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Literature in English, North America


Mara Faulkner


Although the feminist critique of fairy tales is a legitimate and necessary step toward equality for women in modern society, the traditional fairy tale genre is also a critical factor in the happiness and enjoyment of the audience. Elements of traditional fairy tales such as love, adventure, or beauty do not only place women in submissive and passive roles, but they also provide the entertainment which makes fairy tales appealing. Many feminist readers also want to read and enjoy traditional fairy tales, but are caught in a self-imposed conflict between the desire for elements which they know will oppress women and yet which will provide the hope and entertainment they are seeking the fairy tale genre. Grimms' editions, Victorian fairy tales, and Disney movies are criticized for their harmful representations of children or fall short of the feminist goal. Consequently, feminist readers are caught in a bind between what is right for women and what is necessary in fairy tales. The possible solution? Feminists must learn to accept traditional elements in fairy tales and readers must learn to recognize dangerous stereotypes of women in the same stories.