Disney fell back on women’s clothing and the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

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It’s the new tale as old as time. A young woman or girl goes to an amusement park. She is wearing a light top. She goes about her day – until someone points her out. The reason? Her outfit, which was found to violate the park’s nebulous dress code. Depending on where the incident is taking place, he is told to either find something else to wear or give him a free t-shirt. She tells all this in a video that she then puts online on social networks. The pictures are going viral.

The latest example dates back to a few days ago, when a woman said she was forced to change while visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida (where temperatures hover between 70 and 80°F, or 21 and 26°C). In her video, which she shared on TikTok, she was seen wearing a black cropped top with sleeves after being told the garment violated the park’s dress code. She then goes to a gift shop to pick up a yellow, short-sleeved, crew-neck t-shirt with the park’s name on it, which apparently matches the park’s rules unlike her own top.

A similar incident was reported in June last year, when a woman said she was told her top was inappropriate and she was made to change into the same free t-shirt. (Does Disney just keep piles of yellow t-shirts in anticipation of alleged dress code violations? This specific design no longer appears to be on sale, although it has been reported to be a hit in 2020 And, listen, it doesn’t make me happy to admit it, but the retro design is fine. quite attractive. It is also for sale on several used sites. Did these people actually buy the shirt, or were they all given a dress code and now trying to unload their scarlet letters? No judgment anyway!)

Apparently, it’s not just Disney: In February this year, a woman said she was told to change her top by Universal officials, also in Orlando. (No free T-shirt this time: the woman said she was wearing a top a friend had in the car.)

On its website, Disney says it expects guests to wear “appropriate attire, including shoes and shirts.” “The parks are a relaxed, family-friendly environment,” the rules add. “Ensuring the parks are family-friendly is an important part of the Disney experience. With that in mind, we ask that you use discretion and common sense. He then lists several examples of “inappropriate attire,” including including “clothing containing objectionable material, including obscene language or graphics” and “clothing which by its nature exposes excessive portions of skin which may be considered inappropriate for a home environment”.

On the face of it, this all seems pretty reasonable — it’s Disney, so the idea of ​​family values ​​isn’t a huge surprise. Sure, it might need a little more nuance here and there — maybe showing up in an outfit that “exposes excessive parts of the skin” isn’t as bad as showing up in a T- shirt bearing “obscene language or graphics”. ”, but this is an FAQ, not the Constitution, so I’ll try not to think too much about it.

The problem is when the “let’s keep it all for the family” turns into a specific font for the female body. For decades, the concept of what is appropriate and what is not has been used to control women, creating fertile ground for criticizing them if they “get it wrong” under deliberately vague and ambiguous rules. “Common sense” is a flimsy notion – perhaps too flimsy to provide the basis for a set of rules, even a dress code.

This becomes all the more interesting when you consider Disney’s dual identity: on the one hand, a purveyor of theme parks all claiming to be “the happiest place on earth”, and on the other, a purveyor of astronomically successful films. Obviously, the two are related, but you can easily enjoy one without the other. (Space Mountain isn’t inspired by a Disney movie, but is it the company’s most iconic ride? Hands down.) I’m not what I’d call a committed Disney superfan, but, reader , I have fun. Paris, where I come from, had its own Disney park the year after I was born, so yes, I went. I grew up with Disney movies. As an adult, I’ve always had a thing for Pixar movies, and I wish they existed when I was a kid. Soul was the existential fable I didn’t know I needed. Upside down was moving and unexpected. Disney’s own animated movies are just as enjoyable – Encanto was fantastic. Moana? Frozen? People loved these movies! Like it should be !

Pixar just released turn red, a film about Mei, a 13-year-old girl who turns into a red panda when she experiences strong emotions. The film was praised for its portrayal of adolescence – “Mei’s transformation is clearly a metaphor for the onset of puberty, when your body betrays you and becomes unrecognizable overnight”, noted NPRpraising the way the film tackles themes such as “shame, repression and social anxiety”. rolling stone called it “a brilliant, moving, funny and joyful film about teenage angst that doesn’t condescend but doesn’t overwhelm either.”

Part of the discourse around turn red revolved around the fact that the film openly discusses menstruation and menstrual products, still rare in films aimed at younger viewers. There was some backlash from people who felt it made the movie inappropriate for kids, and in turn, many people pointed out that normalizing the periods is probably good for everyone involved. “Of all the things parents have to worry about when it comes to raising children, normal bodily function like menstruation shouldn’t be one of them,” said Elizabeth Schroeder, a sex educator. The New York Times. “There’s so much shame in the way bodies work, when we should be celebrating them instead.” And it’s equally important that boys realize that, rather than growing up in a world where the opposite sex is shrouded in mystery, like a title aptly: “Let your sons watch the Pixar era movie, you cowards.”

So, on the one hand, we have Disney who would control the dress of female guests at Disney World, and on the other hand, we have Disney starting important conversations about menstruation. To add to the dissonance, Disney also initially refused to speak out against Florida’s terrible ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which would ban teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender issues with students until later. to third grade, and would restrict such conversations in other classes. (In one declaration released on March 11, Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologized for not speaking out on the matter sooner, admitting that “it’s not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but rather another challenge to fundamental human rights”. He also has tell the shareholders he called on Governor Ron DeSantis “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender children and families.” Disney workers made additional requestsincluding asking Disney to stop donating to a list of Florida politicians.)

Disney has attempted to portray itself as apolitical, instead leaning into values ​​it once considered “universal”, defined by Chapek as “values ​​of respect, values ​​of decency, values ​​of integrity and values ​​of inclusion”. But there comes a time when silence is no longer enough and, above all, is no longer neutral. It’s time for Disney to show the same openness and tolerance in real life that it portrayed on the big screen.

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