Gender Roles in Fairy Tales are those things that shape child’s vision of life perceptions. Whatever is told in fairy tales subconsciously stays with them forever.
If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.Albert Einstein
It cannot be questioned that fairy tales are the best way to bring up children through heroic actions of their favorite characters.
Moreover, kids easily absorb whatever they are told from the books and they imitate characters. They never differentiate between good and bad, useful and worthless.
Such huge proportion of info and images affect their life perception and shapes their nature and mindset.
Both get the more serious expression in a child as an adult later on and govern their attitude, behavior, the way they think and judge.
Unfortunately, not all fairy tales with labels “for children” are “healthy” enough to read. They hide a series of stereotypes that strictly outline particular gender roles in fairy tales. This is why controversies overwhelm the fairy tale debate.
Gender Roles in Fairy Tales
Adverse Opinions on the Importance of Fairy Tales
The endless debate on fairy tales still remains quite topical. The discord keeps up surrounding them. It has simply split the society in two. Some people think that fairy tales have a bad influence on women because they stereotype girls.
The second group of disputants is sure that politically correct tales may destroy children’s childhood fantasy. Which side do you support? To sound more convincing let’s consider the two parties one by one!
Gender Roles in Fairy Tales are not That Women-friendly
When thinking of tale characters famous Disney stuff comes to mind at once. They are really amazing and appealing. But put emotions aside and take a closer glimpse.
It is more than obvious that gender roles in fairy tales of Disney are categorized. A helpless beauty waits for her prince. An evil stepmother keeps her under lock.
Such tales show the dependence of women on men who should always save them. Those who think that fairy tales stereotype girls are sure that “woman-needs-to-be-saved” fantasy may also teach young girls to expect marriage and a princess-type wedding ceremony. This is really dangerous.
It keeps girls away from differentiating reality and a fantasy. Besides, they are not even clever enough to consider exaggerations and consequences.
The happy ending is unrealistic since life is cannot be predicted and if a relationship is no longer healthy, it is high time for the couple to break up. This is the only side of a medal. Studies reveal that girls who read lots of fairy tales have lower self-esteem.
They always feel that insecurity which can be overcome only with the help of a man. This is why fairy tales are not that women-friendly. Supporters of this idea want tales to be more realistic.
More Realistic Tales Can Damage Children’s Childhood Fantasy
Actually when looking for realism in fairy tales one faces another issue: realistic tales can damage children’s childhood fantasy. This a good point. Children are not that clever or prudent to stand the fantasy included in tales.
They believe in everything they are told. Besides children are so good at making up stories without any down-to-earth interventions that tale fantasies become more unreal. Thus, what should be done about this? Should tales be more realistic?
Those who oppose this idea find that it may damage childhood perceptions. They also bring five arguments why traditional fairy tales are good for children.
Regardless stereotypes and stressed gender roles in fairy tales, let’s have a look at the reasons bystanders find greater help for children. They suggest that tales;
- are fun to read
- boost children’s imagination and creativeness
- develop critical thinking
- teach what’s wrong and what’s right
- are a huge source of emotions
Aren’t Gender Roles in Fairy Tales Meant to Teach Moral?
When considering these two approaches nobody can say for sure which side is right. It seems the debate has turned into a real battlefield and it still goes one. But now leave alone all the opinions and consider the implicit issues in fairy tales.
It is revealed that fairy tales are not meant only for teaching moral. The problem is that even a little deviation from morality can psychologically influence a kid.
Accordingly, a five-year-old child is not mature enough to analyze and apprehend that stealing (“The Three Bears”) or eating a granny (“Little Red Riding Hood”) is not a good thing to do.
And this is not the end. Stereotypes around girls and gender roles in fairy tales bring forward other drawbacks. All of them, perhaps, should be thoroughly touched upon to raise awareness of sexism problems even in the aspect which seems more or less out of bias.
