Snow White and Gender Issues
Gender role stereotyping permeate everyday life. Children are usually educated about gender roles very early in their lives, probably before they learn to walk, certainly long before they begin school. The behaviors that cause of these gender roles often go unnoticed but their effect is endless, writer Joan I. Glazer analyzes these views when she states, ” when you read books to children, be aware that you are showing them one perception of how the world is structured” (Glazer 134).
Although parents, teachers, and other socializing agents communicate gender roles to children at an early age, the issue of how children’s literature influences gender roles, is a major factor to individualizing specific roles for females. The Brothers Grimm classic fairy tale “Snow White,” a universal and popular fairy tale, represents the female gender in a negative way. Snow White is displayed as being frightened, naive and helpless, and the evil Queen, her stepmother, the only other prominent female character is a narcissist.
Thus, after reading or hearing this fairy tale, society begins to mold into these stereotypes, Glazer further analyzes this theory when she states ” Women work in the home and wear aprons;… girls play dolls” (Glazer 135). This quote demonstrates what society considers to be women’s role. These traits are presented when the huntsman spares Snow Whites life and when the Dwarfs expect Snow White to do house work in order to live safely with them. The Queen ironically has a lot of power for a woman in this fairy tale, yet she also falls into the stereotype for females.
She only use her power for negatives, rather than positives, scheming vindictive plots on Snow White throughout the whole story. In which, naive Snow White falls victim for the schemes, not once but three times. The evil queen sends the huntsmen to kill Snow White. This setting introduces the readers to Snow White as a scared helpless girl, a typical expected role of a female. To spare her life Snow White must beg the huntsmen not take it,” she began weeping and pleading with him. “Alas, dear huntsman, spare my life.
I promise to run into the woods and never return”( Tatar 84). Instead of crying and begging she could have given the huntsman logical reasons on why he shouldn’t kill her and turn him against the Queen and perhaps this tale could have taken a different turn. However, she cried and of course the huntsman wasn’t going to kill a helpless crying girl, he’s a man, thus he had no choice but to spare her life, “Snow white was so beautiful that the huntsman took pity on her and said: ” Just run away, you poor child”( Tatar 84).
Upon entering the home of the dwarfs, Snow White seem to have forgotten that her stepmother just put a hit on her life. Instead of having her guard up and being aware of her surroundings, she allows herself to drift of to sleep in an unfamiliar place. As depicted Snow White is just a stupid female, who doesn’t know any better. She fails to be alerted by the commotion the dwarfs make when they come back to their house and doesn’t even realize that they have been watching her while she slept. “In the morning, snow white woke up. When she saw the dwarfs, she was frightened” (Tatar 85).
When Snow White finally wakes up, she is not thankful for being alive and not had faced death once again but this time in her sleep, she just simply returns to her frighten state once again. The dwarfs, the logical male characters, take advantage of this damsels situation. They offer Snow White a safe haven but in return she would have to in become their new housekeeper. The dwarfs told her: ” if you will keep house for us, cook, make the beds, wash, sew, knit, and keep everything neat and tidy, then you can stay with us, and we’ll give you everything you need” (Tatar 85).
Snow White responds, ” Yes, with pleasure” (Tatar 85). Instead of protesting or attempting to make some sort of compromise with all their demands, Snow White accepts and actually seems to like the female domestic role given to her pleasantly. The seven dwarfs were happy to have a female look after them. Not simply because they are dwarves, but because they are men and they cannot be expected to clean up after themselves, that is a females duty. The narcissist Queen, is so obsessed with beauty, that she is willing to kill her stepdaughter, Snow White, who is merely a seven year old child.
Demonstrating that women should not be given power, they are too emotional and misuse their power, and thus they should remain in their domestic role. For reassurance of how beautiful she is, she must constantly ask the mirror, ” Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all”( Tatar 84). Once the mirror announces that Snow White is still alive and places above her in beauty, the Queen found a new obsession, to kill Snow White. In the Queen’s three attempts to kill Snow White, she disguises herself as a different old lady tricking Snow White with different offerings.
At some point Snow White should have gotten tired of old ladies trying to kill her and should have just stayed clear of all old ladies, but again Snow White is a brainless girl and continuously falls for the Queen’s scheme. “If at first you don’t succeed try and try again, was the Queen’s motto,” this is a great motto but the queen used it for the wrong reasons. She failed to understand that she is a powerful women and should of been setting a postive example for Snow White. However, she ignorantly listens to a mirror that tells her that a little seven your old girl is more beautiful then she is.
Gender role stereotypes constrain females. Females are limited to a portrayal of being whiny and passive. Rather than allowing genders to develop their own identities, their ability to expression is limited. Can females believe that they’ll grow up to be president or CEO’s, growing up listening to Fairy Tales, such as Snow White. Of course they can not believe they’ll grow those high position roles, the Queen who actually had power abused it and Snow White enjoyed being a domestic. Apparently, females should just play a naive role, get saved by men, and perhaps if they cry they’ll get men to do what they want.