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Feminism and Fairy Tales

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Fairy tales and Feminism
In Feminism and Fairy Tales, by Karen E. Rowe, she asserts “popular folktales” have “shaped our romantic expectations” and “illuminate psychic ambiguities which often confound contemporary women.” She believes that “Portrayals of adolescent waiting and dreaming, patterns of double enchantment, and romanticizations of marriage contribute to the potency of fairy tales” make “many readers discount obvious fantasy elements and fall prey to more subtle paradigms through identification with the heroine.” As a result, Karen Role contends that “subconsciously women may transfer from fairy tales into real life cultural norms which exalt passivity, dependency, and self-sacrifice as a female’s cardinal virtues suggest that culture’s very survival depends upon a woman’s acceptance of roles which relegate her to motherhood and domesticity.” It is undeniable that numerous folk tales implant male chauvinism into women’s mind and thus convey an idea that woman should obey to and depend on men. However; Rowe neglects the aspect that many other folk tales, on the contrary, disclose the evil and vulnerable sides of man and marriage and thus encourages women to rely on their own intelligence and courage other than subordinating to man. Fairy tales Beauty and Beast and Fowler’s Fowl challenges Rowe’s thesis to some extent and exemplifies that some fairy tales motivate women to be intelligent and courageous and to challenge the patriarchy.
In the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty rescues the Beast and her family with brilliant morality and arduous efforts. Rowe merely focuses on the oedipal complex between Beauty and her father so that she overlooks Beauty’s persistent character and active behaviors when she encounters difficulties. Rowe claims that “Madame de Beaumont’s telling of Beauty and the Beast, focuses on the intimate bonds between father and daughter which impedes the heroine’s rite of passage.” In contrast, the fairy tale Beauty and Beast serves more as an educational material that instructs children to have great virtue other than suppressing women’s minds to be subordinating to men. Admittedly, Beauty reveals her dependency on her father, however; this fairy tale also emphasizes Beauty’s great morality. Beauty wakes up at four o’clock to serve the family while her sisters are sleeping. Beauty also demonstrates her commendable loyalty to her father when the family falls into financial troubles. She refuses wealthy people’s marriage proposals. “She told them she could not think of leaving her poor father in his misfortunes,” and went “along with him into the country to comfort and attend him.” In addition, she does not simply focuses on The Beast’s ugly appearance. Beauty cares more about his kindness character. In the end, she is willing to marry The Beast and thus breaks the curse of The Beast. As rewards, the Beast becomes a charming prince and they both have a wonderful life. Rowe believes that “women in all fairy tales, are subjugated, sexualized, and discriminated by the male gender.” This argument is not tenable. Fairy tale Beauty and the Beast does not contain much patriarchy themes. On the contrary, the articles stress the importance of females. As a savior, Beauty helps his father when his business collapses and also rescues The Beast when he was cursed and going to die. The fairy tale Beauty and The Beast teaches children a simple but profound lessen that excellent virtues can bring tremendous awards. Some fairy tales do illustrates women’s dependent and helpless aspect; however, it is definitely not all fairy tales instill patriarchy ideas. In the fairy tale Beauty and The Beast, both the father and the Beast are vulnerable people who need Beauty’s help and rescue. Accordingly, Rowe’s argument are not comprehensive and needs to be modified.
Some fairy tales disclose the vicious results of marriage and instruct women that marriage does not always means protection and happiness. Sometimes, dreaming of marriage and subservient to men would give rise to severe and terrible results. The fairy tales Fowler’s Fowl completely subvert women’s expectation to marriage. In this fairy tale, the male protagonist is wealthy and would like to give all his treasures to his wives, which make him seems like a perfect prince, but actually, he is a completely bloody killer. He kills all his wives and put their bodies into a chamber if they do not succumb to his orders. He seeks for beautiful girls and kidnaps them in his house. Two sisters were trapped and killed by the man because they go to the forbidden room which filled with dead bodies out of curiosity. However, the third sister is and smart and courageous. Without the detection, she carefully enters the inhibitory room and saves her two sisters. In addition, the little sister kills the brutal man by using her intelligence. Rowe expounds that “Romantic tales thus transmit to young women an alarming prophecy that marriage is an enchantment which will shield her against harsh realities outside the domestic realm and guarantee everlasting happiness.” Rowe also indicates that “romantic tales thus transmit clear warnings to rebellious females: resistance to the cultural imperative to wed constitutes so severe a threat to the social fabric that they will be compelled to submit. Tales morally censure bad fairies and vain, villainous stepmothers who exhibit manipulative power or cleverness.” This fairy tale serves as a cogent example that challenges Rowe’s argument above. Rowe argues that fairy tales imply that women would be punished if they are resistant and intelligent. Stepmothers and clever queens are great examples because they both are punished by men. In fowler’s fowl, the women are resisters. If this fairy tale ends with the death of all women who do not obey the male’s orders, it is the ones which Rowe talks about that warns women to be obedient. However, in the end, the little girl successfully kills the evil man and receives innumerable amount of money and jewelry. Even if the little sister is intelligent and intrepid and resistant, she does not die. On the contrary, she saves her family and get copious reward. Consequently, fairy tales instructs us that wise and recalcitrant women do not necessarily die, they can achieve great success with their extraordinary abilities. Marriage is not always dependable, but wisdom and bravery are the real and eternal shelter that can protect women from harm.
It is true that, to some degree, fairy tales subjugates women’s psyche and seduces females into believing that a woman’s roles are subservient. However, on the other hands, fairy tales also give females a warning that depending on men and marriage cannot assure happiness. Sometimes, a happy life and promising future are not brought by princes but can be achieved by tenacious efforts and terrific intelligence. Both in The Beauty and Beast and Fowler’s Fowl, men do not play the part of redeemer as women expected in fairy tales where as they are vulnerable or evil. On the contrary, the female protagonists who are brilliant and persistent acquire happiness. These similar kinds of fairy tales thus admonishes women for relying on men and marriage by taking risks with their future. Women should believe in their own abilities and strive to achieve a wonderful future.

Quotes:
Karen Rowe. “Feminism and Fairy Tales.” Folk & Fair Tales. Matin Hallett and Barbrar Karasek. Canada: Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication, 2009. 342-358.
Madame Leprince de Beaumont. “Beauty and the Beast.” Folk & Fair Tales. Matin Hallett and Barbrar Karasek. Canada: Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication, 2009. 171-180.

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