New Disney Heroine’s Eyes Are Bigger Than Her Wrists

What Women Really Think
Dec. 18 2013 4:11 PM

New Disney Heroine’s Eyes Are Bigger Than Her Wrists

Frozen_wrists
A scene from Frozen

Courtesy of Disney

Philip N. Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park, writes frequently at Sociological Images about the way that physical differences between the sexes are exaggerated to uphold the narrative that men and women are "opposite." His latest post chronicles the way that Disney films magnify gender differences between male and female characters, particularly if they are portrayed on screen as eligible for romantic attention. The apparent need to make the male characters seem so much larger and sturdier than the female characters manifests to a comical level in how male and female wrists are drawn: Female wrists in Disney films are a fraction of the size of male wrists. But you know what else Cohen discovered while studying the wrists? In the latest Disney movie Frozen, the heroine Anna's eyes are bigger than her wrists.

Frozen_eye

Courtesy of Disney

In Disney movies, men's wrists are often three or four times larger than women's wrists. Cohen looks at real-life statistics, gathered from soldiers in the Army, and shows that the average size difference between male and female wrists is closer to a 1.15-to-1 ratio, and that even the largest wristed man in the sample had a wrist that was only 60 percent larger than the smallest wristed woman. Nothing came even close to Disney's animation. Even in the relatively feminist movie Brave, the heroine's father has hands that appear to be three times as large as his wife's shoulder.

Advertisement

Obviously, proportions in cartoons are quite different than real life because the exaggeration adds visual interest, personality cues, and a sense of playfulness. Characters that are supposed to be "cute" become rounder and bigger-eyed than they likely would be in life. Sinister characters are often more angular than real people are. That doesn't excuse signaling to the audience that an inherent part of being female is to be as small and diminutive as possible, and impossibly so. Especially since these gender size differences are even more amplified if the heroine is supposed to be a romantic lead, sending the troubling message that to be loveable, it's best to take up almost no space at all. Shrink your bones down, if you can. Preferably until they're smaller than your eyeballs.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Women’s Sports Show

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Oct. 1 2014 1:53 PM Slate Superfest East How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 2:24 PM The New Interstellar Trailer Is the Most Exciting Yet
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 2:26 PM The Apple Graveyard Leave a flower for a dead Apple product.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.