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Maria Juarez
Maria Juarez

The Feminine In Fairy Tales ((BETTER))

Witches and plucky girls, princesses and vampires: In fairy tales, at least, females have power. While feminism has long mined fables and folk tales for both archetypes and answers, filmmakers have done the same to create arresting heroines and villains, along with strong characters who straddle the line.

The Feminine in Fairy Tales

The intensive, two-week program culminated with the students crafting their own tales, and Kohn is herself at work on a young-adult novel. However, her academic focus on film made sharing cinematic versions of these tales an obvious choice. The challenge, she said, was reaching beyond the usual.

She wrote more than 20 books on analytical psychology, most notably on fairy tales as they relate to archetypal psychology and depth psychology. She amplified the themes and characters of these tales and focused on subjects such as the problem of evil, the changing attitude towards the female archetype.[9]

G. Isler explains further, "The figure of the hero as well as the whole story compensate what initially was an insufficient or wrong attitude of consciousness. The initial situation of need, misery and shortcomings is solved at the end having a structure which is more whole than the beginning. This corresponds to a renewal of the ruling consciousness (expressed e.g. in the young king), being oriented towards psychic wholeness and totality in a way that is more appropriate" to the demands of the Self, than before. "Fairy tales compensate individual consciousness, but also an insufficient attitude of collective consciousness, which in European culture has been coined mainly by Christianity." In contrast to personalistic-subjective ways of interpretation, the fate of the hero is not understood as individual neurosis, but as difficulties and dangers, being imposed on man by nature.[24]

Liz Grauerholz, an associate professor of sociology, teamed with Lori Baker-Sperry, an assistant professor of women's studies at Western Illinois University and a former Purdue graduate student, to study how beauty is written about in fairy tales and whether stories with beautiful princesses are more likely to be popular. Grauerholz says parents need to be aware that some stories tell children that unattractive people are more likely to be evil and reinforce traditional gender roles that may be confusing for today's young women.

"Fairy tales, which are still read by millions of American children, say it pays to be pretty," Grauerholz says. "It's important to understand the messages our children receive about traditional gender roles, especially during a time when women are encouraged to be independent and rely on their brains rather than beauty.

"Women today – despite increasing independence for many – still tend to value beauty and appearance. Why is it that attractive women and men are socially rewarded more than unattractive people? From early childhood, girls are read fairy tales about princesses who achieve vast riches simply because their beauty makes them special. That's a powerful message that can inhibit young women who feel they do not meet society's expectation of what it means to be attractive."

Grauerholz and Baker-Sperry examined 168 Brothers Grimm fairy tales. These stories were written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 1800s and were used in central Europe to teach children the roles boys and girls should play, as well as what it means to be good or bad. Of the tales analyzed, 43 percent have been reproduced in children's books or movies.

The five tales that have been reproduced more than 101 times are "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Briar Rose" (also known as "Sleeping Beauty"), "Little Red Cap" (also known as "Little Red Riding Hood") and "Hansel and Gretel."

The researchers found that the majority of fairy tales that survived into the 20th century feature characters with young, beautiful princesses. This trend reinforces the message to children that physical attractiveness is an important asset women should aim to achieve and maintain, Baker-Sperry says.

"Fairy tales are important historically because they provide children with information about a certain period," Baker-Sperry says. "What they don't do is provide positive images about groups who are not white, middle-class or heterosexual.

"We don't discourage children from reading fairy tales, even with these misleading stereotypes and failure to include minorities, but we strongly recommend parent or adult interaction while children read or view fairy tales."

In the recent film "Shrek," which follows a traditional fairy tale format, the beautiful maiden lives happily ever after when she is transformed into an ogre. Such retellings are few and difficult to achieve because they break with the traditional format, and the researchers say such attempts should be rewarded.

In addition to messages about the importance of beauty, the researchers also are concerned that fairy tales' messages of how looks can label a person as good or bad are harmful to children. For example, evil was associated with ugly in 17 percent of the stories. In many tales, ugly people were punished.

Their analysis also showed that 94 percent of the Grimms' fairy tales acknowledged physical appearance, and the average references per story were 13.6. In one story, there were 114 beauty references for women. In comparison, the number of beauty references for men did not exceed 35 per story.

