Encouragement of Gender Roles Through Fairy Tales
Female characters in many fairy tales are the perfect epitome of women following traditional female roles and possessing qualities of worthiness. I will illustrate how fairy tales inscribe gender roles upon females based on Karen Rowe’s argument “[t]hese tales which glorify passivity, dependency, and self sacrifice as a heroine’s cardinal virtues suggests that culture’s very survival depends upon a woman’s acceptance of roles which relegate her to motherhood and domesticity.” (Karen Rowe cited in Hallett and Karasek 348) I will discuss and analyse this through four fairy tales, Charles Perrault’s “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” and “Cinderella” as well as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Snow White”, and “Rapunzel”.
The female protagonists of fairy tales possess qualities in which women are seen and accepted. The
main trait of a virtuous woman is that of beauty. Never is the protagonist ugly, or have qualities less than
perfect in their looks. She is either the most beautiful, angel like or fairest of them all. As Marcia K.
Leiberman states, “ the prettiest is invariably singled out and designated for reward.” (Leiberman cited in
CCM package 187) Female heroines are ultimately rewarded with a marriage to a handsome, rich prince
and idealistically live happily ever after.
The first thing that gets the reader’s attention is of the main character’s unforgettable beauty. Despite
this ‘beauty’ she still leads a time in her life of hardship, but is rewarded in the end with a handsome
prince. Beauty is an asset of the girls’, as Leiberman says, “focus on beauty as a girl’s most valuable
asset, perhaps her only valuable asset.” (Leiberman cited in CCM package 187) ‘Beauty’ women need to
Upon first meeting, Cinderella is described as “a lovely, sweet natured girl”. (Charles ...