Motivation

Is this Shoe the Right Fit: Gender Stereotyping in Fairytale through Cinderella

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Growing up the first source of literature, children are exposed to are fairytales. These stories are read to them by parents as bedtime stories or watched by them on television. These stories are great influencers on a child’s’ mind, and therefore start conforming to its stereotyping, especially gender. Fairytales truly do educate and instill in children’s morality, but children get accustomed to the fairytales and thus begin to identify with the character in the story. The stereotypes in fairytales concern both genders and lay their roles out for them, but at large, the stereotypes are targeted at women. 

One of the biggest and widely spread fairytales is “Cinderella” and as a child one watches her beautiful transformation, her damsel in distress moment, her prince charming who saves her and with everything going on in her life still being the ‘kindest soul’. There are about a thousand various versions of Cinderella, and also different movie adaptation, one of the famous one is by Disney. This fairytale has portrayed so many genders stereotyping that as a child one doesn’t realise but going back to the text, the stereotyping seems a little too evident. 

These stories nearly always start with the phrase “once upon a time. Cinderella was no exception, her story was once upon a time. It revolved around the tragedies in her life with her mother passing away to, father remarrying, treatment by her step-family, and finally meeting the prince who rescues her. These stereotyping are witnessed in stories depicting the higher class and hence talks about the consumption market of the same. The story is said to inspire girls to behave ladylike even if you are not born into nobility. Someday such beauty and grace, not just physical, will get them their prince. Which, will further give them approval from society on their shift from a girl to a lady. Taking the abuse pushed on her by her family instilling the idea of female leads being submissive in nature and continuously requiring help and support from various characters in the story. To have something good, one needs to face hardships in life; this concept is portrayed in the idea by depicting Cinderella as a servant, who is abused and works hard to please people. The prince saves Cinderella, and intern becomes the writer of her destiny. Cinderella further depicted as a perfect template on how to be a proper lady 101. As she doesn’t argue nor talkback makes her the ideal woman. 

As far as beauty is concerned, Cinderella is described as a beautiful woman with her feminine features and wearing a stunning gown to the ball makes her even more attractive. This has been propaganda sold to girls at a very young age that she doesn’t need to sound intelligent as the prince in Cinderella did not care about her intelligence instead only cared for her beauty. This ideology is even seen today where people tell girls they need to ‘dress to impress’, that the only way to grab a man’s attention is by looking ‘beautiful’ adhering to society’s definition of beautiful. The society’s interpretation is influenced by Cinderella and various other fairytales. Who has sold the idea of a small waist, fair and clear-skinned, having her hair always almost perfect – has made girls feel insecure about their body and physical appearance. Due to the obsession of having a smaller waist leads to a lot of girls developing bad eating habits and trying to obtain fair and glowing skin. 

The prince in the story is a strong character who is portrayed as a rescuer and knight in shining armour who comes in and rescues Cinderella from her miserable life and showcases that the whole story revolves to lead to this moment. Cinderella also had to prove her identity to the prince who did not recognise her. 

The love story between the two main characters – Cinderella and Prince Charming seems utterly unreal and cringe-worthy. Love termed here is physical attraction and no interaction to know each other’s personality. Adding to the standard of beauty is applied to boy’s as well. They have to look a sure way to meet the standard of being ‘handsome’. Further, the knight in shining armour syndrome makes boys believe that they are entitled to rescue girls and marry girls based on their look. They think that they need to look for a girl who will take care of the house and not talk back, which leads to a biased society where females and males are conformed to stereotypes. This further makes children believe that marriage is the end goal. 

Cinderella is just one classic fairytale that is discussed and portrays gender stereotypes, but other stories like Sleeping Beauty, snow-white, Rapunzel to formulate stereotypes. As Cinderella is famous and is one of the widely read novels, it made sense to use that as a platform to prove that fairytales are a source of gender stereotypes. There has been a surge in positive and unbiased fairytales and children’s movies such as Shrek, Mulan, Frozen, Brave to name a few but none the less the other stories still exist and propagated to children widely. 

Final Thoughts 

The end of the story is, do we really want children to have unrealistic standards on gender and beauty, and do we want them to believe that vulnerable and weak women are the only ones who grab men’s attention. If we need to formulate change, we need to start with fairytales. Being a fairytale fan myself I don’t mean to say scrap out fairytales all together, fairytales are an essential source of literature that shouldn’t be taken away from children. What we might think about doing is change the stories, portray roles of men and women as strong characters, who value equality and that stereotyping has to take leave from Fairytales. 

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