Fairy Tales and Gender Roles Essay example
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Fairy Tales and Gender Roles
Some things about fairy tales we know to be true. They begin with "once upon a time." They end with "happily ever after." And somewhere in between the prince rescues the damsel in distress. Of course, this is not actually the case. Many fairytales omit these essential words. But few fairytales in the Western tradition indeed fail to have a beautiful, passive maiden rescued by a vibrant man, usually her superior in either social rank or in moral standing. Indeed, it is precisely the passivity of the women in fairy tales that has led so many progressive parents to wonder whether their children should be exposed to them. Can any girl ever really believe that she can grow up to be president or CEO or an…show more content…
But in fact we use the stories that we tell children, and especially those that we tell over and over, to instill messages, to teach cultural norms, to establish the roots of what we hope will be proper behavior as the children grow up. Fairytales are a form of propaganda. The traditional fairytale almost always reflects (and therefore works to reproduce) the power relations of patriarchy; its rigid sexual patterns teach that fear and masochism are tenets of femininity and all of the symbolic inversions that occur are not chances to upset the standard patriarchal hierarchy but are instead ways of maintaining it (Bacchilega, 1997, pp. 50-1).
To return for a moment to "Snow White," the fact that women are presented so often as the oppressors of other women (or girls) is an essential aspect of fairytales, for it is an essential aspect of any patriarchal culture. One of the great questions for contemporary feminist scholars has always been, if women do not want to live in a sexist world, then why do they not raise their sons differently? Given that women are in almost all cases the primary caretakers of both sons and daughters, surely a determined generation of mothers could raise up an entire generation of sons who would behave very differently than their fathers had done in terms of treating
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