7 Sexist Elements Of 'The Little Mermaid'  

Jessica L. Yarbrough
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The debate about Disney sexism has been raging for a while now: are Disney princess movies anti-feminist? Should we care? Do we care? Arguably, sexist Disney movies feature a special kind of anti-feminism: the kind that's buried underneath layers of feel-good music and happy endings.

The sexism in The Little Mermaid could be considered one of the worst offenders because sexist ideals hide behind a heroine who is traditionally thought of as spunky, independent, and fiercely feminist: Ariel. We're sad to say, once you look a little closer, that's just not the case. According to its critics, The Little Mermaid is sexist and there's no way around it. Here are the seven biggest arguments that the 1989 animated blockbuster isn't quite so wholesome.

A Man Has Power Over Ariel at All Times
A Man Has Power Over Ariel at ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 7 Sexist Elements Of 'The Little Mermaid'
Photo: Disney
In the movie, Ariel basically has to make a choice: live under the sea and under the rule of her ill-tempered father, King Triton, or live on land and be with her "true love," Prince Eric. The idea that Ariel could make a choice other than the two presented (like living independently or exploring the world to see what would make her most happy) is nonexistent. It's subtle, but the undertone is there: it's a man's world and women just live in it.
It Makes Damaging Distinctions About What Makes a 'Good' Woman and a 'Bad' One
It Makes Damaging Distinctions... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 7 Sexist Elements Of 'The Little Mermaid'
Photo: Disney

Let's take a look a look at the characteristics of a "good" woman through the lens of The Little Mermaid: young, slim, beautiful, scantily clad, silent, and yearning for a man (Ariel). 

Now let's look at the characteristics of the "evil" woman in the film: old, voluptuous, loud, living outside of societal norms, and independent (Ursula).

Is it just us, or is that f*cked up?
'Poor Unfortunate Souls' Tells Girls to Be Quiet to Please Men
'Poor Unfortunate Souls... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 7 Sexist Elements Of 'The Little Mermaid'
Photo: Disney

Before Ariel trades in her voice for a pair of legs, Ursula sings a song to convince her to give up the goods. This gem of a verse seals the deal:

"You'll have your looks, your pretty face
And don't underestimate the importance of body language, ha!
The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes, on land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who get's a man."

Um, excuse me??? How the hell did this argument convince Ariel to give up her voice? We seriously hope that none of the girls who grew up watching this movie took these words to heart.
"Kiss the Girl" Argues That Consent Isn't Necessary
"Kiss the Girl" Argues... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 7 Sexist Elements Of 'The Little Mermaid'
Photo: Disney
When Ariel and Eric are taking their first boat ride together, there's a lot of animated sexual tension happening. The awkwardness causes all the animals within earshot to break out into song, urging Eric to "kiss the girl." Cute. Just one problem: one of the lines in the song states, "There is one way to ask her/It don't take a word/Not a single word/Go on and kiss the girl." Seriously?! It doesn't take a SINGLE WORD? When Sebastian (a lobster) sings these words, what he's really saying is that asking for consent isn't necessary - and that's not OK.