The fairy tales were all wrong

November 5, 2007 at 3:30 am 23 comments

Prince and PrincessWhether it is the older stories of Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast or the newer tales of Aladdin with Jasmine and the Little Mermaid, every single one of these fairy tales end with the princess, or rather the damsel in distress, being saved by a handsome young prince.

What is a girl to conclude from these wonderfully woven bedtime stories but that as women we will only be happy when a prince comes to save us from horrible lives as single women and sweep us away to the land of happily ever afters.

Spinster. That is one of the names given to a woman who does not find a prince to save her. Old maid is another. Both of these words hold very negative connotations because society strongly impresses upon young girls that they must marry if they are to have a fulfilling life.

However, I recently stumbled across a new princess story that I plan to send to my college-aged daughter and to read to my 14-year-old daughter. I want to tell you the story in part since it is so wonderful. This fairy tale is about Princess Bubble who grows up, goes to college and gets a job that allows her to travel around the world.

Princess Bubble loved meeting new people every single day and learning about new cultures. She bought her own castle and hosted parties for the kingdom. Princess Bubble was completely happy. Now this is a princess with whom I can identify!

The story continues that one day the Queen called Princess Bubble to the castle on the hill and told her it was time to find a prince. Since Princess Bubble knew this is what every princess is supposed to do, she dated some fine princes and had a great time with each one.

However, Princess Bubble liked her life the way it was and did not feel like it was time to share her life with a prince. She did not feel as if any of these princes were the key to finding her “happily ever after.” She was in no dungeon and she had no wicked stepmother, so she did not need a prince to save her. She was already happy.

One day while Princess Bubble was feeling perplexed, her Fairy Godmother appeared and told her, “Living happily ever after is not about finding a prince.” Among other very wise remarks, the Fairy Godmother also said, “Happy princesses are people who enjoy others and like themselves.”

Well of course, Princess Bubble was shocked that all the fairy tales were wrong. “Everything the Fairy Godmother said made perfect sense. She was already happy!” Princess Bubble knew she would live happily ever after and looked forward to the many adventures ahead of her. And she did live happily ever after.

Now this is a fairy tale worth telling my granddaughters! Women are not perpetual damsels in distress who need a man to come and save them. There are plenty of women who are getting an education, building careers and even having children while remaining single and happy.

If a man comes along who is capable of sharing a wonderful life with an intelligent woman – great, but many modern women do not need a man to be happy. They do not need children to be happy. They are perfectly content with the life they have created for themselves.

This is the way it should be for every woman because when happiness is found inside, a partner and family can be added without the woman losing herself along the way. Happily ever afters should not be determined by the degree of sacrifice a woman must offer to make everyone else happy. This is an antiquated thought that stifles women.

A woman can have a career, her own house, her own car, and her own life and be happy. She does not have to sacrifice all of those wonderful aspects of her life and pretend to be rescued by a prince to live happily ever after.

To all of my fellow Princesses who know that strong, intelligent and capable women are the ones who promise a bright future for the world – I lift my wine glass in toast. Ladies, we rule! (Wine glasses clink)

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Entry filed under: feminism, feminist, misogyny, Stella Ramsaroop, women, women's issues. Tags: , , , .

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23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julie Lovelace  |  November 5, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I actually read Princess Bubble to my son. I don’t want him to think he is reponsible for a woman’s happiness. I want him to marry/date a girl who already likes herself and is happy. I think this will take some responsibilty off him later in life.

    He said, “Mom, the other princess scrubs the floor and Princess
    Bubble gets to travel on an air plane.”

    So, I am reaching him on some level with this wonderful story!

  • 2. stellar1  |  November 5, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I am such a dupe! I didn’t even think about how a story like this could help boys develop a proper view of women.

    Thanks for setting me straight, Julie!

  • 3. Mandi  |  November 6, 2007 at 2:14 am

    Watch Mulan.

  • 4. Paige  |  November 6, 2007 at 5:21 am

    Yeah, get your disney and princess movies straight. Not just Mulan, but in the Little Mermaid Ariel takes control of her own destiny too and saves the prince, instead of the prince saving her. If you are going to publish something, make sure you have the facts right.

  • 5. Lindsay  |  November 6, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Jeez Paige, lets not forget Snow White singing, “some day my prince will come” and Sleeping Beauty being completely comatose half the story/movie.

