An American psychotherapist is to present a paper next month that suggests reading too many fairytales featuring submissive role models is bad for girls.
As reported in the Guardian, Susan Darker-Smith found that women who were stuck in abusive relationships identified more than other women with the female characters in Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, who rely on men to come and save them.
These fairytales also push the message that women can transform their ‘prince’.
Darker-Smith based her theory on interviews with women in abusive relationships and a control group of those that were not.
Whether or not it’s overplaying it to say that fairytales open up girls for abuse later in life, there’s surely an argument for more of the Buffy, less of the Rapunzel. Darker-Smith suggests reading Pocahontas and Paddington Bear to girls instead. I say this is all very well and good, but maybe the same rule should be applied to boys.
If girls can be influenced not to put up with abuse through fiction, maybe boys can be influenced not to be abusive, or at least not to see women as pathetic, weak figures in continual need of rescuing.
(UPDATE: It should be added, of course, that fairytales have been a favourite subject of feminists for quite some time. Here is an interesting discussion thread on the subject, which would be a good starting point for anyone wanting to find out more.)