MamaBlogger365 – Why Does Ursula Get a Bad Rap? by Mindy Stokes

My daughter will turn five in a couple of weeks and she wants to have a Barbie party. I told her that a party with an anatomically incorrect icon is never going to happen on my watch. So then she asked if she could have a Little Mermaid one. I conceded. Isn’t Ariel better than Barbie? At least she can be a little sassy, right? She did disobey her father, King Triton, on occasion. This gives me hope.

Let me give you some context to my reasons for denying my beautiful daughter Barbie. I’m a lesbian and so is her Mama (I guess you figured that one out). We conceived Soleil using artificial insemination through a fertility clinic. My partner and I are both Caucasian, the donor African-American, thus Soleil’s hair will never be long, blond or red. Instead she’s got an amazing afro with curls strangers long for. I teach women’s studies, so I’m a proud feminist (yahoo!) and I’m keenly aware of beauty ideals and eating disorders. And to top it all off, I don’t appreciate Disney or Mattel making their way into my life using princesses, mermaids and unreasonably thin dolls with the ultimate message of patriarchy: what a girl looks like is more important than her mind and in Ariel’s case, her voice.

Feminist mothering requires being ready to thwart patriarchal attacks on all fronts. Not too much TV, even cartoons. Are you aware of the s@#% companies try to sell to our children on Saturday morning? Though I’m grateful Dora the Explorer is a young Hispanic girl who is bilingual and is frequently on an exciting journey that requires a map, does she really need to be on my daughter’s knit cap, her lunch box, the sides of her shoes and on her toothbrush?

And what about Disney’s Snow White? This poor princess must live with a bunch of short, hairy men and spend her days talking to raccoons and deer to stay safe from her evil stepmother. And while I’m on this topic, aren’t there any good stepmothers in these shows? Why must all of the “evil” women be the only ones to speak their minds and have complex characters? Maybe the wicked witches are fed up with playing in the good ol’ boys system and consequently rebel because they soon realize “playing nice” doesn’t give them anything except unmet expectations and disappointment. Or quite possibly, they’re PMSing. I know I’d like to rip some heads off about once every month.

Meanwhile, Cinderella and Snow White are content in cleaning house and living in rags. Even though they have every right to talk back or at the minimum stage a strike against the doldrums of house cleaning, they remain silent, sucking it up (don’t want to make any waves). And to make matters worse, these young women daydream of a handsome prince rescuing them from their troubles, instead of planning their own coup. I know what they need: food! Maybe they have low blood sugar that renders them incapable of orchestrating a get-away plan. Eat some meat, ladies!

I always tell my sweet Soleil that Ursula, the bad witch in the Little Mermaid, is the smart woman in my book. She doesn’t give up her voice, goes for what she wants and to top it all off she has those bad-ass tentacles. Come on, who wouldn’t want eight arms to get things done?!

My plan is to make Soleil’s party mermaid into a feminist princess. This red-head will not give her voice away. And instead of growing a pair of useless legs, she’ll turn Prince Eric into a merman, complete with fins and underwater breathing lungs. Most importantly, if her newly found love tries bossing her around like her father King Triton, she’ll feed him to Ursula’s eels. At my daughter’s party, will be Sebastian, the very cranky lobster. Did you know he likes to conduct music with other male crustaceans under the sea? Does this scream gay to you too? Who else but a gay decapod would constantly tattle on Ariel, while chumming up to the hunky king?

Though she will continue her friendships with a seagull and a cute little fish with yellow stripes, she’ll meet another young, smart, and very capable five-year-old who also lives under the sea. Wouldn’t it be fun for a little girl to have a best friend to swim with, turning flips, buddying up with dolphins, and being a long way from shouting distance of her parents?

I want my daughter to find herself a little feminist, who speaks her mind, follows her dreams and breaks all barriers. Maybe her name will be Princess Erica. We’ll see. Until then, I’ll continue talking up Ursula.

Bio: Mindy Stokes is a feminist, lesbian, author, and mother. She teaches women’s studies at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon. Mindy and her partner of 12 years live with their very sassy daughter, Soleil in the Pacific Northwest. Mindy’s blogs have appeared in HIPFiSHmonthly. You can read about her adventures at or you can buy her memoir Momma Baby Mama: Story of a Knocked-Up Lesbian at

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Photo credit: den_lille_havfrue by pedrojperez|MorgueFile

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