    Ariel does save the prince, but he saves her right back when he kills Ursula while Ariel is stuck in that vortex. So it was actually half and half. Not to mention her father also saves her from becoming one of those mutated sea plant people once she breaks her promise.

    Not all Disney movies feature damsels in distress no, but the most memorable movies in Disney’s library typically do.

    Be sure you get your facts right too. I think you’re over-looking the over all message here.

  • 6. Tass  |  November 6, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    You have to kiss alot of princes before you find your princess too!

  • 7. Fairy tales.  |  November 6, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Leave it to Disney to butcher a perfectly good fairy tale. In the original version the prince never saves the mermaid. He doesn’t marry her either. The mermaid is given the chance to reverse the curse by killing the prince. She opts not to do so and through her act of kindness becomes a daughter of the air. As such she is no longer dependent on the actions of others to gain eternal salvation she depends only on her own good deeds.

  • 8. Mitsu  |  November 6, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    This sounds like a good story, where did you find this? I like this blog, it proves that a woman doesn’t need a family to be happy.

  • 9. sarsar  |  November 7, 2007 at 12:41 am

    If you actually go back and watch all those 90s disney movies, they all depict women in very problematic ways.

    in response to #4, Ariel in the little mermaid has to woo the prince without her voice, using only her body. and in the end she happily gives up her world and family (becoming human) for him. not exactly a positive message for girls. also in many scenes ariel is drawn anorexically skinny.

    Belle in beauty and the beast while being adventurous and an avid reader is still the homemaker and finds happily ever after by marrying the prince too.

    even Mulan implicitly marries the guy in the end.

    I grew up loving these movies but i realize that we need new fairy tales to raise future generations with healthier views.

  • 10. Paige  |  November 8, 2007 at 3:49 am

    yeah I know that it a lot of fairytales the story is very damsel in distress who needs to be saved but i think people make too much out of it. They are stories. Fiction. entertainment. The only time i think it becomes an issue is when parents don’t do their job and let the television and movies and media raise their children instead of doing it themselves.

  • 11. susan johnston and kimberly webb  |  November 9, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Hello from the authors of Princess Bubble! (Susan Johnston and Kim Webb)

    Love all the discussion. Thank you for supporting our message! We self published and are working really hard to get the word out. We are very grateful to Stella for such a great plug. If you believe the message of Princess Bubble please tell others.

    Thank you and Happily Ever After!!!
    Please visit us at http://www.PrincessBubble.com

  • 12. mintin  |  November 13, 2007 at 6:16 am

    its just a movie!
    stop reading into this you femm nazis, i am a women!
    grow a penis already i know its the only way you can be happy

    btw

    a women shouldnt be president

  • 13. F  |  December 6, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I’m doing a presentation (3 weeks late, haha) at uni on Fairy Tales.. and decided to link it with something to do with feminism.
    This thread has been pretty interesting to read, it’s helped me with people’s views on feminism within fairy tales.

    This might be completely off subject, but mintin.. you seem like an arse:) grow a vocabulary.
    If you’re going to join a debate, no need to be so blunt tbh. And you’re not a women- you’re a “woman”, ok? Singular.
    As for the president stuff, so much for having belief! Get a bit of confidence in females, then maybe you won’t start crying when one becomes successful. (I find it extremely strange that you condemn them though you are one- are you sure?)

  • 14. Jill  |  June 6, 2008 at 12:50 am

    We all have to remember these are just as they say “fairytales” None of us have talking crab friends or a father with a magical triton who can turn us from a mermaid to a human. These stories are for funfor little girls to enjoy and use their imagination. At the end there is usually always some kind of moral, along with a happily ever after.

  • 15. Sam  |  September 3, 2008 at 8:08 am

    We must (Of course) remember that all of these stories were not initially designed for children, but for adults, so we must be careful not to instil these feelings in young children too soon? Would you seriously want your daughter to say “I dont like you, i dont need a man to be happy” at the age of 7? You would want her to discover a happy medium on her own by guiding her. I am currently doing drama at college and am looking for some information on both fairy tales, feminisam and domestic abuse – if any of you can give me any information worth portraying, please email me at 02sambag@jmonline.org.uk – thanks in advance for your time.

  • 16. Maggie  |  November 22, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Dream on.

  • 17. Anonymous Name  |  December 12, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    You feminists are just as stupid as the rest of society. Your messianic view of your novel ideas is foolish but incredibly predictable. Movements like yours, fueled by overzealous morons, are the likes of socialism and facism. You can’t create paradise at the expense of human life and dignity. Your will is not absolute here. Silencing your opponents is proof of the highest stupidity.

