Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sexism vs. Values in Cinderella Essay

Sexism vs Values in Cinderella Essay

Cinderella, the classic rags to riches story. Nearly every child knows it. Disney has been capitalizing from its success since it first launched the classic animated story into the world. Cinderella’s popularity has been so widespread that there are now Hindi, Korean, and Vietnamese versions of the story, just to name a few alternative languages. In the recent age of feminism and equal rights, Cinderella is an easy target to criticize, especially the role of the protagonist, Cinderella. In critiquing the work, we must also look at the inherent values present in Cinderella herself and may even wish to pose the question to ourselves as to whether the feminist movement has gone a little too far when stories such as Cinderella are blacklisted. While being demeaning to the female gender, the classic fairy-tale Cinderella contains many important values.

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Looking at the character of Cinderella herself, one can easily see the demeaning values in the story. Cinderella’s place in the family is to cook, clean, and perform household tasks. These chores have typically been reserved for women, which leads to the reader (especially a young girl) believing it the woman’s place to perform these tasks. As Cinderella is left behind and ignored during her stepfamily’s preparations for the prince’s ball, she does not become a powerful, goal-oriented woman but rather “fell a crying” (162). This section of the story reinforces the idea that women are not adept to deal with their own problems, but rather need some stroke of luck to achieve their goals. In order for Cinderella to advance her situation, she needs the help of her fairy godmother. After her fairy godmother transforms her, only then is she able to achieve her goal. This idea of a girl changing who she is to impress men continues even to today, and I shudder to think of how many pre-teen girls wish nightly for their fairy godmother to deliver them to the prince of their dreams (probably directly as a result of seeing Disney’s rendition of Cinderella or from seeing Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman). This story also magnifies society’s belief that in order for a woman to succeed, she needs a well-suited man to take care of her. Although hardly the strong and powerful character we expect in today’s children’s stories, Cinderella still contains numerous qualities which should lead parents around the world to rejoice in their daughters’ enjoyment of the story.

Cinderella is a good person with strong inner values. Primarily, Cinderella does not exhibit mental unstableness from her terrible condition; rather, she demonstrates complacency in her difficult position. Instead of retreating into a world of continual depression, Cinderella does her best with the situation presented. She manages to maintain hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. Cinderella is a very modest girl, and her stepsisters’ traits of being boisterous, rude, and superficial are presented in a negative way, which leads a young reader to also believe these traits are “bad.”

Cinderella, although promoting the idea that beauty is ever-important and that a prince is often needed to drag a young woman from her helpless situation, can still provide a stellar role model with strong morals in the young woman, who, against all odds, manages to marry her prince, something many feminists may still be searching for. Is it so wrong to dream of someone who will remove you from all your burdens who is, needless to say, well fitted with great legs and a nice butt? I know enough men who are still searching for their princesses.

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