A fairy tale is a short story that typically includes fantasy characters; known to be one of the most well-read genres, including ‘classic’ tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty. However, this popular genre has influenced the roles of men and women. In our society men and women are expected to follow certain roles. If these set roles are not followed, they are considered to be non feminine or non masculine. Where did this all being, you might ask? ; fairy tales. Since the beginning of fairy tales we have categorized men and women.
Women in fairy tales are looked upon as weak, vulnerable, and expected to be pretty. Men are looked upon as the hero, brave, strong and muscular. These images of men and women that we are all too familiar with in fairy tales, have an extreme impact on reinforcing gender roles and the expectations society has on men and women. In today’s society women have the expectation to look a certain way; to be beautiful, thin, modest, elegant and kind. In fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, being beautiful, innocent or graceful represents that you are “good”.
As a women in fairy tales having power, control and being unattractive represents that you are “bad”. These connection made with women’s roles in fairy tales influences on how our society views the importance of physical attractiveness and influences some women to seek beauty in the expense of others. In Tales such as Where are you going? Where have you been? by Joyce Carol Oates, the main character Connie displays the stereotype of women having to be beautiful and only caring if the are beautiful. “She knew she was pretty and that was everything. Connie’s identity and the her self-confidence are focused mainly on her physical beauty.
Her attitude towards the importance of her beauty reflects on the society she lives in and the influences her it has on women; where people expect women to be perfect and look the best at all times. Male characters in fairy tales, however, are always portrayed as the hero and the ideal man for a women. In fairy tales there is always a hero. The hero is typically a man and he never fails to save the day. He is handsome, wealthy and generally very brave. However in many fairy tales, the hero is thought be the best but he does not actually do much.
The role of a hero is simply a character who seems to cause everything to work out. He is the man every woman wants; “the prince”. Yet, essentially he has no personality. He has no ambitions, no goals, or even any friends spoken of in the different fairy tales. All the hero is, is the person who arrives to rescue the character in danger. This reflects on men and how they are suppose to act in our society and the set roles they need to follow. In the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, the huntsman is seen as just the hero of the story, we don’t know anything about him other then he is strong, brave and a hunter.
The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself: ‘How the old woman is snoring! I must just see if she wants anything. ‘ So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying in it. ” This explains how these stereotypes that we see in fairy tales negative impact on men and influence men to think they have to be brave and strong and muscular. “Damsel in distress”; the vulnerable women who must be rescued by a hero. In today’s society women are always looked down upon, vulnerable, or expected to dependent.
Fairy tales show how the gender roles in fairy tales are damaging to young women in society. In the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, the female character is put in danger and cannot save herself. She must rely on the male character in the tale to save her. “She shall fall into sleep that will last a hundred years. At the end of that time, a king’s son will find her and awaken her by a kiss. ” This fairy tale is just one example of the many that portray similar stereotypes. This influences women in society that relying on men is okay and they have no power to be independent.
Men and women in our society are expected to follow certain roles. These roles originate from fairy tales. These stereotypes in fairy tales take away the freedom men and women have to express themselves and also forces them to behave in certain ways that are to be “gender appropriate”. Women in fairy tales are looked upon as weak, vulnerable, and expected to be pretty. Men are looked upon as the hero, brave, strong and muscular. These images of men and women have been seen since the beginning of fairy tales and will continue to be learned in our society, and negatively reinforcing gender representations.