Fairytales and Feminist Ideals
Before I started to write this blog I attempted to undertake some research in the area first and I found something surprising – the early childhood field really hasn’t shown a great deal of interest in the debate over fairy tales, at least not in terms of peer related contemporary articles. There are however a plethora of opinions out there so let me add mine to the list. I have two issues with fairy tales. One is simply the role of the princess, always the damsel in distress waiting for a prince to make her life complete. I love Alison Lester’s “Magic Beach” (1990) for reversing these traditional roles. My other issue is this: according to the average fairy tale – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – if you are beautiful (and in the Disney versions an Aguilera type singing voice is also a bonus) then you will grow up to find a handsome prince, get married (I’m assuming have children) and live ‘happily ever after’. As long as you have your beauty regime down.
Where is the career princess? Where is the princess with her nose stuck in a book? I would like to pay homage here to Robert Munsch’s “The Paper Bag Princess” (1980) – the one book that completely obliterates any traditional princess story. She may not be focused on her brain, but at least she isn’t characterised by her beauty either.
This brings me to the role of the princess. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, I have the beauty thing down - really, I am one stunning princess. But guess what? I don’t want a husband (gasp) or a child (‘no’). I want to take over for the king. I’m going to govern this land like it has never been before. Where is that princess?
From this young, impressionable age we are having a very out dated societal norm ingrained in to our very being. This is what is expected of us as women – and if we are beautiful then it will all be so much easier to obtain. Is this a positive ideal to be encouraging in our young girls today? Does this promote lifelong learning in females?
Finally, consider the impact of this message on boys? It is your job, men, to go out and rescue the girl (just the hot ones). Then once you’ve found the girl and married her, it’s on you to go out and support her while she stays home and looks after the children. Well, to this I say bring on the stay at home dads! More power to them! And how does this encourage relationships be give and take, supporting each other, rescuing each other?
I am not a feminist, but we women in the early childhood sector know better than most the way in which women are still undervalued in the workforce. When does this ideal of women and men being different start? How do we unwillingly promote it? These are the questions that were provoked in me by the advertisement that started me on this train of thought.I leave you with the link to the strong words of tennis champion Serena Williams. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zNQFYxSDLE&index=4&list=PLizuYoupVGDTHOc9GV0DeE_eNmyHLUl9a