Did you know that Cinderella is a sexist fairy tale full of stereotypes? That is what they claim in France. In Hollande’s republic, where the law on homosexual marriage was approved, broke out a new case which split public opinion. According to some French scholars, the fairy tales that have been enlivening children’s good nights since ever, are full of sexist content. In Paris, the Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, announced the hunt for gender stereotypes in school textbooks where the great classics of children’s literature are published.
“The new programs of primary education – warned Francois Hollande’s favorite – are an important opportunity to improve school-books and prevent stereotypes and discrimination which feed inequality between pupils”. To do so, the exponent of the Socialist Party relies on a study conducted by the center Hubertine Auclert, an association committed to fighting for sex equality, which was called after a great feminist of the end of the Nineteenth Century.
Its research on sexist representations during the first year of primary school takes into consideration 22 illustrated manuals for young students. In those texts, “only 39% of the characters are females”, condemn the scholars. And the situation does not improve. In the images on the first pages, most of the time, girls are represented inside their homes or playing in closed spaces. Often, they are busy in the kitchen or doing household chores, whereas “scientific” crafts, in 97% of the cases, are represented exclusively by male figures.
Also numerous popular fairy tales, such as Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, “filled with sexist representations” become an anathema. The association claims that most of those cornerstones of infant literature flatten “female characters according to their stereotypes”. However, in the examined volumes there are also some heroines who “guide action without depending on male characters”. According to scholars, there are still too many books that use “Man” to indicate human race. The ministry considers all this to offer a wrong educational model, to the point of prohibiting those fairy tales to minors. To substitute traditional fairy tales arrive new stories and texts with illustrations (some of which are already in use in French and Spanish schools) with drawings (see the picture) that explain children a new concept of family.
In the domestic sphere, warns the center, “the dominant model – perhaps even the only one – is that of a family of two parents and one or more children”. That is to say, “heterosexual couples with two children of different sexes”. Therefore comes the proposal to highlight alternative family models, such as families with a single parent or homosexual parents, which are more in line with Hollande’s socialist France. A slap in the face of children’s innocence.
In regard to those new family models, there are people who try to oppose, as did the mayor of Venice who banned gender books from municipal schools, drawing on himself the wrath of the LGBT movement headed by Elton John. At present we are witnessing a new attack which goes beyond the schoolbooks and encroaches on fairy tales, where someone has decided that the image of a prince and a princess who get married, create a family, and live happily ever after should be cancelled.
Whereas fairy tales have always represented for children a tool through which to understand the world of adults. The fantasy universe represented in them does not differ from the fantastic imaginary kids enact in their games, a dimension in which characters are divided into good and evil and where everything is possible. Through fairy tales, children learn that there is a solution for all problems and that goodness can defeat evil. This is how they can master their fears and nightmares. In a way, they learn since the very beginning to accept challenges and become ready to tackle problems in everyday life. The French point of view, therefore, seems specious, done for the sake of polemics and to undermine the concept of union between man and woman since early childhood. Yet another aggression to family.
In fairy tales, as we all know them, good or evil characters, protagonists or antagonists, facilitate identification, while the language employed is made of images and symbols and can be immediately understood by a child who is still unable to decode abstract reasoning, but is perfectly at ease with the sequence of images that characterizes classic stories. To all intents and purposes, fairy tales are the first educational tool parents and teachers can use to help a child grow. As Antoine De Saint-Exupéry put it in The Little Prince, “children always need to explain things to grown-ups”.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin