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Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2020

Fairytales are considered to be the ultimate examples of values and morals that are designed to teach the children about the world around, the society and life in general. The most popular fairytales are the basis of all the magical stories parents tell their children before bed. Of course, these fairytales are very old; they came to us from medieval times, most of them originally are very violent, they are filled with scenes of abuse, they feature ogres, eating people, witches burnt alive and vicious monsters. Many of the scary and unsuitable for the children’s psychology elements were changed or removed from the fairytales. Modern “Cinderella”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sleeping Beauty” were stripped of violent details, but they kept the old-fashioned views about gender roles, which make them rather sexist.

“Cinderella” supposedly is designed to teach young girls to be hardworking, forgiving and kind-hearted, but, actually, there is no logical connection between the main character’s hard physical labor and her miraculous visit to the royal ball. The girl did not earn this privilege. This means that the story’s coded meaning is that everything can be simply given to a person one day. Besides, the theme that stands out the most in the tale is the simple girl’s luck to marry someone from higher social class, which is depicted as the most amazing event. This is a case of utter classism. The role of a woman is to look good and attract attention, while a man needs to be privileged to be considered as a worthy partner.

“Beauty and the Beast” is supposed to teach children to see what is beneath the outer shell of a person, their true nature, their personality, whereas actually, this is another story about a shallow woman that would not agree to marry a man just because he does not look good, even though she is in love with him. Of course, as soon as the true beauty of the Beast is revealed as he turned into a beautiful man, Belle suddenly decided to spend the rest of her life with him. Sexism here is quite subtle, because the girl falls in love with the Beast before he becomes good looking, yet refuses to be with him. The role of a man is to generously supply a woman with all kinds of luxuries, while the woman is to just be pretty and obedient.

“Sleeping Beauty” carries a very simple message of waiting for the prince. The princess is not recommended to become a better person, pursue any kind of education or career. She is recommended to wait for the prince to arrive and find her, even if it takes a hundred years. According to this tale, a woman is not required to do anything in order to find her life partner, it is the man’s role to find her and make all the first steps.

The theme of desperate search for a prince penetrates every single one of the three chosen fairytales. The image of prince here stands for such attributes as attractive appearance, wealth and a title, these features are portrayed as something a woman needs to wait for or look for to obtain happiness and good life. Sexism in all of these fairytales is directed at both genders. Men are under the pressure of being good looking or rich in order to be desired, and women are artificially limited to pursue only successful men, the concept of any achievements from the side of ladies is completely omitted. Their main and only achievement and goal in life is to marry someone rich and handsome. Without the prince, good future and happy life are unattainable.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 12). Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/masculinity-and-femininity-in-fairy-tales/

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"Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales." IvyPanda, 12 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/masculinity-and-femininity-in-fairy-tales/.

1. IvyPanda. "Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales." May 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/masculinity-and-femininity-in-fairy-tales/.


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IvyPanda. "Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales." May 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/masculinity-and-femininity-in-fairy-tales/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales." May 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/masculinity-and-femininity-in-fairy-tales/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Masculinity and Femininity in Fairy Tales'. 12 May.

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