When it comes to girl power moments, it's safe to say that Disney hasn't always had the best reputation. Many of the classic Disney princess movies focused on a young woman searching for the man who would lift her up and make her life complete, but things have changed, and to now act like Disney has nothing to offer in terms of feminism is silly. There are actually a lot of girl power moments on Disney+ that I want my kids to watch, take in, and use as a sort of learning experience.
As the mom of a little girl, I have put a lot of thought into which TV shows and movies I want her to watch, because I very much want her to grow up into an independent, confident young woman who doesn't feel like she has to depend on a man, ever. I firmly believe that what she watches will affect that way of thinking, so while I don't want to police her entire choice of entertainment, I would definitely like to introduce her to a few more feminist options out there. And even if I had a boy, I would want him to watch all of these moments as well — they're beneficial for everyone. And hey, it's Disney. A happy ending is guaranteed.
1. The Episode Of 'Lizzie McGuire' When She Decides She Wants A Bra
Lizzie McGuire itself is an excellent show for any young girl to watch. Lizzie is the slightly awkward, always hilarious, extremely relatable main character, and every girl can see a little bit of themselves in her. While the series is definitely going to be required viewing for my daughter, I really want her to see the episode where Lizzie buys a bra, called "Between A Rock and a Bra Place."
In this episode, Lizzie and her BFF Miranda realize that they need a bra in order to be more grown up, like their ex-BFF Kate. They don't want to tell Lizzie's mom that they want a bra because they're embarrassed, so instead they try sneakily buying one. In the end, Lizzie has to tell her mom she wants a bra. Sounds simple enough, but it's one of the times we get to see Lizzie really assert herself, go after what she wants, and start to grow up. And it's all done during an important moment in any young woman's life: buying your first bra.
2. The End Of 'Pocahontas' When She Decides *Not* To Follow A Man
Pocahontas may be an older Disney movie, but it has a distinctly feminist edge to it that makes it a great movie for any kid to watch. When white, blonde, blue-eyed John Smith comes into her life, Pocahontas makes it clear that she's not about to sit back and let him mansplain everything to her. She stands up for herself repeatedly and is determined to show him they are equals.
By the end of the movie, Pocahontas is the one who has taken on the hero role (she saves him!) and then, when he goes back to Europe, she just waves goodbye, as she decides to stay with her tribe instead of following him. It's an awesome message to send kids: do what is right for you, don't just do what works for someone else.
3. Basically Every Megara Moment In 'Hercules'
Hercules is a very underrated Disney movie, and Megara is a very underrated cartoon feminist superstar. It all starts with some of her first lines in the movie: Hercules happens upon her while she's trapped by a monster. When he tries to save her, she calmly responds, "I'm a damsel. I'm in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day." Ummmm, yes, queen!
The other great thing about Megara is that she was kind of a villain. She proved that, as woman, you don't have to be all sweetness, sugar, and smiles in order to be likable and awesome. She's brave, strong, bold, and not afraid to say it how it is.
4. The Entire 'Moana' Movie
Featuring easily one of the most most feminist Disney characters out there, Moana is going to be a go-to movie for my kids. Moana is a super brave princess who knows how to save herself in dangerous situations and who doesn't seem to be interested in a love story at all. Moana is also the most body-positive Disney princess, as animators steered clear of a teeny-tiny waistline and instead gave her a sturdier build.
Basically, Moana and her entire storyline is really powerful and a great message: you should be dependent on yourself, and no one else, and you can do anything if you believe in yourself and feel confident enough. Who doesn't need to learn something like that?
5. When Mia Decides To Rule Without A Man In 'Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement'
The second movie in The Princess Diaries series may have been all about a special engagement and Mia finding a man to help rule by her side, but it has a surprising girl power twist: when Mia decides to end her engagement and rule without a king.
At a pivotal point in the film, Mia realizes that she doesn't want to get married just to follow an old-fashioned law; she wants to marry for love. Instead of following the law, she declares that she won't be getting married. She says, "My grandmother has ruled without a man by her side for quite some time, and I think she rocks at it." It's a great reminder that you don't need to be in a relationship to be your best self.
6. The Christmas Movie 'Noelle'
Noelle is a fairly new Christmas movie starring Anna Kendrick that, I hope, becomes one of my kids' holiday favorites. The film is a totally different take on Santa Claus. Noelle and her family live in the North Pole, and her dad is Santa Claus. When he dies, her brother Nick is slated to be the next Santa — except he's totally not interested and instead wants to teach yoga in Arizona. Noelle basically embodies Christmas spirit, and it's clear she would make the perfect Santa — it's just that the Elder Elves don't want her to take on the role because she's a woman.
In the end, after trying to get Nick to take on his destiny, Noelle ends up becoming Santa. The whole film is a reminder that you need to follow your heart and give up on old gender rules and expectations: Nick got to be who he wanted to be and got over the fear of being accepted, while Noelle became a female Santa Claus. It's so important for kids to see that women can step into these big roles often taken by men.
7. The Old Disney Channel Original Movie 'Motocrossed'
One of the most girl power Disney Channel Original Movies has to be Motocrossed. The movie is about Andrea, a girl who loves motocross — except her dad thinks it's a boy sport, and doesn't want her participating in it. Instead of going along with that, Andy registers to race under her brother's name, and, of course, wins and becomes a total inspiration.
The whole movie shows that you don't have to adhere to gender rules, even when the closest people in your life think that you do. It's another reminder to always stay true to yourself no matter what. And I love that it shows girls that you don't have to be super traditionally feminine.
8. The Relationship Between Anna & Elsa In 'Frozen'
Frozen is currently one of Disney's most popular movies for a reason: there is so much to love about it. One of the best things is the relationship between Anna and Elsa. Instead of totally focusing on the traditional love story between a guy and a girl, this movie is more focused on the beautiful friendship between Anna and Elsa, which proves to be very powerful and so important.