  • 18. Angela  |  March 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Okay, Mulan is a bad example.
    Because in order for Mulan to do what she wants, she has to disguish herself as a guy. A GUYYY
    What does that tell us? That we have to be a guy in order to get things done.
    Psh.
    And the little mermaid, shes not desperate to get married to this one guy because hes in high class. She changes her own self being for a guy, who she knows nothing about. BE REALL

    And for you people who think all of this is b.s, its not. I bet if we never heard these tales growing up, alot of women wouldnt be so needy. Guy arent needy like girls, and its because these tales show them that they have to rescue the girl so their okay.

  • 19. Angela  |  March 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I made a mistake in the last comment. The little Mermaid iss desperate.

  • 20. Beltran  |  July 31, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Actually, for women and men to meet and mate is the natural way of things. Nothing terribly upsetting about it all. Men are larger, stronger, have thicker skin, bones and muscles. Women can bear children which makes them evolutionarily precious. Each has a role to play in the grand scheme of things.

    Women make excellent doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. They make lousy professional football players and, I am sorry to say, soldiers (infantry and other direct, hairy, combat jobs). True some have shone in the role, but the vast majority have not. They are proving themselves as pilots, however, both in and out of combat.

    We each can do things the other cannot. So we learn to live with it. While the princess may not “need” a man to make her happy and children to fulfill her, in roughly 80% of the cases (just my observation) it works that way. In the real world most princesses’ bodies belong(ed) to the realm, not the princess. Marriages between states was a common way to cement an alliance. The Prince and princess did their duty by their people.

    Fairy tales, even feminist ones, are, after all, still fairy tales. They have little application in reality. I doubt an old lady lived in a shoe and spanked her children soundly to get them to go to bed while hungry, and saying so is a bad precedent. If you look at most original fairy tales, they are pretty grim in their original verses. Most were told to frighten children into good behavior in the olden days when they were made up.

    A feminist may indeed be frightened by the sugary, modern version of old classics. In the old classics, most princesses didn’t get off very easy nor did they live happily ever after, or live at all.

    I know that the thought of an old elf who stalked children and recorded their actions in a book for judging them at Christmas used to frighten me as a child more than did clowns.

    In any good union there is an equality between the partners. While a dashing prince seems silly to feminists, think of how a cloying, mewling, fall-down-and-faint princess would wear on a man’s nerves after five or six years. Don’t play Snow White and the Handsome Prince, play Conan and Valeria. Women who are vital, daring and intelligent are much more interesting in the long run than are weaklings. I was privileged to be married to one such women for fifteen years before she died. Even in her last days she was vital, interesting and charming. A fit PARTNER for a man. Together we had and raised (as long as she was granted – I finished for her) three fine children. Did we need children? Maybe not, but we sure WANTED them and they were and are worth the effort, believe me. I believe that for women, as well as for men, the real payoff is grandchildren. 😉

  • 21. Mari  |  September 16, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    The issue about fairytales depicting women in a bad way is over rated. Come on for those who rely on movies, fairytales or books to teach their children important values. It goes to show how you don’t know anything about parenting. I for one grew up with all these stories yet I think women are equal to men. i don’t think a women needs a man to be happy. I know this because my mother is my role model. She has always been strong and independent ever since she was 11 years old. Do any of you know what it is like to have to take care of yourself and your little 5 yr old brother. Or what its like to go through starvation. Those stories helped my mother believe that she could have a better life. Not only did she make it to the U.S. with her little brother but studied english.
    In addition those stories actual show some values. For example in some old fairytales men would never treat women or elders with disrespect. Now a days you go into a regular elementry or middle school and you see children saying horrible things to each other. Whether some of you forgot what it was like to be a child or u blocked it out because kids can be cruel.
    Also some of these fairytales have helped a lot of people. Fairytales give children an idea that they can be creative that they can have a happy ending regardless of how crappy the world is. Books and Fairytales have always been an escape for children. Its just a fairytale let them dream let them keep their inocense as much as they can. That is one of the most beautiful things about being a child the world is an unknown. Children should be children because when you deprive them of that then lets just put it this way your depriving them one of the greatest joys of life.

  • 22. Carlina  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    For starter thank you very much for this blog… it’s excelent.

    Beltran: THUMBS UP!!!
    MARI: EXCELENTE!!!

