I love reading and so does my daughter. The one question am often asked at book stores is ” Are you looking for boys or girls ? ” And it never fails to amuse me how reading is also differentiated by gender along with many other things. So this time I decided to play along and was shown a book ‘ Fairytales for Girls ‘. And of course it was Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast etc.
As I was going through these stories, I realized how we as parents define the concept of beauty for our children at such a young age. If you give it a thought all or most of the Fairytales emphasize on the beauty or attractiveness of the girl and often indicates her chances of future happiness. Not only ” non attractive” characters are dubious and spiteful, the girls beauty is often a threat to her as people around will be jealous of her. The Cinderella sisters, queen in Snowhite and many more examples can be seen. Aren’t we ourselves then making our children suspicious and at a subconcious level closed towards people who don’t fit into society’s definition of beauty? And when they grow up and God forbid are not exceptionally attractive, we talk about beauty not being external but skin deep !! Who are we confusing or are we confused ourselves?
By way of stories we also set an expected acceptable behavior. A good woman is generally submissive accepting her fate in life till the time a handsome Prince comes along to rescue her and take control of her destiny. It doesn’t matter whether the Prince has ever spoken before to the girl or not. Her beauty is a good enough reason for him to marry her. And if there is a rare exception where the girl is beautiful but not humble and submissive, she is eventually forced to learn this behavior by the end of the story to marry the charming prince and ” live happily ever after “. Which also by the way sends a message that getting married and settling down is very important. Now don’t get me wrong. Am not a cynic who is against happily ever afters. But I had rather my daughter understands and accepts herself and what makes her special than being swept away by the concept of beauty created by the outside world.
So where am I going with all this…am not categorizing Fairytales as good or bad..I guess all am trying to say is that there is nothing wrong in telling your little princess that she is the most beautiful girl in the world ( which I do all the time though she is a total tomboy ) but it would be even better if we praise their other accomplishments so they look at being attractive as one of the traits and not ” the one ” trait they have.
By Aastha Dhawan
Spiritual Response Therapy Practitioner