Fairy tales encourage gender roles

Gabby Zabat, columnist

Once upon a time, the knight in shining armor slayed the vengeful dragon and woke the princess from her slumber. Next, the damsel rests unconscious as she awaits true love’s kiss from her prince.

As much as I love the cheesy, happy endings that inspired me as a little girl, I have begun to notice a slight pattern throughout every page. Fairy tales portray societal gender roles to kids who might view themselves differently.

As a four-year-old, a kid probably isn’t questioning why Rapunzel has to wait years for her prince to save her from her tower. Despite children’s little awareness of the concept, is it still acceptable to express these views at a young age? I was always a fan of girls wearing extravagant ball gowns and dancing with their true love. As a result, Mulan’s character wrapped in war armor to defeat the Huns seemed foreign and unnatural to me.

Over time, my opinion on Mulan has definitely changed, and I’ve started to truly appreciate her strength of a great typhoon. However, what about other little girls who think they’re supposed to act as proper and poised as Cinderella? What about the boys who think they’re supposed to look buff and dominant like Li Shang?

If fairy tales don’t express a more diverse range of characters and storylines, then children who do not identify with societal gender norms will be forced to conform to them. As a result, the population will no longer live their individuality. This has been a major issue of the LGBTQ+ community as people shelter their sexual orientation in fear of being mistreated by society, which is further amplified by the lack of diversity in popular fairytale story lines.

In almost every tale we read about the prince and princess living happily ever after. Rarely do we read of the male peasant falling in love with the misunderstood prince, or the female protagonist risking her life for her maiden.

Fairy tales should present characters with different sexual orientations to create more role models for those children. Boys and girls wouldn’t have to worry about why they feel or act a certain way because they’d feel just as normal as the characters.

Similarly, it may be fun for Snow White to sing along with the birds as she brooms the wooden floors, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with her picking up a pickaxe and mining for gold like the seven dwarfs. Vice versa, the dwarfs don’t have to prove their “manliness” by mining everyday.    

In reality, we constantly experience this influence as men earn higher salaries than women and receive higher level jobs. According to Business Insider, women are 15 percent less likely than men to get promoted. Women hold lower level jobs and are less likely to fight for the same jobs as men.

Creating more modern fairy tales that defy society’s gender norms and sexual identities can eradicate these self-image based inequalities that have been integrated into our society