Sunday, April 24, 2005

Newsflash: Life's Not a Fairy Tale

I usually only blog on Thursdays, but today my lovely fiance alerted me to this article on Yahoo! News: Fairy tales linked to violent relationships.

At first I thought.... puh-leeze. Sure, fairy tales are stupid. But linking them to domestic violence seemed pretty far-fetched. But after reading the entire article, some it started to make sense. (I don't buy the whole thing.) The study, entitled The Tales We Tell Our Children: Overconditioning of Girls to Expect Partners to Change, was done by grad student Susan Darker-Smith. She had this to say about female abuse victims who identify with characters in fairy tales [emphasis added]:

"They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behaviour," Darker-Smith said. "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."

If you're like me, you're wondering why on earth any adult woman would identify with fairy tale characters. But when I look I around me, it's clear that many of them still do. I wouldn't necessarily consider them submissive; I would just consider them divorced-from-reality. Here's more from the article [emphasis added]:

Darker-Smith said she believed younger generations exposed to television and other entertainment media may react differently and be less submissive than those weaned solely on literature.

Her work found the most popular bedtime stories for girls were "Cinderella" and "Rapunzel", while boys were more likely to hanker for "Paddington Bear" or "Thomas the Tank Engine".
Gee, that's funny. Notice how the boys' stories have nothing to do with women, but the girls' stories have everything to do with men (and princes, in particular)? Boys aren't raised to be princes! So it doesn't make sense to raise girls to have that expectation. Nor does it make sense to raise a girl to think of herself as a princess. It's not reality, and it sets her up for failure.

Now, I'm not saying a woman should expect a man to treat her bad. On the contrary; I'm suggesting we should merely see each other as real humans with actual flaws. If you think you "love" the person you're with, but you want to change him/her, then it's not really love. You should find someone else who is more compatible, or (gasp!) stay single for a while.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: A princess-wannabe does not have realistic expectations of men and marriage. This causes a clash between men and women that may lead to physical violence within relationships. Of course, there's no excuse for domestic violence, and I'm not suggesting we blame the victim (whether that victim is male or female). But if we can figure out what is causing gender-wars, shouldn't we try to fix it?

I know there are some people who will argue that we also shouldn't raise boys to regard violence as an acceptable solution to most problems. I can agree with that, too (although sometimes force is needed, and both boys and girls should know how to defend themselves). The reason I focused on fairy tales is because 1) that's what the article was about, and 2) I have a particular dislike of the prevalent princess-culture.

A brief side note: Googling for more info on this study allowed me to find The Bitch Girls. "Bitter Bitch", who appears to like guns (!), also blogged about it.

I have a little experience with this. In my case though, the anger was directed at me. My ex’s twisted view was that anything short of continuous praise (read that: moderate constructive criticism) was unacceptable, since she was obviously a princess. I never resorted to violence, because that’s uncalled for in most cases…but I can’t say that I didn’t dream about it. ;-)
My guy friends don't tend to ask me for relationship advice. I tell my girlfriends that they're never going to change a guy (unless they leave him for good.) Some future female will reap the rewards of that change.

Another argument I like actually comes from a humour book comparing men to children (sorry guys!) It advised "do not try to change him completely. Aim for maybe 10%". I think this is fair. I've gotten boyfriends to wash their hands more, spread out the shower curtain after showering, etc. I think of stuff like that as being in the 10% range. Getting someone to stop beating you is in an entirely different league.
My fiance is pregnant & I'm hpoing for a girl. The last 6 kids in my family have been boys including my sis, who had a boy yeaterday, so we are overdue. While P. & I are committed to gender-blind parenting, we are concerned with relatives encouraging a little pricess in the making. Here is another good reason to try to avoid that trap.

As to Karen's point about 10% change, that seems right on. It works both ways too. I can't cook very well, but my fiance has gotten me to pick up a little slack. She hadn't cleaned her floors for 2 1/2 years when we started dating. I can get her to mop about 10% of the time now.
Sorry about all the typos. Should have used that Preview button.
Though it's embarrassing to admit it, I was definitely conditioned by fairy tales. Some day my prince will come, and in the mean time, I'll just... sleep. Instead of trying to make myself happy, I tried well into my twenties mainly to be sweet and alluring for Prince C.

I have definitely learned not to try to change men. The all-time worst fairy tale for setting girls up to be domestically abused has to be Beauty and the Beast. Even the Disney version shows the guy going into a violent rage.

It's not a virtue to stick with a guy like that, girls, and as long as he's getting some, he's NOT gonna change. Don't kiss a beast. Wow, or a frog. How many of these awful stories are there?
Jami, most of us have fallen for it at some point. The important thing is that we grew up and got over it. We usually have to get burned at least once, though. But hey, that builds character.
All the princessy stuff drives me nuts. Every time I see a little girl wearing one of those T-shirts with Princess or Spoiled Rotten on it I want to smack her parents. It's such a fake, patronising idea - don't you worry about getting an education or a job,sweetie, because you're special and should expect to be adored just because. Not only is it disempowering, what's going to happen the first time your kid encounters a real problem? I look at those little girls and think that life is going to kick their asses, and they're going to be totally unprepared for it.
For some reason this whole thread made me think of Have you seen the site? A great antidote to all the annoying princessy stuff.
Omg, that website is hilarious. I'm going to have to link that from my blog.

And the 'spoiled rotten' tees... ugh. They're even worse when adults wear them.
There's actually a car that I see occasionally that has a vanity plate that spells out some version of "spoiled rotten" . Nothing quite like advertising your idiocy to the whole world. The car also has teddy bears in the back window (excuse me while I puke). The funny/depressing thing is that the woman who owns the car has to be at least 35 and every time I see her she's all decked out in princess tees, hello kitty gear etc. That could be a whole new thread - infantile women and the men who love them, and why calling yourself a princess is neither empowering or feminist.
Good luck with your Econ exam!
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