9 Disney Princesses Who Were Feminists

My girls love to play princesses. Their bedrooms are decorated with Disney princesses posters, their wardrobes are overflowing with glittery ball gowns, and approximately 8 out of every 10 toys in our house is called ‘Elsa’!

But modern parents have started a backlash against the “Princess Culture”. They don’t want to bring their girls up to believe that they need a man to fulfil them. They don’t want to perpetuate the unrealistic idea of a “Happily Ever After”. They don’t want girls to think that being beautiful is the only thing that they can offer to the world.

I totally get these concerns… BUT, as expert on Disney Princesses (6 years as a girl-mum will do that to you!), I want to show you that this reputation is a bit unfair. Disney princesses offer a lot more than just ballrooms and marriage vows.

dressing up as disney princesses

9 Disney Princesses Who Bucked The Trend

Belle | Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Belle is a book-lover. She’s not the slightest bit interested in the handsome Gaston who is desperate to marry her; instead she’d rather be educating her mind and using her imagination. When she is captured by a hideous beast, she learns to see past his frightening and exterior and finds his soul. Gradually, she coaxes out the beast’s human side and teaches him how to selflessly love another.

Mulan | Mulan (1998)

Mulan is a Chinese woman who bravely takes her injured father’s place in the Chinese army. In a culture which believes women are inferior to men, Mulan works hard and becomes one of the best soldiers in the division. Her quick-thinking actions save the Emperor’s life and the invading Hun army is defeated.

Jasmine | Aladdin (1992)

Princess Jasmine flatly refuses to marry any of the suitors her father picks out for her because she doesn’t love them, and they are only interested in possessing her as a beautiful trophy. In the end, she doesn’t fall for a rich, handsome prince, but chooses a poor, homeless boy who has nothing to offer her but a good heart.

Pocahontus | Pocahontus (1995)

Pocahontus is a Native American woman who single-handedly brings about peace between her people and the English settlers. She is a free-spirited girl who makes her own decisions, despite pressure from her friends and family to marry the handsome warrior, Kocoum. When one of the English settlers is captured and about to be executed, Pocahontus heroically throws herself in the firing line and pleads for peace instead.

disney princesses with trainers and boots

Nala | The Lion King (1994)

From birth, Nala and Simba are pledged to be married and one day lead the pride of Lions together. Nala is Simba’s adventurous companion and proves herself stronger and more tactically-minded than Simba on a number of occasions. It is Nala who stands up to the evil Scar, and encourages Simba to take his rightful place as king.

Collette | Ratatouille (2007)

Okay I know she’s not technically a princess, but Collette is an excellent example of a strong female Disney character. She’s the only female chef in Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant because, in her own words

“haute cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules written by stupid, old men. Rules designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world. But still I’m here! How did this happen?… Because I am the toughest cook in this kitchen!”

This girl has smashed through the glass ceiling and is making her mark on the world. She’s also the only character who has compassion on Linguini, the garbage boy who wants to learn to cook.

Rapunzel | Tangled (2010)

After living 18 years under Mother Gothel’s dictatorship, Rapunzel decides that it’s time she explore the world for herself. Rapunzel has been put down and downtrodden her whole life, and yet when she walks away, she realises that she is a lot stronger than she thought she was. She also inspires others to be brave and follow their dreams.

disney princesses princess dress boots

Jessie | Toy Story 2 (1999)

Again not technically a princess, but Jessie is an energetic, excitable cowgirl. She is loyal to the bitter end, and has a truly adventurous spirit. Despite a sad history of rejection and hurt, she is willing to give life another try and find new friends and adventures.

Anna | Frozen (2013)

Anna has a classic “Disney romance” and declares she wants to marry Prince Hans after just one day. However, as the film progresses, Anna discovers that love isn’t about just “clicking” – it’s about selfless sacrifice and putting others first. Love is not a fuzzy feeling; it’s an action. She also realises that she doesn’t need a man to sweep in and save her – she takes charge of her own destiny.


So I hope you enjoyed my list. What do you think about the Princess Culture? Do you have a favourite Disney Princess? What female role models do you encourage your children to look at? Please join the discussion by commenting below.

Lucy At Home





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  1. 1

    I completely agree! I think the old notion about Princesses being weak little girls with a over inflated sense of entitlement isn’t relevant anymore. I spent ages worrying that my 6yo love of princesses would mean folk wouldn’t see the clever, independent, hilarious and sassy girl inside. Then I realised she teams her dresses with martial arts gloves and I don’t need to worry. The modern princesses are bold and strong and we need to get over ourselves and say yeah I love princesses, what of it?!?
    I think Princess Vanelope from Wreck it Ralph is my favourite

  2. 4
    Heather Keet

    Belle was my favorite princess, it came out when I was 8. As I explained to my father, Belle was my fave because “she has pretty brown hair like me and no other princesses have that.” And she was also a massive bookworm like I was and still am. Belle rocks! #BlogCrush

  3. 6
    pam lorimer

    I love a princess and a love story. In a world where theres so much badness on a daily basis i dont think its wrong to let kids enjoy their childhood by letting them believe in the good of people for as long as they can! #BlogCrush

  4. 8
    daydreams of a mum

    I must confess to being a bit of a DisneyPrincess grinch (although Frozen is one of my fave movies ever cos I’m a bit contradictory like that!!) However, you’re absolutely right it’s not all just sitting pretty and waiting for a man. I’m sorry princesses!! #BlogCrush

  5. 10
    Lisa Pomerantz

    I admittedly was a bit of a tom-boy growing up. I didn’t like Barbie and had no idea what cotton balls were used for by anyone. Don’t you know, My Mrs., my Little and my Big are all girly girls with frills and ribbons. Princesses make a big impression on them and we have every costume like you. I have to give Disney a lot of credit lately for giving these newer Princesses a stronger take on the world. We all love Moana, Merida, Pocahontas, and the fact that they can stand on their own well-proportioned feet!

  6. 14

    As the mother of two young girls myself I spend a lot of time in princess land as well, so appreciate the re-framing here. I agree many of the princesses in Disney do save the day in addition to getting their man – and show they can ably take care of themselves. #blogcrush

  7. 15
    Joana at Mind the Mummy

    I really like this post. It is important to show our children how to become whole adults who are not building their personalities on the back of either brains or beauty but are growing up as all encompassing individuals. Too much political correctness can lead us to become inflexible on the other end of the spectrum and not see the Disney characters for who they are. Your list is testament to the fact that these princesses do stand on their own two feet! I agree that, say, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty need to be taught a few lessons on self-worth but clearly not all princesses fall under the same category and it’s ok to allow your children to be children, to dream and make believe if you pair it with the correct message. #blogcrush

    • 16
      Lucy At Home

      There is definitely a new wave of Disney princess, just as society is redefining what it is to be a girl. We don’t need to sit around and wait for a man to save us – we can go out and grab life with our own two hands!

  8. 17
    Tracey Bowden

    As a big fan of princesses and my daughter is too, I hate this negativity towards princesses. As you so clearly show, princesses have evolved with times and are no longer damsels in distress who need a man to save them. I absolutely love Rapunzel and her alternative use of frying pans! #blogcrush

    • 18
      Lucy At Home

      Frying pans – who knew?! 😉 LOVE that film! My eldest went through a phase of watching (or at least asking to watch it) every day and she had a Tangled-themed birthday party.

  9. 24
    Beth T

    Agree, there’s much more to them than the frilly dresses would imply. I hated the idea but ended up loving the films, as did my daughter (now 11). She’d probably still watch them (with the curtains closed) plus she’s managed to turn out a fully-fledged feminist.

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