football – 2.49 million are boys

Using the hashtag #DreamBigPrincess, the inherent contradiction of this partnership is evident. The notion that young girls are princesses and being princesses are the very thing that holds them back from playing sports, a frustrating hindrance to the progress that has already been made by women. Of course, there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a princess.  However, a 2016 study examining ‘princess culture’ concluded that girls who are immersed in princess videos and merchandise were more likely to engage in gender stereotypes later on in life.

We at Freda believe this must end. As 5-year-old Riley pointedly asked in a YouTube video that has now been viewed over 4 million times: “”Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different coloured stuff?”, we too believe that women can be anything they like, be it princesses, footballers, astronauts and so on. Now is the time to smash apart these social constructs and empower our women. If we do not, then the misguided message of #DreamBigPrincess will continue to take centre stage over the productive work of a campaign like #ThisGirlCan, which was not focussed on princesses, but women of all ages, of all shapes and sizes. As the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “we are what we do”, and the real threat here is that girls are being told who they are before they have even acted.

Thus, we must not let the subtle sexism of this partnership escape scrutiny, especially since the FA is an organisation that banned women’s football in 1921 due to the sport’s incompatibility with “a woman’s physical frame”. So, say no to gender stereotypes, no to masked sexism, and say yes to extra funding, yes to the closing of the gender pay gap, and yes to #ThisGirlCan. As Angela Towers of The Independent put it, “Girls don’t need the barriers they face to be decorated with jewels, they need us to lift them.”

This blog is written by our Founder’s 18-year old son, Darius.

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