    I think what Mari says about fary tails is very true… HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON’S original The Little Mermaid commits suicide for someone she has only just met and I cuote “She shall float for three hundred years till at last she may gain an inmortal soul… But if she sees a child who is noughty or spiteful, then she must weep tears of sorrow, and every tear adds one more day to her time of trial” end quote.

    So… I imagine that she’s still floating around somewhere.

    But… beside most princess stories are VERY subversive for women TODAY… if we go back centuries when they where written… it was perfectly normal for a woman being maried by theire families, so to think that the princess would go agents all odds and actually find happiness for herself in any way that may be, and going to all lengths to get it… it showed curage, and determination.

    I agree that TODAY going to all ends for a man is not necessary… IT’S NOT MENTALLY HEALTHY… but I still see a few things that we could see (from the original versions of the stories) valor, determination, simpathy… etc. So I suppose that if we just get the ‘doing it all just to get a man’ out of the story we still have very good messages.

    Oh.. and by the way… in Snow White (Grim Brothers) the prince does not wake her up… and I quote “one of the dwarfs stumbled on Snow White, and this dislodged from Snow-White’s throat the piece of poisoned apple that she had bitten off. Not long afterward she opened her eyes, lifted the lid from her coffin, sat up, and was alive again”… end quote.

    Since I was a child I loved reading the original stories from Hans Christian Anderson, The Grim Brothers… etc. But in all those stories I did find excelent ones to pass on.

    HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON’S
    The Little Match Seller
    The Snow Queen
    The Emperor’s New Clothes
    The Wiked Prince
    The Story of a Mother
    The Ugly Duckling
    OSCAR WILDE
    The Happy Prince
    Rowenna
    The White Cat

    To say a few… basically there is no wrong in letting our children read fary tales, the problem is not reading them OURSELVES (with a VERY critical eye) first… my mother allways said that to be a good mother we must be allways 10 steps ahead.

    Thank you very much for this blog… I think it’s excellent.

    Carlina Garcia Mora
    Mechánical Electrical Engineer

  • 23. Anonymous  |  August 17, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Before taking issue with fairy tales, I urge readers to question where their idea of fairy tales come from. Most people believe the Disney version equates fairy tales. There are all kinds of fairy tales. The Disney version is one of them.

    It is true that many fairy tales are based on the situation they were told which does include patriarchal families. But a lot of them do treat women as wise and courageous.

    I don’t see anything truly feminist about Princess Bubble when that also implies a certain way to be happy-needing to be successful at a job.

    Also I think children don’t need so many stories that are trying to teach them a lesson. They can come up with their own conclusions especially when parents take the time to talk about them by asking questions that will challenge their thinking.

    In addition, I hope people don’t confuse children’s story with folk tales. Stories collected by Brother Grimms, that are very valuable and beautiful, were only partially for children but also featured lots of gruesome elements for adults. They were basically like R-rated Hollywood blood and gore movies of the Middle Ages. So, some traditional stories focused on creating pure entertainment and rush of adrenaline are as harmful as the entertainments offered in this time.

    On the other hand, Andersen and Oscar Wilde would write works of art specifically for children. Their stories need to be read in the original form, not just in a summarized plot line. When one actually takes the time to read them, the language is beautiful and people are depicted as complicated beings-contrary to common belief. Authors poured their hearts out in using metaphors and vivid imagery to communicated their worlds. While I love pictures and illustrations, I do think excess of it creates a demise in the quality of language. (And then schools are perplexed at how bad the children’s grammar and vocabulary are.)

    Children’s stories contain as much complexity as novels for adults and communicate deep messages. In those stories, it doesn’t matter who is the feminist or not. They are all people with different emotions and agenda driven by conflicts of their wills and expectations of that time.

    The Little Mermaid is not a hero that gets everything she wants(she also doesn’t want what a lot of modern women would want), but she does what she believes in. She CHOOSES on her own free will. What is more feminist than that? And how can we measure a strong person of a true feminist? A person managing both home life and work life perfectly? A woman who needs to neglect her own emotional needs or family to prove the world that she can be as productive as men? A woman decides to return to traditional ways of staying home to focus on family? I think in whatever form sacrifices are made and everyone finds fulfillment in different ways.

    Personally, I believe children need to keep coming in contact with art rather than forced messages to recognize strength and weaknesses in whatever kind of character or societal situation depicted in the works. If they only learn to take messages as they are given, there will be no story that can help them towards recognizing possible ways of living their lives.

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