By the numbers: Sexism in Disney princess movies

Disney has always had an interesting relationship with allegations of sexism – for many, the princess movies are a way to empower little girls and boys into dreaming big; for others, they represent a set of images and actions that teach children to conform to a certain standards.

With this debate in mind, we decided to try and take an objective look at the issue.

Focusing on three categories, body image, number of men and women, and number of sexist situations or references, we broke down each of the princess movies and looked at them individually. Here’s what we found.

The average BMI represents a healthy female body shape at BMI 21 and was layered over an image of each princess to compare body shape. The images of the princesses were taken from screenshots during the movie. The grey bars below indicate the number of sexist and positive references; light grey equals good, dark grey equals bad. These references do not take into account cultural or historical sexism. The pie chart looks at the number of distinguishable background characters in each of the movies; dark yellow equals female, light yellow equals male.


BMI snowwhite

Cinderella Aurora

Ariel Belle

Jasmine Pocahontas

Mulan Tiana

Rapunzel Merida


Notes: Frozen is not included as it is not an official Disney princess movie. BMI taken from A sexist situation analysed in accordance with the Werbewatch group’s Criteria for Sexist Advertising. All positive references must challenge previously stated sexist references and can therefore not outnumber the sexist references.



All artwork by Grace Teo. Featured image by Hernán Piñera via Flickr CC.