And yet even this late in history, women and girls are still friendly with that darkness where fairy tales operate best. In “Beauty and the Beast,” the merchant’s daughter eventually falls in love with her own captor, or at least pretends to.
Hilary Mantel recently criticized writers who falsely empower history’s women, saying, “This is a persistent difficulty for women writers, who want to write about women in the past, but can’t resist retroactively empowering them.
Which is false.” I think I agree with Mantel to some extent; you can’t give characters agency when their lack of agency is what drives the story in the first place.
I think they are, but not by our modern definition of feminism.
Traditional fairy tales were created long before any such notion existed, and I’d say they help women, rather than lift up women. They’re useful, which is a much older kind of feminism.
A tree or a ghost or a bear or a good fairy—but something, something to outlast you. * My daughter is only two, but already I worry about her general state of empowerment.
The Critical Thinking Community - Feminism In Fairy Tales Essay
I buy books about famous women, scientists and artists and politicians.
Too soon you could be gone, replaced with the next young fertile woman, still able to suckle your young.
(The story of stepmothers is a whole other essay.) In those days, you had to create something you could leave behind to light the path, to keep throwing those bread crumbs, to clear the thorns from the thicket. For her mother’s disappearance—and for her own, too.
It’s another thing entirely to whitewash the very real difficulties they (and their mothers) almost certainly will face, regardless of how empowered they are.
We are born into a certain world, and how we navigate that world is part spunk and part, frankly, wariness and warning..