There's a lot to say about the story, but it's basically all about being true to yourself, sticking to your beliefs, standing up for yourself, and fighting for what is right. Who doesn't want their kids learning about that?
9. The Relationship Between Kim & Ron In 'Kim Possible'
Almost everything in Kim Possible, whether it's the series or one of the movies, is a girl power moment. The whole idea behind the show is that Kim is the leader — she's the one who fights crimes and makes the decisions and gets rid of the bad guys. Ron, meanwhile, is the funny and sometimes goofy assistant and best friend.
The relationship between these two showed a flip of gender roles, and is a powerful reminder that women can be the ones in charge, setting the rules, and making everything work. It's a very important lesson for any kid to learn.
10. When Jasmine Yells At Her Father About Finding A Man In 'Aladdin'
Although Aladdin is a movie about a princess finding true love, it still has its fair share of girl power moments with Jasmine, the main character. Jasmine is the smart, headstrong princess who isn't going to marry just anyone simply because everyone is telling her she has to make a choice. She refuses plenty of men who were considered perfect for her because she didn't like their morals or values — an example that what's inside counts more than what's outside.
One of the best moments of the movie is when Jasmine catches her father discussing her future with Jafar and Aladdin. Instead of sitting back quietly, Jasmine fumes, "All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won." Jasmine showed that you have to know your worth and settle for nothing but the best for yourself.
11. The Friendships In 'Cadet Kelly'
The Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly sends a really great message about feminism and friendship that every kid would find worth watching. Kelly is sent to military camp after her mom marries a general, and she's less than thrilled about it. Throughout the film, we watch her relationship with Jennifer, her commanding officer, change the two of them for the better. The two couldn't be more different, and it's a definite clash between two very different types of young women, but in the end, they get through all the turmoil and become friends.
The movie shows how Kelly and Jennifer are able to overcome their differences and work together to become close friends and comrades in a male-dominated world. It's an awesome display of friendship and girl power.
12. When Rapunzel Saves Flynn Rider In 'Tangled'
Tangled is a different take on the classic Rapunzel story. In this film, Rapunzel is super smart and knowledgable — she's curious and full of life, and she just wants to learn more. She doesn't want to leave the tower to find a man — she wants to leave to learn and explore.
Some of the best girl power moments, though, are when Rapunzel is the one who is seen saving Flynn. Sure, his arrival at the towers is one reason she's able to escape, but she would have done it with or without him. Throughout the movie, Rapunzel saves them both several times, and in the end, it's Rapunzel who ultimately saves his life. It's a nice change of pace for a fairytale.
13. The Teamwork In 'Double Teamed'
There are so many reasons that the Disney Channel Original Movie Double Teamed is full of girl power. For one thing, it's about tall girls who want to play basketball. That in itself is pretty awesome, since women still aren't typically encouraged to take part in sports like basketball (it's still seen as a mostly male pastime).
Double Teamed is also all about teamwork: in the movie, the girls have to overcome each other's differences to learn how to make things work for each other and to follow their dreams. The movie is full of powerful friendship moments that may even bring a tear to your eye.
14. Any Scene Involving Miss Grotke in 'Recess'
The Disney series Recess actually features a lot of progressive, inspiring moments, but any scene involving Miss Grotke was definitely full of girl power moments. She was never afraid to point out the racism and gender inequality in anything she taught, and has become infamous for saying things like, "Take these history books with a grain of salt as they focus primarily on white Western males" and asking where the "Founding Mothers" were when teaching about the Founding Fathers.
Miss Grotke brings up really interesting conversations and things to discuss with your kids, especially about American history.
15. The Strong Female Fighting In 'Halloweentown'
Halloweentown might be a beloved Halloween movie, but it's also a really perfect example of girl power. The whole movie focuses on three generations of powerful witches, and it's all about how they have to fight off the male warlocks who are threatening their lives.
Even better? Each woman in the movie (the grandma, mother, and daughter) become more powerful as they strengthen their relationships with each other and learn to work together to defeat the warlocks. It's all about teamwork and coming together as women to fight off male domination.
16. The Movie 'Gotta Kick It Up'
This Disney Channel Original Movie featured an almost entirely female and majority Latina cast, which was pretty amazing for the time it aired. Each woman in the film has to go through something to find her inner strength. They also work together to get their biology teacher to become the coach of their cheerleading team (which shows that women don't have to be put in a box, and can be experts at science and things like cheerleading), and they have to overcome old-fashioned ideas at the hands of their old coach. Overall, it sends a great message to anyone watching.
17. When Merida Stands Up To Her Mother In 'Brave'
Merida is another feminist princess in the movie Brave. Her mom orders her into an arranged marriage because of tradition, but Merida isn't having it. One of the best moments is when Merida challenges her suitors in an archery contest for her hand in marriage, and beats them all.
But when her mother ignores it, Merida stands up to her, and just... leaves. She ends up on a path to change her destiny, and she takes charge, shows off her bravery multiple times, and defies all the stereotypes. I love that this movie shows such a complicated relationship between mother and daughter, and also love that Merida doesn't end up with a prince in the end.
18. When Mulan Sacrificed Herself To Save Her Family In 'Mulan'
One of Disney's most feminist movies has to be Mulan, which focus on a girl, Mulan, who sacrifices herself for her family. When her disabled father is called into the army, Mulan knows he can't make it — so she dresses like a man and sneakily takes his place, even though she knows that if she's discovered, she could face death.
Mulan quickly becomes one of the best warriors in China, fights for her family and for herself, and becomes a full-blown hero. It's all about girl power and self-empowerment, and it's truly a great movie.