In the Disney animated film, "The Little Mermaid," the mermaid princess, Ariel has been watching the activities of humans on land from afar and longs to "...be a part of their world." She goes
so far as to make a deal with Ursula the Octypuss who says she can give Ariel legs for 3 days to walk on land. To keep the legs and remain human, Ariel must get the Prince to fall in love with her but there is a catch, Ursula will
take Ariel's voice. Despite the objections of Ariel's sea companions she makes the deal, joins humans on land with her legs but without the ability to speak.
Leaving fairytales and sensational Disney movies aside, I believe there is something very important going on in this story that reveals something many of us, especially women, can relate to.
I have been teaching Assertiveness now for over 30 years. While there have been many men in my classes throughout the years, the vast majority of my students have been women. While there are some very assertive and even aggressive
women in the world, it is far more common for women to be passive. I would go so far as to say that for many women, their voices have basically been stolen from them.
Gender roles develop largely as a result of the culture we grow up in. Even living in the age of "feminism," many of us were still raised with traditional gender roles. Girl Training code says,
"Don't be too strong, too outspoken, too sexual, too aggressive." It results in girls modifying themselves to be pleasing to get a man, not only in behavior, but also focusing on looking good. In the Little Mermaid, Ariel
asks Ursula how she will get the Prince to fall in love with her if she can't use her voice and Ursula tells her to use her "body" language. Meaning, she'll have to make use of her "looks." There is a lot of
pressure placed on women to look good, be attractive and to age well.
Our mothers may have also modeled the standard of sacrificing our needs for those of our husbands and children. We often learn to stifle our voices, to not stand up for ourselves and to martyr oursselves so others can get what they want
Finally, in many family dynamics, children don't find a listening ear when they are challenged by injustices whether coming from their siblings or even their own parents. Many children are expected to serve,
to make their parents look good and not be a problem.
The long term effect of all these factors is passivity. These girls grow into women who don't know how they feel much less have the ability to ask for what they need and/or want, or to express themselves in a meaningful way.
These women are much less likely to set healthy boundaries.