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The Importance of Stories

May 19, 2013

Stories aren’t trivial things, they used to be how we remembered history, through the oral tradition of story telling, eventually of course these stories were written down, oral stories told in a thousand voices became written by a few hundred people and as the oral stories were twisted and turned to make them more interesting, exciting and more relevant for the listeners so they were as they were written down. Stories that are written down seemed to carry more power. It’s not surprising that ancient texts of the Bible and the Koran as well as other texts have had power over the years over the population of this world.

The world has seemingly changed, the written word can be found everywhere and writing itself is no longer jealously guarded by the patriarchal male, well not in this country at least; however Writing seems to have been devalued, if anyone can write surely it has no value? Did it only had value when controlled by men? But isn’t it still controlled by men; or if not controlled by them influenced heavily by patriarchy, I would argue that if not controlled directly by men it is controlled by it’s ideals. Of course stories are no longer just told in the pages of a book, in some ways it has gone back to the oral tradition with television, film and radio, stories can even found in adverts and comedy routines, everywhere we are surrounded by stories that define us, describe us, reassure us, guide and inform us. These stories are reformed and repeated for every new generation, both showing us what is constant and what has changed.

Many stories have been revolutionary by pointing out societies ills whereas some have just been reflections of the eras they were created in, but why do some stories persist even when the world seems to have changed leaving the stories outdated, or are they? You probably wont be surprised to hear that it is fairy tales that puzzle me. Although there are now many revised additions making the princesses more into 21st century heroines the myth of the fair damsel still persists.

I work in a nursery school and last week four brand new giant books were delivered they were Snow White, Red Riding Hood,  IMAG1219 IMAG1220 IMAG1221 IMAG1222

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These books are simple and aimed at three-year olds, I took one picture of each book to illustrate the stories that are repeatedly told to us and our children. A woman must be pretty and MILD, should never be out ALONE, a man will solve all her problems for her and marriage should be her goal in life, as it is in fact it is for the men in these stories who in turn are expected to solve all our problems. I suppose being MILD isn’t actually a very helpful trait if being attacked by wolves, evil witches, step mothers or jealous sisters; so men not being mild are expected to do all the work, but at least they don’t have to be pretty and ARE allowed to be OUTSIDE ALONE. So as we read our children these stories again and again, hammering home that this is how life should be, why are we then surprised that these girls grow up wanting to be princesses looked after by their princes?

I know I’m not saying anything new here and am guilty of repeating what other feminists have said, but these are new books, why haven’t the stories changed? Why are princesses still presented as victims and as decorative objects, objects given to princes as rewards for being masculine and heroic? Why are these types of fairy tales repeated over and over again to every generation? I want my daughter and grand daughters to have bigger dreams than this, I want them to have what they wish for themselves and for them to discover what they want, not to be continually told what they want by these misleading stories that are repeated over and over again (see what I’m doing there). I want my sons and grandsons,  if they marry to marry their equals, the qualities I hope they admire in women are their intelligence and humour among other many personality traits, not MILDNESS whatever that really means.

By all means tell these fairy tales, tell them as close as you can to their original form, using them to teach historical perspective, but then tell the stories to our children that should be relevant to TODAY, let men be heroes but also the women. My life is lived through MY gaze, the female gaze makes up approximately fifty percent of the population, it is time the stories that we tell reflect this, that the infinite variety of gender and gender relations is shown in its full glory instead of being hammered into narratives that constrain pervert the reality of the world that we live in. It is NOT a three-year olds dream to get married, not until they are told often enough that it IS anyway; But all three-year olds want to defeat the wolf and dance at the ball so why don’t we just let them?

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Caroline Criado-Perez

A Pox on the Patriarchy

feministmeup

Lady things, explained.

norfolknonaligned.wordpress.com/

"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

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