Your Prince Charming is NOT coming! Fairy Tales: How much do they hurt?

I think it is normal to cherish “Princess” fairy tales. HOWEVER…

Most people think these stories are harmless and that our daughters will see them as merely another entertainment narrative. When the truth is that these stories are part of the cultural toolset that is used to control the population.

The French social theorist Michel Foucault came up with the idea that our culture is like a panopticon prison, which is circular in shape, with one large tower in the centre containing men with high powered machine guns pointed at every inmate. The inmates occupy the cells which are set in a circle around the tower. They don’t try to escape, or do anything against the rules, because even though they can’t see the guns pointed at them, they know they are there.

Foucault suggests that our culture is like this in the way that we regulate ourselves and each other. We abide by the cultural rules, because to not do so would bring shame upon us (from our selves and our community – think “The Scarlett Letter”). We self-regulate and we regulate others by perpetuating narratives of social control.

Fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and the plethora of other “Princess” stories for girls (there is a different set for boys) are narratives of social control. Most people don’t realize the power these stories wield. Our little girls are shown repeatedly, and vividly (now that the stories are all beautifully animated), how if they make themselves pretty and don’t rock the boat, then may be someday they might be “lucky” enough to be rescued from their grueling life of servitude by a handsome prince. This simultaneously implants false hopes and disempowers females by convincing them that they have no agency, except the power to endure pain and hardship while waiting to be rescued. And it is a man that must rescue them; the Fairy Godmother has so much more actual power than the prince, but she only helps Cinderella become pretty enough to be noticed by the prince in order that he rescue her, instead of giving her the tools to rescue herself.

I know this sounds far-fetched, but if we search deep down inside ourselves, we will most probably find a meek hope of someday being rescued by our prince. Mine was so prominent that it was just below the surface and affected every aspect of my life. I actually believed it too! Even though I have a degree in Cultural Studies and have been aware of this culturally implanted fantasy for years, I still believed, and actively sought, a rescuer (my Prince Charming).

That has all changed now, I have decided to wake up and “get a life!”

We women must help each one another, not fight against each other. Those fairy tales have also done a damn effective job of “divide and conquer” on the women of our world. They have taught us that other women are our rivals in the competition for “Prince Charming”, and that women are not to be trusted. I have to tell you, this is just a myth; women are the source of power for women, and that we need to come together to collectively change our plight of self-inflicted “victimization”.

Fairy tales, and most of their modern counterparts, are outdated and need a heavy duty overhaul, by women, for women. I’m up for the task. How about you? Let our self-perpetuated disempowerment be over! Let us release all our Cinderella aspirations and step in to the world as a metaphorical Fairy God Mothers to the younger generations, actively working to change the disempowering narratives girls secretly cherish and hold closest to their hearts.

The truth is, no one is coming, we must do it ourselves…




Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Somewhere in the wild foothills of Mt Baldy (outside Los Angeles), lives an Australian/American person named Cat Fleming. She is one of those curious creatures who writes things down, she has done that her whole life, she even has a degree in Creative Writing. Cat is in also in blissful contentment when reading others' writing too. She became and English teacher so that she could spread the joy of the written word in all its soul-exposing forms. As a writer she is compelled to cut through facades and reveal truths. Being a mother, a teacher and a writer have somehow coalesced in her life to form a passion for writing MG and YA novels, which is what she does now. Cat has written in several other genres and forms, an array of which have been published in the online journals, Mung Being, Sitelines, Right Hand Pointing, The Short Humour Site and Connotation Press, and has been printed in Mundaring Sharing Magazine and the MLM anthology, Winter Canons.

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