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