Tonight Madison and I watched yet another modern adaptation of the classic, “Snow White”. It starred Julia Roberts and some other impressive people and I kind of liked it. But also, I kind of didn’t. I’ve grown weary of watching women fight battles while men bumble around like idiots. I believe I am doing my daughter a disservice if I represent this model of feminine strength as the ideal.
You may not know me, so let me assure you this is not another call for women to take a backseat so men can take charge. I am saddened and angered at some of the statements about women that have come from Evangelical leaders in recent months. I want to scream that women don’t have to be weak in order for men to be strong. But that is not my point today. I want to talk about stories that shape us.
I first came across this concept in one of my favorite child rearing books…”The Wonder of Girls” by Michael Gurian. As I reviewed it again tonight, more than ten years from my original reading, I was amazed at how the basis of this story has shaped me.
The demonizing of these feminine fairy tales was made popular by the 1960′s feminist classic “The Cinderella Complex” by Colette Dowling. If her hypothesis is true, these stories subjugate women, destroy their individuality and make them dependent on men. That is a sad fate indeed. However, I believe that theory is flawed. Gurian and others insist that, instead, Cinderella (and Snow White) are stories of the making of a heroine. A strong woman who overcomes hardship, develops unwavering character, and discovers who she is, all while strengthening those around her.
Heroes and Heroines are not the same. A heroine is not just a female version of a hero. While some of the qualities overlap, the heroine’s journey is different and, in many ways more complex. By simply making the heroine identical to the hero, we lose what makes her uniquely strong (a focus on relationships, alliances and attention to beauty in unlikely places, i.e) . In fact it diminishes the entire role.
Notice that in these fairy tales, the heroine is the reason for the story. The prince serves as a supporting cast member. But not in a bumbling idiot way. The princess is carrying the ideals of the kingdom and in rescuing her, the prince rescues those ideals. They are both becoming more loving, wise and powerful through their ordeals and by the end, they have successfully passed into adulthood. That’s a worthy quest for my daughter and sons.
Yes, that means that I may need rescuing. Duh! It’s the core of the Gospel–I need a Savior. (And so does my prince.) I have been rescued in a most dramatic fashion and I am living my whole life in response. What a beautiful reality!
You may still cringe at some of the dated stereotypes of men and women in these stories, but perhaps you can set aside the world weary cynicism and take a second look. The Heroine’s journey is always treacherous and sometimes frightening–too much for any woman to attempt on her own. So here’s to the journey of womanhood, the acknowledgement of need and the gift of a Savior!
photo credit: Morning theft via photo pin cc
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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