Throughout history, fairy tales have captivated the hearts and minds of fans and critics alike. While fans applaud the underlying morals of fairy tales, critics point out the negative effects these tales have in the socialization of children. Modern adaptations of fairy tales, as well as original versions, all place negative gender expectations on women. Providing cultural and socio-historical information, fairy tales have helped to perpetuate stereotypical thoughts on the “ideal virtues” of women. Natural beauty, obedience to the husband, and dedication to the maintenance of the home are all standards for women modeled throughout different versions and adaptations of fairy tales.
Cinderella, one of the most popular fairy tales with countless versions, reflects gender expectations on women in vastly different societies and settings. It’s storyline revolves around the idea that women are beautiful, vulnerable, passive, and obedient. Furthermore, Cinderella provides another example in fairy tales where the heroine of the story must be “rescued” by a man of princely ways and helped by the forces of nature.
Using examples from Cinderella, it is evident that women’s portrayals in fairy tales have placed gender expectations on the ideals and characteristics of heroines throughout history.
In numerous versions, Cinderella essentially keeps the same form, differing only in small details like the harshness of the stepsisters and their punishments. In all versions, the tale begins by relating the initial situation. The first introduction is that of the heroine, Cinderella. She is beautiful, kind, obedient, and passive. The death of her mother is revealed, and the ugly and evil stepmother and stepsisters are brought in. Now the mistreatment of the heroine is shown as Cinderella is forced to live in poor conditions while the others have a luxurious life.