Why I Hate Cinderella
When I was a kid, I had to participate in a fancy dress competition. Like my other girlfriends, I too wanted a fairy tale princess attire for myself. But as luck would have it, by the time we reached the shop, all the costumes were sold out. The shop-owner held a mucky wig in his hand saying that is what is left. And my father, who is never to call it quits, took it and I participated in the event as a sweeper!
I hated all the princesses from that day on.
And all the protagonists of the many fairy tales that I have read in my childhood.
One thing which strikingly is common and comes right at your face, when you read them, is the beauty. All these ladies are beautiful to their bones. The story keeps accentuating the fact around every corner. Not a speck of ugliness has ever touched them. And there it is — the first seed of inferiority is sown.
Somewhere, the small brain of a child, who reads the story, interprets that external beauty is immensely important. If I am not beautiful, I am not good enough. I am something less.
This beauty does not stop at the epidermal level. No way, Sir. It goes much deeper. The lady also has a very kind soul; so kind and pure, even the birds and animals around can sense that and help herein her chores! Not an iota of anything bad has brushed past her. Not the slightest shade of grey.
That is what it is meant to convey. The picture of a perfect lady. Love and kindness, almost dripping out of her.
Cinderella could never have even dreamt of disobeying her stepmother. A naughty blotch of stain on her mother’s dress or a deliberate speck of leftover on the dishes. An innocent cut in the sisters’ dress while sewing nor a simple feigning of sickness.
Never, not once, is there a citation of her saying NO. That I will not.
Message- never stand up for yourself.
She had to be so perfect, so obliging and so dutiful.
And there lies the ulterior motive. Raise ‘good’ girls.
Why were these stories told?
When a little girl hears this story, she relates to Cinderella. And hates the stepmother and stepsister. Mentally she has made a table of Dos and Donts. The actions of Cinderella check in to the Dos side and the cruel actions are featured on the other.
Next time she does something, she relates to whether it is like Cinderella or like the sisters and she has a moral compass ready with her guiding her to make the ‘right’ decisions. Leaving her without any inkling of grey areas.
Moving ahead in the story, there is always a stepmother/stepsister/witch ( again a feminine character!) so cruel to our Lady, that it brings you to the brink of killing her yourself.
And since we are on the topic, just posing a passing thought. Why is the bridge always falling, kids tumbling down the hills & breaking their heads, and eggs falling from walls in our rhymes? But, will bottle this for some other day.
Coming back to our lady. She always needs some rescuing from that evilness and is always so helpless, in need of support. Typical damsel in distress.
And rubbing salt to the injury, cometh the charming Prince.
It was never a woodcutter, or a farmer, or even a rich boy. Always had to be a Prince.
Cinderella possibly couldn’t just dance her heart’s fill that night and let the prince see her in her real form. Maybe the prince still would have married her.
Rapunzel never tried once to get out herself. Chopped off her hair and used it as a rope and escape.
No, not happening. It has to be the Prince.
What about teaching our children to try themselves?
And all the stories end in marriage. Happily ever after. Leaves you with the impression that marrying is the ultimate aim. And marrying a prince — my my, nothing like it. No one wants to know the other side of the story.
Stories are a wonderful medium to teach our children the things we want them to think about and eventually practice. The onus of teaching them to tell good from bad lies on us. Keeping this in mind, we have to choose our stories with care.
Children need to learn that there will be bad days and the best person to rely on is yourself.
Yes, you can take help. The help can be a girl or a boy (or an animal)and, most importantly, you don’t necessarily need to marry the help!!
I am grateful for newer versions of stories like Merida, Maleficient, Moana, and Frozen. Girls have better role models to look up to. Characters who are not picture-perfect beautiful, have freckles and untameable hair, and yet are beautiful in their own way. When thrown a challenge, they don’t wait for a charming Prince, they pick up their skirts and fight. They fall and scrape their knees but they keep fighting.
That is what I want my daughter to read and learn.
So, I never told her those fairy tale stories and was happy when later one day she came up to me and asked- “Mama, why did Cinderella not say anything to her stepmother?”
I knew I had chosen the right stories for her.
FYI- I won the fancy dress competition that day.