She-Ra, A Feminist Icon?

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Within my first few weeks of arriving at university it was decided that we would go out in fancy dress, just for the fun of it. There was only one choice for me – She-Ra, Princess of Power. I bought and fashioned a cheap white dress, found a gold belt, created arm sleeves from the legs of gold shiny leggings and then made a red cloak from fabric bought from the local market. I found a tiara from a fancy dress shop, but it pinched my face so tightly that my forehead almost covered my eyes and I decided to leave it out. It gave me as much satisfaction at 20 years old as it would have done thirteen years before – for those few hours I brought back some brilliant memories from my childhood. Granted, I may have been a beer drinking, chain smoking version of my idol, but I’m sure even She – Ra indulged in a pint from time to time.

Like lots of children born in the 80’s, I looked up to her – she was the ultimate  icon for my seven year old self. She was a fighter – a member of the rebellion who sought to overthrow the evil Hordak and his army in Etheria, and she did it with style. She could heal the sick, communicate with animals and kick ass, and she managed to do it all with perfect hair and make-up in tact whilst brandishing a magical sword and flying atop her magical unicorn, Swift Wind.

Unlike many cartoons of the same era, She-Ra was female focused (you only have to examine The Smurfs to see what I’m talking about here). Instead of the being the ‘token’ woman in the show, she was the leader of a whole army of strong, equally leggy and fabulous woman. An earlier, more flamboyant Spice Girls, if you will, without the autotune.

She maintained her femininity while being as strong, if not stronger than her male counterparts. Instead of being the ‘damsel in distress,’ She-Ra frequently rescued her male friends – in particular the moustache sporting Bow, who was clearly still in the closet. She was smart and independent, held her own with any male character and did so without wearing pants.

She-Ra might have lived in the Princess of Power Palace, but she certainly didn’t sit in it’s walls and wait for a handsome prince to rescue her. (However, as a side note, the gas and electricity bills can’t have been cheap, although I doubt that Whispering Woods and the surrounding areas had a council tax band rating. Her Sword of Protection also allowed her to keep in contact with her brother, He-Man, thus saving on an enormous phone bill, so there were at least some benefits).

she-ra-princess-of-power

There were also a few perks that clearly came with the job. Her transformation, complete with more lights, fireworks and wind machines than a Beyonce concert, left her with brushable hair extensions, a gold tiara and bright red lipstick. For free. I was also jealous of her ability to communicate with animals. Although I can usually guess how my cats are feeling by the ‘stop poking me and go away’ expressions on their faces, it would be quite amusing to find out exactly what they’re thinking.

At the end of each episode there would be the message, or the moral of the story, that told us why it was important to love each other, look after each other and respect the environment around us. I don’t see that very much in cartoons anymore. Certainly not in ones where women kick ass in hot pants…

Suck on that, Dora.

14 thoughts on “She-Ra, A Feminist Icon?

  1. Agreed. We need more She-roes in our cartoons and morals in our stories. My girls liked She-ra. When they were little, they liked Serendipity because of the morals in the stories. Great blast from the past!

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