• Author:Ben Jones
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Disney; magic or tragic?

There is no doubt that Disney is a crowd pleaser. It certainly is in our house. We are currently contemplating a trip to Florida next year – with some time of course for a detour to Boston and Fenway – and at times our house could be mistaken for a small outlet of the Disney shops network. Miss J loves the films; the characters; the dressing up. The magic.

As parents, Dr J and I have put some thought into providing Aoife with the best possible examples and role models as she makes her way in the world. We have been – and continue to be – committed to trying to avoid gender stereotypes and promoting the possibilities for girls to achieve whatever they want. No barriers. No glass ceilings. No limit on what can be achieved.

We are lucky to have in our lives some wonderful, strong, inspirational, high achieving women; whether in business, public service, family or in the example they have set to others in their day to day lives. We never rushed Aoife into dresses and pink – although that is the path she has chosen so far – and we didn’t encourage her to pretend to be a princess or admire the princess way – especially the Disney ‘my life is complete when I marry a prince’ fairytale.

Aoife is extremely lucky to have a mum who as well as being the best mum you could find anywhere in the world, is also an incredibly smart, capable high achiever – something her new colleagues at the University of Liverpool will discover on Monday when she returns to work after three and a half years at home giving Aoife the best possible start in life. This determination to show Aoife all the opportunities open to girls – including taking on positions of leadership which has previously been seen as the reserve of louder, brasher, less qualified men – took a dent today when in the Disney store in Liverpool 1.

I am aware of the some of the controversies involving gender stereotypes with Disney movies and the support offered to their move to strong female characters such as in Tangled, but I got a stark reminder today that their move into the 21st century is not yet complete. They stock two – count them, two – Minnie Mouse hoovers, aimed at girls. There is no Mickey equivalent and its hard to see why we need one, let alone two. It was the everyday sexism about it that depressed me the most. The idea that the girls – not the boys – should have this piece of equipment in their toy set.

From next week, Dr J will be working three days a week and I will be working 3-4. We will continue to share the roles at home, with a slight shift to me doing more cooking and more nursery drop-offs and pick-ups. These are not – as Theresa and Philip May would have us believe boy jobs and girls jobs – these are Team Jones jobs. Jobs we do as a team, like everything else we do. There is not boss in our house; no chief; no top dog. There is just a house full of equals; proud to do what we do for each other. There will also never be a hoover – pink and pretty to convince my daughter that she – not me or her grandar, grandad, uncles, male cousins or male friends – should be using. Disney may be magic in so many ways but today, for me, it was tragic.


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