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Help, My Eyeball Is Bigger Than My Wrist!

• December 19, 2013 • 4:00 PM

Frozen. (PHOTO: COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY STUDIOS)

Gender dimorphism in Disney’s Frozen.

I can’t offer much in the crowded field of Disney gender criticism. But I do want to update my running series on the company’s animated gender dimorphism. The latest installment is Frozen.

Just when I was wondering what the body dimensions of the supposedly-human characters were, the script conveniently supplied the dimorphism money-shot: hand-in-hand romantic leads, with perfect composition for both eye-size and hand-size comparisons (above).

With the gloves you can’t compare the hands exactly, but you get the idea. And the eyes? Yes, her eyeball actually has a wider diameter than her wrist.

Giant eyes and tiny hands symbolize femininity in Disneyland.

While I’m at at, I may as well include Brave in the series. Unless I have repressed it, there is no romance story for the female lead in that movie, but there are some nice comparison shots of her parents:

3-32

Go ahead, give me some explanation about the different gene pools of the rival clans from which Merida’s parents came.

Since I first complained about this regarding Tangled, I have updated the story to include Gnomeo and Juliet. You can check those posts for more links to research (and see also this essay on human versus animal dimorphism by Lisa Wade). To just refresh the image file, though, here are the key images. From Tangled:

4-gender

From Gnomeo:

5-41

At this point I think the evidence suggests that Disney favors compositions in which women’s hands are tiny compared to men’s, especially when they are in romantic relationships.

REAL WRIST-SIZE ADDENDUM
How do real men’s and women’s wrist sizes differ? I looked at seven studies on topics ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to judo mastery, and found a range of averages for women of 15.4cm to 16.3cm, and for men of 17.5cm to 18.1cm (in both cases the judo team had the thickest wrists).

‘Then I found this awesome anthropometric survey of U.S. Army personnel from 1988. In that sample (almost 4,000, chosen to match the age, gender, and race/ethnic composition of the Army), the averages were 15.1cm for women and 17.4cm for men. Based on the detailed percentiles listed, I made this chart of the distributions:

6-51

The average difference between men’s and women’s wrists in this Army sample is 2.3cm, or a ratio of 1.15-to-1. However, if you took the smallest-wristed woman (12.9cm) and the largest-wristed man (20.4cm), you could get a difference of 7.5cm, or a ratio of 1.6-to-1. Without being able to hack into the Disney animation servers with a tape measure I can’t compare them directly, but from the pictures it looks like these couples have differences greater than the most extreme differences found in the U.S. Army.


This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

Philip N. Cohen
Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland-College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality.

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