Sunday, March 16, 2008

What I Read About Gender Stereotyping

When I used to watch my favourite fairy tales when I was younger, I didn't see the gender inequality in them. For example, in cartoons like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and so on and so forth, do you realize that the women are being portrayed negatively?

Let's look at Little Mermaid. She's young, beautiful, has a fantastic singing voice, and a princess. Later, she falls in love with a prince. The only obstacle is that he's human and she's a mermaid. He then almost drowns after a shipwreck and the mermaid, Ariel, saves him. Okay, that part is fine. It shows a woman of being capable of saving a man's live, but then she's a mermaid, so she can swim way better than the drowning prince.

Anyway, the prince wakes up, hearing Ariel's beautiful voice only but doesn't see how she looks like. After that, Ariel willingly exchanges her voice for a pair of legs so that she can meet the silly prince again. Now, is Ariel thinking right? She must be very confident if she thinks that she will win the prince's heart even though she won't be able to talk?

Unfortunately, the prince doesn't fall in love with her. He falls for the witch instead! The witch already has the mermaid's beautiful voice and she's using it for herself. Of course, the prince thought it was the witch who saved him because he recognised the voice.

And then, they planned to get married in such short notice. Now, you will go 'Poor Ariel' right? Well, if you watch the Disney movie, it'll be a happy ending. Ariel gets her man after all. But in the real Hans Christian Andersen version, the prince doesn't fall in love with her. Read the story here. She's supposed to kill him in order to save herself but since she loves the prince so much, she decided to just die.

I guess gender stereotyping occurred a very long time ago. My coursemates and I agreed that what the mermaid did was plain stupid. Why give up everything just for a prince who doesn't love her for who she is? It was quite fun analysing these fairy tales and looking at them differently for the first time. Sigh...gone were the days when we would just watch the fairy tales and smile delightedly at the happy endings.

If you haven't realized yet, gender stereotyping is almost everywhere, especially in the media. Magazines, movies, songs, etc have stereotyping in them. So far, I find that this topic is the most interesting in my course. The other topics are painfully boring and I can't bring myself to read the required readings for them. But for this gender stereotyping thing, like I said, it's remarkably interesting.

When you're bored and have nothing to do, pick a movie, cartoon or not, and watch it critically. Perhaps you could list out all the stereotyping in it - whether it's gender, race, religion, etc.

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