Forbes wants young women to know that Disney princesses are sexual beings. Just like them.
In January, writer and sex-ed speaker Danielle Sepulveres paired up with artist Maritza Lugo for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month to create pictures of the Disney princesses visiting gynecologists. Forbes contributor Tara Haelle publicized the story of how “even Disney princesses need to take responsibility for their reproductive health.”
According to Haelle, Sepulveres “became frustrated” after trying to pitch stories for Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month in September. As a result, she took “a new approach to catch people’s attention” in January.
That new strategy consisted of showing that Disney princesses have (consequences after) sex too. And it worked: Forbes, the Huffington Post and others in the media latched on to the idea.
“Almost every day my timeline on social media is bombarded with re-imagined Disney princesses in one way or another and most people get a huge kick out of it,” Sepulveres told Haelle. “So one day it hit me—had anyone ever drawn them going to the gynecologist before?”
But while Sepulveres primarily wanted to draw attention to cervical cancer and HPV, she didn’t stop there. And that’s the problem.
Not only do Lugo’s pictures show Mulan’s cervical cancer screening or Tiana’s HPV vaccine, but also they show Cinderella’s STD testing, Belle’s emergency contraception and Jasmine’s “family planning” education.
Of course young women – all human beings – need to take care of their bodies. But not necessarily in the ways Sepulveres insists (especially at a time when “family planning” is code for “abortion”).
And, well, it’s rather demeaning to assume that all young women are sleeping around. Or that we take our cues from her sexualized Disney princesses.
“After Belle marries the Beast and Tiana opens her restaurant with Naveen and Aladdin and Jasmine fly off to see the world on a magic carpet honeymoon…then what?” Haelle asked in her piece for Forbes. “As they’re living happily ever after, there’s probably some sex involved at some point. And that means even Disney princesses need to take responsibility for their reproductive health.”
Haelle wasn’t alone in her praise for the project, either.
“Disney Princesses Go To The Gyno And Live Happily Ever After” read the Huffington Post’s headline. Women’s site Bustle also applauded “Disney Princesses At The OB-GYN … Make An Important Statement For Cervical Health Awareness Month.” Seventeen called the depiction “so accurate.”
Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood described the art as “too amazing for words.”
But it was surprising that Sepulveres complained on Tumblr that “pitches to female editors about this topic were ignored or rejected by The Daily Beast, Cosmopolitan, The Establishment, Buzzfeed, Glamour, The Cut and several others.”
More frank on her Tumblr than with the Forbes contributor, Sepulveres wrote that it was “too bad” that she couldn’t use “amazing,” “catchy phrases” to promote awareness like “Brrr my cervix is freezing” or “Don’t leave my cervix out in the cold.”
“But can’t we use January, the beginning of a new year for a fresh start for sex ed as a whole?” she asked. “Do we really want kids sitting through a class teaching them that a girl saying ‘no’ to sex is the one you should keep pursuing?”