By Maddy Major.
They’re the stories we all grew up with: those princesses waiting for their prince charming while talking with the local wildlife, not to mention the songs that most of us can burst out singing at the drop of a hat. To children they promoted lessons in bravery, loyalty and kindness but to their feminist parents it seems they provide a very different lesson.
In a Mic article by Chris Cragin-Day he too has noted the rise of feminists taking on Disney classics. He pointed out fairy tales aren’t love stories or gender-focused, rather a “human experience, through a ‘feminine lens’. The example he gave was Cinderella. Yes, the prince arrived in time to sweep poor Cinderella away from her negligent stepfamily, but Cragin-Day claims their story isn’t romantic. Think about it: the prince was a ‘distant figure’. He had no name and his strongest appearance was at the ball. He wasn’t even the one to find Cinderella afterwards – it was one of his footmen. The only key thing the audience was given about the prince was that he found Cinderella beautiful. Cragin-Day claims that this is what the feminists hate, however ‘ancient beauty was different than the beauty we know now’. Cinderella never wore make up and she definitely didn’t hit up the gym after slaving around for her stepmother. She didn’t need implants or Botox either because beauty wasn’t how Cinderella won the heart of the prince. “Nature made her beautiful, the thinking goes, because she was kind,” Cragin-Day wrote.
Despite this, students – the young ones who need these vital lessons – are instead being taught that the stories promote domestic violence and sexism. The current example trotted out is Beauty & The Beast. The Telegraph wrote in an editorial that school students were taught that the Beast does not attack Belle but the threat of physical violence is present and this could be interpreted as giving the message that it is the woman’s fault if her man abuses her.”
The threat of physical violence is present? Is that because he’s a beast? Is it because he threw some starving wolves around to save an average girl who realistically wouldn’t have stood a chance? Or are we referring to the start of the movie when the beast threw the girl’s father in a dungeon for (what was it again?) trespassing? In today’s society, if someone broke into a house they would be met with a bat much less five-star hospitality. The last statement is the most frustrating as the beast was never abusive to begin with. He locked Belle in a bedroom and asked her to join him for dinner. He was probably mad that two people in two days had trespassed into his home. The only near ‘abusive’ scene was when he got angry at her for sneaking into his private wing. I’m pretty sure I’ve yelled at my sisters the same way for coming into my bedroom uninvited, so does this make me abusive too?
According to the ABC the Respectful Relationships curriculum was introduced in Victorian schools this year. Instead of teaching children to embrace their natural strengths (Cinderella’s kindness as an example), it’s teaching them that fairy tales demonstrate a need for women to depend on men, a woman’s worth is judged on her beauty and, my personal favourite, old ladies are witches. Even I can debunk the last
one because there have been a few charming elderly ladies in Disney fairy tales who haven’t been witches: Mrs Potts (Beauty & The Beast) was a teapot for the most part, Grandmother Fa (Mulan) was superstitious, not a witch, Gramma Tala (Moana) deemed ‘crazy’ and was reincarnated as a manta ray but that was solely following a myth and had no connection to witchcraft, Widow Tweed (The Fox and the Hound) was a kind old lady suffering loneliness after the death of her husband.
We are cushioning children far too much. We see them as fragile and in need of protection from everything, but we can’t bubble-wrap our children.
We can’t just change fairy tales or make students focus on the ugly. There’s ugly everywhere in the world – accept it and let children enjoy classic fairy tales. I find it amusing how we find these fairytales too sexist when the Brothers Grimm stories have some of our favourite heroines butchering the rest of the characters. How’s that for ‘girl power’?
No matter how many times we change our fairy tales; there will always be someone who causes a scene.