By Dara Sharif
Women’s-rights advocates cheered The Walt Disney Company‘s Merida, heroine of last year’s animated hit Brave, as a realistic portrayal of young womanhood.
Armed with a bow and arrows and dressed in a simple frock ideally suited for running through the forest, the headstrong, curly-haired Merida saves herself, rather than waiting on some prince.
So Disney’s recent decision to make over Merida la Barbie for official inclusion in its Princess line of products has led to an uproar, with more than 200,000 people petitioning online to get the company to change its mind.
Merida’s creator, filmmaker Brenda Chapman, has called out Disney on the move, saying that this is “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money,” according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
Columnist Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel, whose coverage area includes Disney World, called the decision part of the “Kardashian-ization of the Disney Princess.”
The uproar has begun to pay off, at least in part.
In response to the criticism, Disney released a statement saying: “Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate, and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world.” Disney is No. 39 in the DiversityInc Top 50.
But now Merida’s original look, rather than the glammed-up version, appears on the Disney Princess website. However, with no official word from the company as to whether the doll or other products will ultimately look more like the cartoon original, critics like Chapman remain skeptical.
“I will stay dubious until they give an official statement about changing the image to match the original version of Merida,” Chapman said. “All that said, the move to remove the sexed-up Merida from their U.S. site gives me some hope.”
The danger of perpetuating stereotypesbe they racial/ethnic, gender, LGBT or about people with disabilitiesare particularly prevalent in the workplace. If hiring managers or supervisors have “ideas” about people because they are members of an underrepresented group, engagement, ability to contribute to the business and retention are impacted.
Dr. Claude Steele of Stanford University told a DiversityInc audience how stereotypes are a major barrier to the corporate advancement of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, women, LGBT people and people with disabilities.
Even “stereotype threat”the fear of being perceived through the lens of a negative stereotypecan prevent employees from succeeding.