As a mother of young kids, I’m glad to see Walmart take Cosmopolitan out of the checkout aisle. Cosmo long ago morphed from a women’s lifestyle magazine to one with a niche as a sex how-to guide, which it declares in bold-faced headlines on its cover, encouraging awkward questions from young readers.
Walmart credits the #MeToo movement for encouraging this change, as a part of a larger effort to de-sexualize our common culture. That’s a great direction for this movement to focus. There are plenty of difficult gray areas that surround the issues of sexual harassment, including expectations for dating, sexual relationships, and particularly interactions that occur in a work environment. Yet this isn’t one of those gray areas. It’s common sense that the public should do what it can to prevent exposing young children to explicit materials. And the good news is that companies like Walmart are responding to the public demand for better policies.
Of course, common sense still eludes some. A Planned Parenthood branch recently tweeted — and then retracted — a call for “a Disney princess who’s had an abortion. We need a Disney princess who’s pro-choice. We need a Disney princess who’s an undocumented immigrant. We need a Disney princess who’s actually a union worker. We need a Disney princess who’s trans.”
Anyone who thinks that delving into abortion politics is appropriate for a Disney princess movie is deeply out of touch with childhood culture and Disney’s audience, and is likely disturbed. Disney princesses cater to girls age eight and under, who mercifully typically aren’t yet familiar with the birds and the bees, much less abortions. Disney has made efforts over the years to diversify the princesses — not only in terms of race, but also so that not every story ends with marriage as the princess characters live happily ever after. For the most part at least, this has sent some positive messages about the different roles and versions of happiness that are available to everyone.
Fortunately, it looks like even Planned Parenthood — in retracting their tweet — heard enough blow-back from the public that it came to recognize this call for a post-abortive Disney princesses was in poor taste. That’s another hopeful sign — however small — that there is at least a little consensus out there about the culture we want surrounding our kids.