Do stereotypes starts with fairy tales? In my opinion, yes. Research had stated that some or most of the fairy tales that managed to last until the 20th or 21st century contain alluring princesses that care a lot about their appearance which gives young girls the impression that they need to set their physical appearance as their first priority rather than education or something else more valuable. Furthermore, fairy tales push the stereotype of the “ideal” woman as having blond hair and blue eyes which can demotivate young girls as they realise they can’t be one of the “ideal” and it also encourages children to judge people by their appearance since fairy tales often link beauty with personalities. In addition to that, fairy tales also incite gender roles that we are seeing today in society as fairy tales have presented women as powerless but on the other hand, they presented men as courageous and fearless. Subsequently, most or all the fairy tales portray step parents especially the mother as evil and corrupt which can affect children’s acceptance of step parents.
When I first heard the story of Cinderella in year one, my perception on gender roles changed because I was deceived to think that men are the powerhouse of society – taking risks, brave, and tough. Knowing that men must be the one to lead society, it led me to think that women are inferior as they have less tasks since their main priority is just their physical appearance and that they’re also the ones who need to be “rescued” as seen from Prince Charming having to rescue the princesses for whatever reasons. This type of mindset is dangerous because for one, it made young girls feel like they don’t need to be courageous nor tenacious because part of the reason is that those kinds of traits aren’t considered feminine and because she will be expecting a man to be there for her. This can also be referred as the “Cinderella Complex”: an unconscious ambition to be taken care of at the hands of others instead of themselves. Fairy tales also reinforce the fact that the most important characteristic about a woman is her physical appearance and research stated that 94 percent of Grimm’s fairy tales favour appealing physical appearance and that there are 114 beauty references for women per story which is incomparable to the references for men as they didn’t outstrip 35. This could cause young girls to only seek beauty at the expense of education or other activities that aren’t considered feminine. Additionally, another fairy tale that’s also pushing this stereotype is Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. As seen from the movie or the story itself, Snow White is helpless against the witch and needed Prince Charming to rescue her by giving her a kiss when she was asleep which further emphasises stereotypical gender roles that aren’t necessarily true. This of course, doesn’t only affect girls as it also effects some boys because some of them will be pressured by the expected standard of masculinity (mostly bravery) by the society which is also caused by fairy tales.
As seen from The Little Mermaid and other fairy tales alike such as Cinderella, beauty is often associated with their personality and can be depicted from Ariel and Ursula; Ariel is elegant and courteous while Ursula is grotesque and rapacious. Additionally, since fairy tales also frame the ideal type of person of having features such as pale skin, it could lead to children being racist as not only will they will judge people’s personality through their appearance, but if their skin colour isn’t close to the ideal, it could cause children to think that coloured people aren’t as humble or as generous as the white people.
Are all step parents evil? Well according to fairy tales, they all are. Cinderella has crooked step parents, so does Rapunzel and Snow White and these fairy tales could or will change the children’s perspective on step families adversely. Step children could argue more with their step parents as they thought that they are akin to the type of step parents they see in fairy tales. This type of mindset is threatening because it could eventually cause family issues for the step children.
Throughout the years, many people have supported fairy tales for various reasons. A majority of them have stated that fairy tales “fuels children’s imaginations”, to some point this is true. However, young girls could also be imagining them being the princess locked up in the tower and that Prince Charming could rescue her and free her from prison and that they will live happily ever after. This could be reflected in the way she behaves which could be powerless and expects others to always help her at difficult times. Subsequently, people had also stated that “they teach children what is right and what is wrong”, this is correct, but then again, the fact that each fairy tale story has a lot of beauty references implies that ditching other careers for the sake of achieving “true” beauty is the right goal for a young girl. Not to mention, is being muscular and brave enough to be a man? Or a person? Well that’s what fairy tales are teaching kids, causing them to think that is the correct way to live.