Author Kong, Grace Yi-Lyn
Title Feminisation and fairy tales
Institute Thesis (M.Ed.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2013
Supervisor Wong, Patricia May-Lynn

Fairy tales are one of the most widely read and disseminated texts, partly due to the enormous number of reproductions both in textual form and film. This widespread scale of influence has led to concern and debate over the soundness of these texts that have traditionally been viewed as fundamental to the education of children and which are used as in schools to teach anything from writing skills to character development. One specific concern is about the potentially negative effects of reading classical fairy tales on girls and women. Since the 1970s, when Alison Lurie who argued that fairy tales champion women and Marcia R. Lieberman, who insisted otherwise, feminists and scholars of children’s literature have remained split on the subject. Through an analysis of the fairy tales, and texts that focus on the psychological development and health of girls and women, this dissertation argues that an uninformed reading of fairy tales results in feminisation, otherwise defined as the exposure of girls and women to embedded patriarchal values that in turn encourage and influence women to remake themselves according to male standards of what a woman ought and ought not to be. These espoused values are reflective of behaviours and beliefs that women in society have been documented as internalising and practicing, often to the detriment of their physical safety and psychological welfare. However, rather than avoiding or abandoning fairy tale texts and films, this dissertation argues that a critical reading of fairy tales and disruptive reading strategies, coupled with a judicious selection of what stories to read, can have an emancipatory effect on not just girls but also by breathing new life into old tales.