"What is striking is the way in which women's beauty is mentioned," Grauerholz says. "In 'The Pink Flower' a maiden is described as 'so beautiful that no painter could ever have made her look more beautiful.' In 'The Goose Girl at the Spring,' a character's beauty is compared to a miracle. In other tales, a woman is so beautiful it can cause her danger."

"Hearing these messages that were created by an old, patriarchal society may cause women, especially young girls, to withdraw from activities or careers, such as competitive sports or hard labor, because it is not part of being feminine," Grauerholz says. "This continued emphasis on beauty is a way society controls girls and women. Women adopt behaviors that reflect and reinforce their relative powerlessness, which can lead to limiting a woman's personal freedom, power and control."

PHOTO CAPTION: Liz Grauerholz, associate professor of sociology at Purdue University, studied how beauty is written about in fairy tales and whether stories with beautiful princesses are more likely to be popular. Grauherholz and Lori Baker-Sperry, an assistant professor of women's studies at Western Illinois University and a former Purdue graduate student, examined 168 Brothers Grimm fairy tales to evaluate how beauty is portrayed in the storylines. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

This study advances understanding of how a normative feminine beauty ideal is maintained through cultural products such as fairy tales. Using Brothers Grimm's fairy tales, the authors explore the extent and ways in which "feminine beauty" is highlighted. Next, they compare those tales that have survived (e.g., Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) with those that have not to determine whether tales that have been popularized place more emphasis on women's beauty. The findings suggest that feminine beauty is a dominant theme and that tales with heavy emphases on feminine beauty are much more likely to have survived. These findings are interpreted in light of changes in women's social status over the past 150 years and the increased importance of establishing forms of normative social control to maintain a gender system.

Our study is not an old-fashioned mythological interpretation ofthe feminine figures present in fairy tales. It is a study in archetypalpsychology, whose aim is to identify the universal archetypal femininefigures, both positive and negative, present in fairy tales and analyze themas symbols of different feminine psychological forces. Working with storiesand fairy-tales implicitly means experiencing the deep unconscious. Askingpatients to make-up their own fairy-tales that would mirror the conflictsubmerged in their unconscious life is a modern technique used inpsychotherapy, especially by Jungian analysts. The solution that the patientsfind when working with their imaginary, creative forces of the unconscious inthe land of fairy-tales is actually their own inner guide to profoundphysical and emotional healing in the real world. Though they may be knownunder different names in different folklores of the world, the 'evilstepmother,' the 'witch,' the 'old hag,' the'wise old woman,' the 'fairy' are archetypal figures ofthe feminine forces of the psychic that are present in everybody's'personal fairy-tale,' spoken or unspoken. They provide only theimage of our 'feminine psychic forces' that cannot be completewithout the 'masculine psychic traits.'

The work that has deeply touched my soul and set me up on thejourney of writing about the intricacy of the feminine psyche is Women WhoRun with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, writtenby Clarissa Pinkola Estes, whose doctorate is in ethno-clinical psychologyand who is also certified as a Jungian analyst. The aforementioned book waspublished in 1992 and was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 145weeks. It is not another sophisticated study in psychology, but anaccessible, reader-friendly guide book who takes the reader on a journey ofexploring the feminine psyche. The central archetype around which all thechapters of the book gravitate is the "Wild Woman"--an exemplarymetaphor of the feminine psychic: "So what is the Wild Woman? From theviewpoint of archetypal psychology as well as from the storytellingtradition, she is the female soul. Yet she is more; she is the source of thefeminine. [...] She is intuition, she is far-seer, she is deep listener, sheis loyal heart. She encourages humans to remain multilingual; fluent in thelanguages of dreams, passion and poetry." (Pinkola Estes, 1992: 13) Allthe stories that the author collected and then analyzed in her book are pathsto be followed by any reader/patient (especially women) in order to reconnectto the unconscious archetype of the feminine psyche. Stories have a healingforce that we may not be aware of. It is through stories that we findourselves experiencing an intense altered consciousness that opens the doorto the submerged archetypes; in the process of symbolically identifyingourselves with different archetypal figures present in stories andfairy-tales we actually reactivate the psychic forces that are associatedwith those figures. As children, we were inoculated that only the goodcharacters from the stories should be appreciated and taken as examples to befollowed, whereas the bad ones were stigmatized as bad examples; and thus,the recipe for psychic dissociation came into play in our early childhood;then, children turn into adults who consider that only the others around themare "bad characters," since they never had the chance toacknowledge the "negative hero" within themselves. 041b061a72


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