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THE LITERATURE
FOR EQUALITY
PROJECT

8 Books. Discussions. Interviews. In-Class Activities.

Ep 5: Reframing Our Fairytales

Summary:

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill (2018)

Genre: Poetry / Fairytales

Fairytales are some of the earliest stories we tell children, and these stories form some of our most fundamental frames for understanding social behaviour. Yet we inadvertently condition both boys and girls to accept simplistic and often problematic ideas when we fail to question the fairytales we tell.

Nikita Gill poses questions that help us to look beyond the mental shorthand that is often encoded in stories like these: what if we consider Jack’s mother’s abusive behaviour, what if we stop to think about what we are doing when we dismiss Cinderella’s stepsisters as ugly; what are the lessons we can learn from Ariel’s experience?

In this episode we talk about the way the stories we tell about women and girls help to form our ideas about gender behaviour in society, and why we need new perspectives that go beyond the black-and-white narratives we all grew up with. Gender biases have a tendency to endorse the traditional feminine ideal or to view women in idealized, overly romantic terms or as delicate creatures who require protection. This helps to perpetuate and reinforce  stereotypical traditional gender roles that describe, for example, men as strong and women as weak. Not only are boys and girls learning about sex roles from what they are reading, boys in particular learn that part of being a boy is discriminating against girls, and girls are learning that only boys do interesting and exciting things. Fairytales are especially egregious in the promotion of gender bias, as they are tales handed down from times in which gender roles were especially rigid. As they are given the labels of ‘classic’ and ‘traditional’, these are often materials parents encourage children to read.

 

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