In Defense of Fairy Tales

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Fairy tales are more than true! Dragons come in all shapes and sizes in our lives – no one was dealt with the same hand in life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t conquer those dragons. At a young age, we hear about how “the little guy” can turn out to be the hero, despite the expectations (or lack there of) of other people – think of David and Goliath! These are the type of lessons we can take from fairy tales, young and old.

However, as we all know, fairy tales sometimes get a bad rap. Some say that women are always looking for their “knight in shining armour,” as presented to them in youth, and their life won’t be complete until there is a man in their life that fulfills it. This past week, there was an interesting article about Mercy Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky that launched a new ad campaign that bashes fairy tales pretty harshly, in order to promote its mission of helping its students become independent, productive women in the real world. Ads like “You’re not a princess…but you can still rule the world,” “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Be more than just the fairest of them all,” or “Don’t wait for a prince. Be able to rescue yourself” all may be very empowering for young women of our age, but I sentimentally wonder, what about the dragons? 

Sorry ladies, I have to agree with G.K. Chesterton on this one. Great lessons can be learned from fairy tales. Women face dragons in those stories too – and learn how to battle them. They may struggle in different ways than men, but isn’t that just like real life? I don’t believe the majority of little girls grow up thinking they are pampered princesses and expect to be rescued by men. What I do think fairy tales teach is that you deserve to have someone fight for you.

Far too many modern messages echo the ads of Mercy Academy, telling women to just get a grip and be independent. But what are these messages really saying? Of course it’s important for women to learn how to take care of themselves independent from the fact they are in a relationship or not, but how far is too far? If we feed young girls with slogans bashing men, then they are going to, in turn, treat men – especially gentlemen – as enemies trying to prey on their weakness and deprive them of their “independence,” which has become the ultimate symbol of freedom. They will fail to see that having someone stand up for and fight for her – even if she could really do it herself – is actually the highest compliment that anyone could have paid her.

Instead of faulting fairy tales with the problems of women, let’s take a closer look on the lessons we can gain from these stories. After all, fairy tales are real, because they teach us that dragons can be defeated.

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