“Beauty and the Beast…promotes domestic violence.” Other fairy tales are no better! Snow White? It promotes the idea that girls should be “happy home-makers” waiting, “like Snow White in her coma – until a man comes along to give them life.” Political incorrectness in the form of sexism, racism and all the other associated ‘isms’ are the dark heart of fairy tales. Promotion or teaching of the such traditional tales should be regarded as a crime against childhood. Disney film versions, in particular, stand accused. In the dock, alongside Beauty and the Beast and Snow White, stand The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Never mind if the wisdom of such beloved stories has sustained childhood and family life for ever and a day, their time is up. High priestesses within the educational establishment, the “Blob”, have decided to drive a stake of feminism through the heart of childhood.
A model lesson plan, downloaded hundreds of times from The Times Educational Supplement resources site, illustrates what is deemed to be ‘best practice’ these days for pupils aged 11 and above. Fairy tales are no longer to be seen in terms of what they are – accumulated wisdom based around timeless themes that make us human. Instead, they have become part of a deliberate strategy to pull apart the ties that bind our society together. Rather than allowing children to make sense of the world, whilst alerting them to its dangers, they are to become a vehicle for feminist fanaticism that detects grievance, discrimination and persecution in all it encounters and, not least, it seems, in fairy tales. At best, the lesson plan discredits any idealism that may be left in the feminist agenda and, at worst, it represents an ignorant, insidious and covert attack on childhood and family life.
Like much literature and art, fairy tales use stereotypical characters to demonstrate the battle between love and hatred, goodness and evil, honesty and deceit. They are as frightening as they are joyful, usually cathartic and mostly redemptive. Most of all, they teach children lessons about life and, generally, they leave us more hopeful than despairing. “Love conquers all and wickedness is punished” is, perhaps, the most abiding message and one that is close to most religions.
Aside from their underlying wisdom, fairy tales are so embroidered into the fabric of childhood that to undermine them is to pull away foundation stones that have traditionally brought some cohesion and order to societies. Educational experts, politicians and media commentators are increasingly consumed by issues of children’s happiness, mental health and wellbeing. Classroom lessons in ‘mindfulness’ are all the rage, embraced, even, at ministerial level. And, yet, for younger children, traditional wisdom in the form of fairy tales has far more to offer than most of the contrived forms of introspection currently on offer by the classroom pedlars of pseudo-psychology.
Subverting fairy tales for the purpose of promoting a distorted form of feminism in the classroom will, inevitably, cause society to further unravel. There is some way to go, however, as Zoe Williams made clear in a piece for The Guardian a few days ago:
“The amount of sheer feministing [sic]that has to be done, to unpick the centuries of careful work that have gone into smothering the female spirit, is astonishing. In fact, it’s quite draining to even think about.”
The assault on fairy tales has demonstrated that Pandora’s box is well and truly open.