Domestically Ever After

Me dressed up as Snow White circa 2006

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (similarly to Cinderella) perpetuates the gender norm of women being domestic (for a man). The visual parallels I noticed highlighted the differences between good (Snow White/the dwarves) and evil (the stepmother), and they seemed to emphasize that a good and pure women is one who cleans, whereas a women in power is considered bad and evil. My all-girls high school environment quite directly terminated the notion that women shouldn’t be in powerful positions.

When I saw that probably half of this movie consisted of Snow White voluntarily cleaning the dwarves house when she escapes the evil queen’s order to kill her, I knew this movie was a hopeless cause — despite the apparent selflessness it comes across as on the surface. Snow White’s character acts as if domesticity is her sole duty; it’s become so second nature to her that she doesn’t hesitate to do so, even in a time of danger for herself. Snow White, similarly to Cinderella, is encouraging girls to settle for their born right task of being domestic and servile. I vividly remember asking my parents for the Cinderella and Snow White themed brooms and dust pans that Disney sells, so that I could happily swept my bedroom floor. I’d like to note that I now despise cleaning, and I don’t enjoy domestic tasks (even though a basic level of domesticity is needed for anyone to live independently). With this being said, it disappoints me to realize that even through Disney merch, let alone the movies, Disney is preparing young girls to be a good “wife” when they are older.

Another layer of good women being associated with domesticity comes from visual elements I noticed, which dresses identical objects in different ways to create distinct comparisons between good and evil women.

When Snow White begins taking care of the dwarves and tells them to bathe while she cooks dinner, lots of white/clear, clean bubbles fill the screen. In contrast, when the evil queen stepmother is concocting a potion, murky-colored, dark bubbles fill the screen. Good is associated with Snow White and cleaning bubbles; bad is associated with the evil queen and how she’s using her power. Similarly, the wide shot of the stepmother from behind looking into her green mirror in her dark and spooky chamber is directly contrasted with the medium shot of Snow White’s face in the reflection of the well’s water. Once again, good is associated with snow white and the clearness/purity of water, and bad associated with the evil queen in her castle.

Experiencing an all-girls college prep education was all about preparing girls for higher education and “real-world jobs”— jobs of which could be truly anything we want to pursue. Suddenly, Snow White’s themes were nonexistent: the idea of solely having a domestic path is unheard of, and women holding positions of power is something sought after, encouraged, and commended, rather than deemed inappropriate, a misuse of power, and wrong. I was offered seemingly unlimited opportunities and it was instilled in me that we, as girls, can achieve anything we set our minds and create any path of our passions we desire. We all held leadership positions and had impressive resumes. My school was so focused on these kind of things that they actually failed to provide us with basic knowledge of essential life tasks, some of which are considered domestic…things like cooking, laundry, financial independence. I personally grew up in a household where I learned these things, but a lot of girls in my class barely know how to make their own bed. So, although it’s so important for girls to be educated and independence, ready for the real world, there is still a need to be taught basic domestic tasks (as it is important for boys too), so that self-sufficiency is possible.

Work Cited:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Directed by David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen, and Larry Morey, Walt Disney, 1937. Disney Plus.

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