Feminism And Fairy Tales Essay

1511 words - 6 pages

In a society unbridled with double standards and set views about women, one may wonder the origins of such beliefs. It might come as a surprise that these ideals and standards are embedded and have been for centuries in the beloved fairy tales we enjoyed reading as kids. In her analytical essay, “To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tales”, Karen Rowe argues that fairy tales present “cultural norms which exalt passivity, dependency, and self-sacrifice as a female’s cardinal virtues.” Rowe presents an excellent point, which can be supported by versions of the cult classics, “Cinderella” and “Snow White”. Charles Perrault’s “ The Little Glass Slipper” and the Brothers Grimm’s “ Snow White” exemplify the beliefs that females are supposed to be docile, dependent on the male persona and willing to sacrifice themselves. In many cases, when strong female characters are presented they are always contradicting in these characteristics, thus labeled as villainous. Such is the case of the Cinderella’s stepsisters in Perrault’s “Cinderella” and the stepmother in the Brothers Grimm’s “Snow White.” These female characters face judgment and disapproval when they commit the same acts as male characters. With such messages rooted in our beloved fairy tales it is no wonder that society is rampant with these ideals about women and disapprove of women when they try to break free of this mold.

A prolific exemplification of the ideal female virtues portrayed in fairy tales is Charles Perrault’s “ The Little Glass Slipper”. Perrault presents the ideal female fairy tale character through his portrayal of Cinderella. Cinderella is a tame and forgiving individual who subjects herself to the will of her father, stepmother and stepsisters. Cinderella and her happiness are entirely dependent on the aid of her fairy godmother. After Cinderella is finally discovered as the prince’s lost love, Perrault writes “Cinderella took them up, and, as she embraced them, said that she forgave them with all her heart, and wanted them always to love her” (5). Cinderella’s actions go on to demonstrate her passivity and goodwill towards those that mistreated and cause harm upon her. What might seem as an act of kindness and forgiveness by Cinderella towards her stepsisters, is really an underlining message aimed towards young girls instructing them that if they want to be as gracious and beautiful as Cinderella they have to forgive and forget and always turn the other cheek. This point can also be emphasized when Cinderella forgives her stepsisters when they poke fun at her because she can’t go to the ball. Perrault states that “Anyone but Cinderella would have fixed their hair awry , but she was very good, and dressed the perfectly well” (2). Perrault once again shows that females should be kind and passive, regardless of the harm done to them. Perrault further emphasizes this point when he states that “Young women, in the winning of a heart, graciousness...

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