Ah, feminism and Disney Princess. Such a complicated relationship. Now I'm not an expert, especially being a guy but the topic of feminism in relation to the DPs has always intrigued me. I'm gonna try my hand at ranking the princesses in terms of agency, independence, heroism and other aspects to figure out which one of them is the most feminist. I'm trying to expand my writing skills so this is gonna be split into three parts, starting with the bottom four.
WARNING: No Anna and Elsa in this countdown, so let's begin.
Sorry guys, but I'm one of those people who believes that feminism is about choice. Aurora makes very little choices in her life, she is manipulated by others at very single turn. She is treated as an object to be acted upon, which is not good. Everyone is basically running her life. I'll give her points for being obedient, wanting some amount from independence from her aunts and choosing responsibility over romance. But we're not given enough evidence to say that's the choice she truly makes rather than just doing what she's told. When she finds out whole her life is a lie, all she can think about is Philip, not her real parents, not her true identity, just Philip. She spends majority of her screen time talking about her prince, and not much else. And in the end, same said prince rescues her. While it is by no means her fault and she does have valid excuses, she is the closest representation of a stereotypical female, princess and damsel in distress. She is constantly controlled by others, she is forced to rely on others and pretty much has little to no say in where her life is going. I agree that people are too hard on Aurora when it comes to this topic, but at the same there is a reason why the criticisms exist in the first place.
She is a prime example, almost a poster child, of a prominent feminist representation. She's "all talk". She's very vocal about how she wants to be treated, she refuses to be objectified and she wants to have the freedom to live her own life. All of this has value, using your words definitely has it's value but actions speak louder than words. She constantly relies on Aladdin, does very little for herself. It was even Aladdin's actions that ultimately abolish marriage law, the law she had been complaining about for years. Distracting Jafar was very admirable and I think it's an empowering scene in it's own right but majority of the time she's just a damsel in distress. I give her credit for trying her best but at end of the day, every other princess tries her best and gets better results. The only thing that puts Jasmine above Aurora is that Jasmine makes the completely independent decision to leave the palace without any external forces driving her to do so. In the end however, she sends the message that women can talk all they want and even try their hardest but they still end up being dependent on others. Also, the fact that she has an established habit of humiliating men certainly doesn't help.
9. Snow White
She's significantly better than the first two but she still has a couple problems. She's resilient, more proactive than people give her credit for and takes a bit more initiative in her destiny. However, she depends on others a lot, the dwarfs, her Prince, to an extent the Huntsman and arguably her animal friends. On the one hand, you could she uses her ability to talk to animals to find safety, on the other hand you could say she's relying on the animals find her a safe place to stay. Though, she does initiate that plan, which brings me to the next point. Once she sees the dwarfs' home she devises a strategy to earn her keep in exchange for staying. She uses her skills to her advantage, housewife-y skills which I also think is empowering in it's own right. She takes charge of her situation and actually gets results unlike Jasmine and dominates the dwarfs without being too aggressive. But she's also partially manipulated, when the Queen persuades to bite the apple and depends on others to get her out of a situation she got herself into. Which arguably makes her bigger a damsel in distress than Aurora. Overall, she demonstrates a bit of agency but she's not independent enough to make any higher on this list.
You know what let me clarify something here, I have a soapbox. Passivity is not bad, there is nothing wrong with being passive or submissive. Being a doormat and being controlled are not the same thing as being passive. Following authority, being obedient and just letting life happen is fine. Cinderella is a passive individual who will assert herself when needed, she is at no point controlled or manipulated like Snow and Aurora. She works hard and doesn't let her step family walk all over her one chance at a little happiness. She displays some amount of independence and rebellion without it blowing up in her face like Jasmine. What sets Cindy apart from the other two classics is that she isn't forced into things as much, she does make her own decisions, she doesn't allow the prince make her stay when it's time to leave for example. And while she did need a push, she is the one who has the final say in going to the ball. She also actually plays a small part in her own rescue, it was her idea to fetch Bruno, as well as her happy ending. Ultimately, Cinderella actually has some control over her destiny but she still relies on her friends quite often and while passivity is not bad, it won't get you too far in a countdown like this, usually.
Let me just say something in conclusion. Being sassy and outspoken is not automatically feminist, those are just personality traits. Being assertive and actually taking action are not necessarily the same thing. Jasmine does speak up for her rights as an individual but she doesn't put her money where her mouth is. A woman can be soft spoken and even submissive and still be feminist, as we can see with Cinderella. And that's not the last we're gonna see those traits on this list.
Anyway, thanks for reading I'll see you guys in Part Two.