by Jess Howard
The majority of us will have seen articles featuring ‘Disney princesses redesigned as’. They’ve been tattooed, hungover and turned into pin ups. This time, however, writer and illustrator combo Danielle Sepulveres and Maritza Lugo have teamed up to produce a cartoon featuring Disney princesses visiting the gynaecologist, to promote sexual health awareness and cervical cancer. I have previously discussed why I disagree with cartoons being used to highlight sensitive issues, and this example is no exception.
First of all, I find the use of Disney princesses as educational cartoons in this context incredibly offensive. To quote writer Cat Pajamas’s article ‘Disney Princesses Reimagined Visiting The Gynaecologist is a Thing That Exists’ on smash.com: ‘Mulan may have defeated the entire Hun army with her bare hands (kinda?), but she has yet to face a more frightening enemy than that of the pap smear. *shivers*’. Yes, apparently, women can fight wars and defeat armies, but they are far too delicate to deal with their own sexual health or reproductivity. Admittedly, my first period was pretty stressful, but I’ve never been so afraid of my own bodily functions that I have been reduced to cowering or shivering. To use characters that are traditionally depicted as meek or in need of a man to protect them from harm is ridiculous. Whilst in films and folklore these women often need rescuing or saving, I’ve always managed to attend STD screenings without a man holding my hand.
No only this, but Pajamas’ words reinforce the idea that being a woman is somehow worse than being a man. Women are often shamed for their bodies, periods, or the effects of child birth, and now pap smears are being handed out on a plate to those who wish to mock people just for ‘horror’ of their gender. Furthermore, this does nothing to even attempt to appeal or education people who do not identify as binary gendered. Regardless of which gender you identify as, or if you do not identify as a specific gender at all, if you are sexually active, you should be taking care of your sexual health. Period.
My third problem with these images is their complete and utter sexism. Whilst I can understand why men are not offered the HPV vaccination (to an extent), this does not mean they should not take care of their sexual health. STDs do not discriminate, and once you become sexually active I believe that condoms, contraceptives, and sexual health screenings should become a part of your life. For this reason, the fact that it is princesses and not princes that are being tested for STDs is obscene, placing the issue of contraception in the hands of women, almost ignoring the barrier methods of contraception that are the only way of preventing the transmission of STDs. There is also a huge double standard here. Where are the cartoons showing men getting prostate exams? Or checking for testicular lumps? These issues are equally important, especially as, whilst testicular cancers can develop before puberty, almost half of all instances are reported in men between 20 and 39.
Regardless of which gender you identify as, or if you do not identify as a specific gender at all, if you are sexually active, you should be taking care of your sexual health. Period.
These cartoons may seem light hearted, and many may feel that by utilising the medium of the visual, people are more likely to visit their local doctor or GUM clinic, but to me they just seem patronising. There are so many ways of preventing yourself from contracting STDs, that it seems juvenile to use only delicate and innocent princesses to demonstrate such a significant issue, especially in a context that, for some reason, has only been aimed towards one gender.
Featured image © Maritza Lugo