However, it’s noteworthy that some tales are not that sexist. They just describe traditional gender roles. So here we go!
Sexist Gender Roles in Fairy Tales
A social studies expert Dr. Lauren Rosewarne identifies several sexist approaches in fairy tales. They are;
- women are always saved by men
- women’s value is equal to their beauty
- old women are the worst witches
These are the main points that exist in nearly every tale that demonstrate gender roles. Down below you can find some of them.
Sexist Gender Roles in Fairy Tales #1 | The Little Red Riding Hood
There is no doubt that many children’s stories a child is a lone figure. He is not usually accompanied by friends or parents consistently. However, it is in such fairy tales that we face the dangers of being alone.
This is true about “The little red riding hood” as well. Thus, sexism is another problem we come across in this famous tale. Gender roles are quite obvious here.
Whereas this little girl is shown a vulnerable, weak, kind-hearted and naïve person, the savior who killed the wolf is portrayed as a courageous hero. Never expected such an implication, did you?
Sexist Gender Roles in Fairy Tales #2 | Tales by the Grimm Brothers
The unnecessary sexist approach to female characters makes everyone observe tales from a different angle. To a large extent, kids are crazy about the tales by the Grimm brothers. They are fun, beautiful and have happy endings.
But how about their sexist approach? Haven’t thought of it before? Then let’s ponder over together! Main characters of those tales either have no mother or they are stepdaughters. As for stepmothers, they are portrayed as a monster.
Whereas, fathers are usually forgiven for whatever they do. Moreover, they are always idealized. Gender roles in fairy tales are strongly stressed in the ideas and behavior of female leads. All of them tend to be good and kind girls who dream of getting a man, finding love, having a family or whatever.
What? Are girls only about marrying successfully? Don’t the dream about education, traveling or career? These are nothing more than stereotypes that every girl is extremely tired of hearing and seeing all way around.
Tales with Traditional Gender Roles: “Anahit”
It is necessary to promote a message of gender equality among children. Understanding the notion of equality they will break all stereotypes and get rid of old-fashioned approaches towards women.
This can be done through tales as well. You might see a controversy here because just a few lines up I showed how sexist tales can be. Anyway, calm down, guys. Not all of them depict gender bias or helpless women.
Usually, fairy tales go beyond Disney borders. They are part of different cultures and various nations preserve them as folk treasures.
“Anahit” is an Armenian folktale. Just for you to know Anahit is an Armenian female name. So it’s already clear that Anahit is on the lead in this story. Besides, there is no gender bias. As a female character, she makes the king to learn arts and crafts.
Pretty unexpected, right? The tale comes to prove that women are not that weak and insecure. They can be clever and self-confident. They need no knights or princes around to save them.
Fairy Tales Stereotype Women: Personal Approaches
Usually fairy tale books or movies with colorful images and appropriate content help to bring up a healthy, good-mannered children with a flexible and developed mind.
Through book characters, they get to know what friendship, love, happiness, and kindness are and even how to save the world. Unfortunately, some tales are too scary for children to listen to. They preach violence and their influence on kids is very tangible in terms of psychology.
To my mind, things become worse when gender bias appears through the line of our favorite tales. Men are portrayed as prior to women who are needy and incapable of doing anything for themselves. Particular gender roles in fairy tales lead to aggression only.
Women get the bigger part of partial behavior. But there is a good chance to save the situation. Even though tales are parts of cultural heritage they should undergo a censorship.
You probably say-what? How? You see, children’s literature itself implies a sort of censorship. Once books begin to be written specifically for children, self-censorship should prevent the writer from offensive or sexist stuff. Insofar, some degree of censorship occurs before the book is printed.
Tales become child-friendly. The same is true both for older tales that can be censored before new editions and for new tales which will appear in the future. On reflection, due to fairy tales children should learn that they are equal regardless their gender, age or nationality not just vice versa.
And one more thing -too big proportion of fantasy deprives children of the sense of what is real and what is not.
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