This year, Disney came out with a live-action version of its classic movie “Cinderella”. I saw the advertisement for the film for the first time on the side of an MTA bus in Manhattan. As the bus drove by and I saw the image of 2015 Cinderella for the first time, I was floored. Her waist was unnaturally, dangerously tiny. There has been speculation and debate as to whether the images in the advertisements and film itself were photoshopped, but actress Lily James’ agent did confirm that she wore a corset to shrink her waist.
As a child, Cinderella was my hero and by far my favorite of all the Disney Princesses. I had a Cinderella dress from the Disney Store that I absolutely adored; every day when I got home from preschool, I would change into Cinderella’s outfit and wear it around the house for as long as I possibly could. I wanted to be just like her.
One can imagine how it felt to see my cartoon hero, being portrayed as a real person for the first time, so morbidly skinny. Cartoon Cinderella had a tiny waist too, of course, but the effect is very different and much more powerful when shown on a live woman. I thought about all the little girls who worship Cinderella like I did excitedly going to see live-action Cinderella in theaters; they would see their role model’s waist and subconsciously begin to believe that because the amazing princess was so skinny, that means they should be too.
These kind of beliefs and beauty standards are ingrained in young girls all too frequently. Their heroes have perfectly slender waists, skinny arms and legs, and curvy breasts and bottoms. Barbie, the classic American girl to many children, would have, if enlarged to human proportions, a waist of 18’’, hips of 33’’, and a bust of 39’’. Unrealistic figures like this are everywhere. There is so little variety in images of beauty offered to young girls that it is nearly impossible for uninformed girls not to have this singular ideal of how they should look.
To alter such narrow and dangerous female beauty standards, we need not only to show young girls role models with a much wider variety of appearance, but change the way that they look at themselves. That’s where organizations like Unleashed come in. Girls are applauded for so much more than the size of their waists; they are encouraged to have a voice, defy the status quo, take risks, innovate and step out of their comfort zones. At Unleashed, we teach that a girl doesn’t need a Prince Charming or a glass slipper, and certainly not tiny waist, to be powerful. Power is a seed hidden deep within the souls of each and every girl and woman, and she creates her own fairy tale ending when she embraces and leverages it!
-Rachel Scharf, Unleashed Summer Intern