* My parents will find this hilarious.
When I was little, I watched “The Little Mermaid” so many times that we had to buy a new copy. And mind you, that’s a new copy of the VHS tape. None of this newfangled DVD nonsense. I can still remember every word, song, note and splash from that whole movie as it is burned into my mind from such a young age. I loved that movie then, and I love it now. I even gained a new appreciation for it as I spent the last year or so experimenting with red hair. I couldn’t get enough of Ariel, the adventurous, albeit a bit rebellious, young girl who had the courage to dream of a better life, out from under the rule of her tyrannical father and shallow (pun intended) sisters, and she found that in her one true love, Prince Eric, who definitely fell for her whole self, not just her looks. Okay, so maybe The Little Mermaid isn’t the shining example of Disney philosophy on women and self-worth. But, I just loved it so much.
Surely, it was only a matter of time as I grew into my adolescence until I shifted from wishing I was a mermaid to identifying with Belle, the almost irredeemably strange young bookworm who felt like she just didn’t fit into her little country town. (I also appreciate that she reads books over and over again, one of my personal literary preferences.) I Iearned to adore Belle, and felt like I found a Disney princess who really “got” me.
Someone asked me recently who my favorite princess is, and yes, that is a pretty regular topic of conversation among my twenty-something friends, please stop judging me. I started to think about the whole Ariel-to-Belle shift, and when that had happened, and why. It surely wasn’t because I grew out of wanting red hair or to live in the sea. It wasn’t because I think Stockholm Syndrome is an admirable romantic practice. And it definitely wasn’t because I graduated from singing fish to singing castle furniture. No, no. What I realized is that now, as a 26-year-old woman, one of the very most important things to me is my (figurative and literal) voice.
At this point, I’m not tempted to trade in my voice for anything – not a man, or a job, or an opportunity. This isn’t to say I’ve never wanted to, or that I’ve never been so insecure that I volunteered to. In fact, my relationship with the church has been tumultuous at times because of this precise issue. What I have learned, however, is that my voice is the way that God has equipped me to connect and to breathe and to love and to live. I have a purpose and a voice to enact that purpose, and that has helped me see the problems with living a life of a voice that is merely negotiable, like Ariel. I’ve become confident enough in my peculiarity, like Belle, to proclaim loudly that I am a certain person and no one else. I will not be shushed. I will nurture a gentle and quiet spirit as a humble follower of Christ. I will not be quieted for being a woman. I will tell and write my story and the stories of others. I will hold the door open, as Shauna Niequist says, for other women to find and confidently use their voices, especially in the church, because it is necessary.
In such a small and silly question as “which Disney princess is your favorite?” I have found a reminder of who God has created me to be, and uncovered opportunities for gratitude that I hadn’t recognized. Perhaps there’s something there that wasn’t there before.