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FAIRY TALES © Jill Ginghofer 2010

Those big books with darkly mysterious illustrations: Snow White, Goldilocks, Rapunzul, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilskin ……they’re mostly stories about girls of marriageable age who get into dire straits, only to be rescued by a Princely young man, a horse rider, with whom she lives happy ever — after doing his laundry, preparing his meals, cleaning his piss pot — you get my drift.

Snow White is threatened by an older woman, i.e.., the hag, the witch, then taken up by a group of grotesque dwarves, poisoned to near death and then “saved” by the Prince and into her life of servitude—forget the castle and servants.  That is the lure to get young women into domesticity.

Rapunzel is locked up in a tower, probably so that her most precious commodity—an intact hymen—can be saved.  Whoever the prince was, who could climb up her hair and save her, must have been a puny gent in order for her hair not to be torn out by the roots—and probably incapable of doing much save enjoying the fruits of her labor, i.e., children and piss pot cleansing.

Sleeping Beauty was doomed to lie still and not disturb anyone or anything until her future lord and master awoke her with a kiss, thus releasing her into domestic servitude.

Nor have we changed much now.  The usual movie plot either has the derring-do of a man who achieves, often using methods outside the norms of human safety, while the woman holds the domestic front and complains she never sees him.  He grimaces—he’s out there saving the world and she’s dragging him down.  The variant on this is she’s kidnapped by villains and dragged through mud, tied up and tortured and he saves her.

All this is why I leapt on the story of Aphra Behn yesterday.   She was of lowly birth but managed successfully to be a playwright, poet, spy for Charles II, accused of sleeping with women as many self and women-centered women are whether true or not, and generally gadded about and had a great time—her most famous play was Oroonoko, and hints were she had traveled to Venezuala – all in the late 16th early l7th C.

And Eleanor of Aquitaine – born to one of the most powerful men on earth in her time (12th C) she was wed to the Dauphin of France who quickly became king but when she saw Henry Plantagenet walk through the court with a feather in his hat she rose up and followed him—bore him 3 sons, all of whom became kings but Henry of the wandering eye locked her up for l5 years—typical male behavior.   After her release she rode with her women friends to Jerusalem and, for inexplicable reasons, they rode into the Holy City bare breasted.  When she was 85 and her last living son, King of Spain, was threatened she rode overnight over the Pyrenees and down into darkest ‘Spain to bring him aid.

We  need stronger women role models.  We need women in art, in religion, in books, in history, in poetry, to counteract the intense propaganda of the Bandit/Hero to whom we bow down in servitude.