Let’s say goodbye to Women’s History month from the meeting place of reality and make-believe.
“Many say the character of Belle (Beauty) is a throwback from a sexist fairy tale and that her life as an animated Disney princess is shallow. Others say she may have been modernized as a powerful heroine in this iteration, a working woman played by a real-life feminist.
In this latest version, Belle is an inventor, one who creates the washing machine so she can spend more time reading. She is a tech innovator, a start-up entrepreneur, a role model for women’s leadership. We acknowledge deeply that her name is Belle, and her archetype is Beauty, not Brains.
While this fairytale was written by a female French novelist, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and published in 1740, it was cemented in American popular culture with the animated 1991 Disney version of the story. Actress Emma Watson, who plays Belle in this new film, has said she idolized the character as a child.
However, in the new version, Belle has positive leadership attributes that can work well for this generation of women and the next, with tongue planted in cheek:
She persists. Belle sets off to rescue her father, taking his fate into her hands, knowing the danger. In modern life, she is a leader who embarks on projects with confidence and mission. Active, not passive, she takes decisive action on her present and future to change her life.
Back off, wolves. Maybe it’s too obvious a metaphor, but Belle has to fight the wolves in the forest—can they be seen as men defending their turf in business and the boardroom? Perhaps the snarls and hisses are sexist comments and harassment that so many women endure on the way to gender parity.
She’s nonjudgmental and deep. Belle doesn’t judge a beast by his hooves, so she comes off as a role model for a leader who will look to the performance, intelligence and insight from her co-workers, not what they look like.
Not afraid to be smart. She is not offended by her outsider persona as a bookworm. Belle is someone in the workplace who works hard, delivers on time, does the research necessary and is not distracted from her goals.
Give Beast a chance. Updating her character to 2017 workplace circumstances, Belle might be the one person at work who talks to everyone, is never dismissive and allows for people to grow, develop and change into who they truly are.
Grasping the power to change your life. Belle embodies Leadership Power Tool #2, to define your own terms. Embraced with intention, women shift from the outdated, oppressive “power over” (or what Beast engages in at first) to the expansive, positive and innovative “power to.”
Until the next time when we view women through the time machine of 2018 Women’s History Month.
Until next time, remember,
You are not alone.
You are not your circumstances.
You have everything within you to live a purpose-filled life.