Entertainment

08.19.14

Full Frontal Disney: Feminism's Nudity Double Standard

From Jezebel's "Disney Dudes' Dick" gallery to Slate's ogling of World Cup players, some feminist sites have a double standard when it comes to physical objectification.

I am going to assume it was not only a slow day in the office, but an amnesiac one as well, when the feminist website Jezebel decided to create “Disney Dudes’ Dick.”

Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely appreciate the level of creativity needed to come up with 13 unique phallic descriptions to go with Disney princes’ personalities. It’s clearly done in a lighthearted tone with more than a fair share of wit and humor.

But there is also something deeply hypocritical about Jezebel running a spread about sexually objectifying Disney’s princes, even if it is in a joking tone, because the site has lashed out at the Mouse for doing the same on multiple occasions.

In May of 2013, Disney briefly ran a version of Merida, the heroine from Brave, that was slimmed down, bustier, and with straightened hair. Tracie Egan Morissey, who gets the byline for “Disney Dudes' Dicks,” slammed the “makeover.” She championed the subsequent petition against the redesign for “let[ting] Disney know how uncool it was to sexualize a character... that was originally intended to be a role model for little girls.” Morissey was absolutely right to criticize Disney for revamping a character to meet some adult standards of what is sexually desirable. So, why does she think it is okay for Jezebel to do just that when the characters in question have a penis (or one that has creatively been sketched in)?

In February of this year, Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel chastised Disney for promoting unhealthy, unattainable female body standards through its “princess industrial complex” of “thin and conventionally attractive heroines.” Faircloth, by the way, is spot-on in her Disney critique. I could not agree more when she laments that “no one seems able to work up much anger over the fact that most Disney characters' proportions are about as true-to-human-form as a perfume bottle.”

Note, Faircloth says “characters' proportions,” not just the female ones. It is less often discussed, but Disney also exerts body pressure on boys, stressing a fit and chiseled physique as the true way to convey a heroic masculinity and attract women. It's wrong to assume this creates less pressure on young boys in movie theater audiences than their female counterparts --- especially when studies show anorexia is often under-diagnosed in male patients because it is considered a “feminine” disorder..

There is something deeply hypocritical about Jezebel running a spread about sexually objectifying Disney’s princes because the site has lashed out at the Mouse for doing the same on multiple occasions.

And that physical insecurity can apply especially when it comes to the part of the male anatomy so glorified and critiqued in “Disney Dudes' Dicks.” Really, if you're close friends with someone with a penis, you've seen him a little preoccupied (worried) about its size, or its appearance, or its performance, or something related to it. The self-scrutiny and anxiety is no secret, even if men do not discuss it as openly.

Jezebel has shown some sympathy to this and other male insecurities in the past. That is why it is perturbing to see the site proudly revel in the double standard of giving their favorite Disney characters “idealized” genitals and the villains smaller, less “attractive" ones. To briefly indulge in a close-reading of the Disney prince dick descriptions (because what else am I going to do with my college degree in history and literature), Morissey perpetuates the same pressure on men to exhibit a certain physique that she critiqued Disney of doing to women. Of Cinderella's Prince Charming, she writes:

The perfect guy has the perfect dick: like eight or nine inches, thick—but not too thick otherwise it's painful—rock hard with a nice throbbing vein. He's groomed perfectly in a way that's considerate of lovers without being too gay porn-y about it.

In contrast, Beauty and the Beast's Gaston—the asshole/villain—has “a small dick—very tiny—pube-less and uncut.” So smaller, uncircumcised penises are conflated with being a jerk and a loser. Jezebel also dabbles in some racial stereotypes by ensuring that Prince Naveen—the sole African American male in the collection—has the longest genetalia. It's unavoidable (and unfortunately) noticeable because it's the only penis that doesn't actually fit in the image frame. This is again problematic because Jezebel is commendably sensitive when it comes to issues regarding race and women. Apparently, they take more latitude when it comes to men. However, this may be a larger comment about the site's willingness to indulge the female, but not the male, gaze. If a male-focused site, let's say BroBible, drew The Little Mermaid's Ursula with, oh, a large labia and full-bush pubes to conflate these female genital characteristics with her negative personality, I doubt any writer at Jezebel, or any feminists, would find it humorous, or remotely acceptable.

Of course, this double standard is hardly only a problem for Jezebel. Other feminist sites have championed objectifying men in tit-for-tat fashion as empowering women. But there is something vindictive about this, as if it raises up women to give men a taste of the objectification medicine they've been dealing with for pretty much all of history.

Women are raised to be aware—and wary—of the male gaze. We learn of the potential positive attention we are granted when our physical appearances fit their physical desires, as well as the equally potential disappointment in the way of love, careers, and other opportunities when we don’t live up what is deemed the perfect proportions. And we know that the male gaze can carry weightier dangers. It’s why we learn to ignore being whistled at when walking and to worry about being raped any time we walk alone at night… or jog through a less than densely populated park… or go on a blind date. In short, we know as women that being objectified has many, many pitfalls.

The fact that women have born the brunt of bodily pressures and insecurities should make us all the more sensitive to it when we see it towards men. The double standard of sexualization is hypocritical at best and ineffectively vindictive at worse.