I would like to put forward the proposition that every mother omit fairy-tales from their daughters’ reading list. Why? Because many girls develop a Cinderella Syndrome which they carry into adult life. They wait for Prince Charming or a knight in shining armour to come along to save them from their woes so they can live happily ever after instead of relying on themselves to generate happiness. Now I am not proposing the banning or burning of these books. We all know that when something is banned it gains great publicity and popularity, Fifty Shades of Grey is a perfect example. What I am proposing is that mothers, grandmothers and teachers provide girls with books that empower them.
Fairy tales teach females to constantly put their happiness in someone else’s hands. Many women are guilty of this including myself. A few years ago I tracked down an old school friend who I had not had contact with since my early 20s. She is now extremely successful in her field but when she was telling me her life story her emphasis was on how she hadn’t found her Prince Charming rather than on her career success. How sad it is that we feel we need to be rescued, looked after and/or married to feel whole and successful. From a young age it is imprinted on the female psyche that for a woman to be happy she needs a man and when she finds this man everything will be rosy. We can’t possibly be happy on our own. The fairy tale creates unachievable expectations and dreams. A man is expected to rescue a woman and make her happy. It is expected that he provides for her. In the modern world this is neither practical nor possible. Most women have to work to provide for the family. In reality, all women – especially mothers – need to be superwoman. Fairy tales also give men the impression that women are only interested in appearances and wealth. As children we should have read comic strips with female superheroes instead of fairy tales.
The typical fairy tale shows us that once a damsel in distress has meet her man she lives happily ever after, end of story. Relationships aren’t like that. Dynamics often change and we have to work on our relationships and cherish them. The reality of being a real princess isn’t all gold jewellery, smiles and being pampered anyway. When I think of Mary Donaldson, Crown Princess of Denmark, I think what an amazing woman. She learnt to speak Danish and has to work hard every day meeting many strangers instead of spending time with her children. Her time is rarely her own. She has to make many sacrifices and there is no way in the world I would want to swap places with her. Diana, who we all loved, was betrayed by her prince. There certainly wasn’t a happy ending for her.
Many fairy-tales emphasis appearances over brains. The pretty girl wins the prince, the ugly girl does not. Furthermore, the ugly girl is portrayed as mean and undesirable. Where is the substance? When girls are pitched against each other to compete for the same man, they alienate themselves from each other.
There is a view that fairy tales teach morals and stranger danger (though girls and women are more likely to be abused by people they know). There is also the notion that fairy tales introduce magic and expand the imagination of a child. Magic, enchantment and imagination can all be gained from other stories without stereotypes and pressures for females to be pretty, supportive and submissive. For example, Hermoine in Harry Potter is an intelligent, strong character.
So when your daughter asks who was Cinderella do you tell her she was a pretty girl who was bullied by her ugly step sisters but who won the man and lived happily ever after? Or do you tell your daughter she was a girl who didn’t stand up for her rights and was irresponsible because she lost her shoe? Lets empower our girls to have substance, depth of mind, character and self-esteem. Lets read our girls magical stories where a girl follows her dreams and is happy being herself.
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