Ever wondered how it would have been to meet a Disney princess in real life? I started dreaming about this at my youngest age and I thought I would have never had the opportunity to make this dream come true. Pretty impossible to realize, isn’t it? Well, right here, at COP 23, I had the occasion to meet, not one, but five women who perfectly embodied the spirit of the newest princess in Disney’s industry: Moana!
“Role of Women as Guardians of the Ocean at the Frontlines of the Climate-Development-Nature Nexus”, this was the topic of the WWF’s side event I took part in. It was meant to touch themes such as gender, women’s role in families and education and, above all, in the caring of oceans and ocean-connected cultures (like Fijian’s). The speakers were: Penina Moce (WWF Ocean Climate Witness from Fiji), Monifa Fiu (Fijian Community Leader), Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven (Director General for Global Issues from Germany), Prof. Elisabeth Holland (Director at PaCE-SD at the University of South Pacific), Raumanu Pranjivan-Sharma (COP 23 President for Gender Focal Point from Fiji) and Carol Phua (Manager MPA Action Agenda for WWF Netherlands, from Malaysia). They all brought examples of women who daily face climate-related issues such as the impossibility to sustain their community as they used to do in the past (for example, fishing in the Pacific Ocean is not so productive as it was years ago). This was what made me think of Moana and her story in Disney’s animation movie. Such as her, all these women are trying to save their natural paradise as mothers, daughters and parts of a community.
They’re sailing to control coral bleaching, they’re educating children, they’re adapting, fighting, surviving.
Unfortunately, every rose has its thorn and, in this case, it stung me right in the heart. Even if it was inspiring to hear such powerful ladies talk, I could not have been able not to notice the contradiction between their stories and some of the words they said during event. At the end of their presentation, during question time, one of the women in the audience pointed out that the majority of them , in fact, tended to exaggerate the “poor condition” of women, the “extreme weight” that is on their shoulders in protecting their people, as if they had always have been left alone in doing it.
As a young woman myself I didn’t feel powerful while seeing those tears and hearing them complain. I actually thought that they partially ruined their spirit, showing some of them not as “strong independent women” but as “weeping weak girls”. Marking how hard women work in order to protect those who they love and to affirm themselves in the world should not be an excuse to fall into the stereotype or to vent frustrations about the “hard life” we live. Feminism is good since it defends gender equality so, to all the Moanas around the world I say: “Keep on doing the great work you already do but never forget that if you want to have power and feel powerful, don’t be the first to belittle others just to expose yourselves.”.