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My key intentions for my final assessment were to emulate themes, conventions and certain styles found within Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ by Oliver Onions and, in particular, illustrate and explore the role and treatment of the New Woman within these tales. Near to all of these elements I have applied can be found within both Onion and Hill’s stories but due to the restricted limit to this companion I will only be looking at certain ones in detail.

 

I chose numerous conventions within my tale. These are such as the haunted house, a story within a story, bumps in the night, a locked door, pathetic fallacy, hostile landscapes and a grisly secret. These conventions allowed me to link certain theory within the gothic ghost story, for example, the application of Freud’s classification of Fear, Dread and Fright.

 

“‘Fear’ represents a certain kind of inner state amounting to expectation of, and preparation for, danger of some kind…‘Dread’ requires a specific object of which we are afraid. ‘Fright’, however, emphasises the element of surprise…when we find ourselves plunged into danger without being prepared for it.”  (Freud 51)

 

Fear, I created using mounting suspense within the story, for example: the bumps in the night and the use of pathetic fallacy. Dread was simple in creating the reappearing ghost of the boy as an object to be afraid of which ultimately led to Fright: the discovering of the secret of the boy’s existence and death, the newspaper cuttings and diary.

 

I also intended for ‘Suffrage Boy’ to contain liberal references to the uncanny. This is a theory that is prevalent within both of my chosen primary texts and one that is iconic to the gothic ghost story in numerous forms. Simple examples include the editor’s simultaneous feelings of familiar and unfamiliarity and his ‘mounting sense of unease’ (Beatson 1). The latter is an application of the uncanny within gothic literature I had identified from my secondary reading of Angela Carter who states the definition uncanny within gothic literature, ‘retains a singular moral function-that provoking of unease.’ (Carter 133) This can be witnessed within Onions’ story also: ‘Oleron had moments of deep uneasiness…’ (Onions 44)

Other examples of my application of the uncanny can be identified in the simple use of the ghost being neither dead or alive, the ghost’s use of animism of the bicycle and typewriter, and the repetition of the ghost’s haunting. These elements are ones that I have imitated from both Hill and Onions’ stories. Another example is the theme of suffocation which was an attempt to create the uncanny fear of being buried alive.

 

Intertextuality is something I chose to focus on heavily within the writing of my ghost story and led it to becoming a pastiche. The way in which I have achieved this can be witnessed in the names chosen for characters within the story and places. The name for the heroine, Lucy Davison, was one of careful selection. Lucy is the figure of the New Woman, as I will explore fully later, and her Christian name and surname is a reference to two women who also represented this figure and were punished for it. Lucy, is a reference to the character within Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ‘Davison’ is a reference to the suffragette Emily Davison, who was fatally injured under the Kings horse during a rally for women’s rights on the 4th of June 1913. This is subsequently the date of Lucy’s imprisonment and torture from the ghost. Lucy’s occupation is a journalist, intended to emulate the figure of Elsie within ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ who occupies the same vocation, and is also a figure of the New Woman. Similarly, the dead mother Isobel Báthory is deliberately chosen to contain the surname of Elizabeth Báthory, Countess in Hungary in the 17th century whose alias of ‘The Bloody Lady of Čachtice’ is echoed in the name of the inn. The character of Henry Bentley is a reference to Mr Bentley, who is the employer that sends Arthur Kipps to Eel Marsh House.

 

My profuse application of intertexuality is due to the convention itself being a form of haunting, a return, alike to story telling and literature itself: to recall figures from the past. This is why I chose to have the editor reading the diary, similarly to Hill’s novel.

 

I will now briefly comment upon the historical and social contexts. I took great care to have historically accurate details about aspects like technology, so I undertook considerable research into the period in which I was writing and attempted to include these details. Therefore, the line of: ‘Mr. Bentley was the editor of The Frightful Farthing 1/4d…who might attempt to outwit Mr. Harmsworth…’ (Beatson 1) is demonstrating the presence of the Halfpenny Marvel ran by Alfred Harmsworth, pioneer of tabloid journalism, who put the Penny Dreadful out of business.

 

One of my key intentions with my creative piece was to explore the figure of the New Women within the gothic ghost story that rose in the late 19th century and the ‘Long 19th century’ that my story is set in. ‘…the “New Woman” emerged increasingly into public controversy. The New Woman, or 1980s feminist, challenged gender roles…’ (Hurley, 121)  In Onions’ story, Elsie is independent, financially sound, has an occupation and pursues Oleron in a traditionally masculine manner. She is then punished by the presumably jealous ghost who represents the traditional Victorian woman and the past. This is similar in Hill’s novel, as the ghost of Jennet Humfrye who is punished for having a child out of wedlock. In my story the ghost of the boy, whose mother (a suffragette) was the cause of his death, punishes Lucy. Lucy represents the New Woman: she is independent, has a job and has mastered modern technology. She is then punished by the very technology she uses.

 

The idea of the ‘Long 19th Century’ is partly due to society within Britain containing many of the same fears as the fin de siècle of the previous century. Onions and Hill’s stories reflect these and this is something I have attempted to do also. This includes the fear of science and rise in technology, the rise of the New Woman and a general anxiety of change. Ghost stories offered an anchoring of the past to the present and the ghosts themselves as a bridge between them. The boy within my story has died due to many of these social fears and he represents the past, punishing anyone who stands for them.

Bibliography:

 

  • Carter, Angela. “Afterword” Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises Cambridge: Harper & Rowe (1974). 133.
  • Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) London: Penguin (2003) 51.
  • Hill, Susan. The Woman in Black. London: Vintage (1998)
  • Hurley, Kelly. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siecle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1996) 121
  • Onions, Oliver. ‘The Beckoning Fair One’. Gothic Literature Module Reader (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 131-156
  • Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Penguin (1994)


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Note to Reader: If you have not read my fairy tale, ‘The Forest of Lyca’ this will not make an awful lot of sense. Please see that post before reading this one!

Introduction:

 

The fairy tale is an ancient form of story that many of us encounter at an exceptionally young age and become some of our earliest memories of literature. The precise origin of the fairy tale is unclear, although it is thought that they are birthed from folklore: oral tales told for entertainment and distraction, inherited through the generations and passed on from travellers, blended by the many recipients who each would detract and add parts to the tale to suit their needs. Jack Zipes recalls the social history of fairy tales to state that:

‘Their origins as oral folk tales can be traced back thousands of years to the ice age […] Recent historical research has demonstrated that the primitive folk tales were told as socially symbolical acts to unite the people of a tribe, to provide a sense of community. As such, they were cultural endeavors to interpret and understand natural and social phenomena […] Religions and ideologies that became male-oriented caused the contents and functions of the characters to be changed.’ (Zipes 1982 23)

It is surprising that fairy tales known from childhood exist in many separate versions and variations. If one were to consider the tales of Red Riding Hood, as I will be doing primarily, it is likely the tales from Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm that surface to memory. However the tale dates back before both of those versions and continued to adapt after their publication, absorbing many of their elements whilst removing others. It is perhaps this evolving and fluctuating nature of the genre that captured my interest and inspired me to create a tale that borrowed so much from another story whilst maintaining its own identity.

Whilst reading the traditional fairy tales it is sometimes easy to overlook the dark and sinister content within them – this is often due to the association they have with being read to children and the assumption that their content has been deemed appropriate for that audience­. However, upon submitting them to closer study, it becomes clear that they are filled with violence, misogyny and taboo that one would not think to subject to children. This is a point that Maria Tatar comments upon:

‘For many adults, reading through an expurgated edition of the Grimms’ collection of tales can be an eye-opening experience. Even those who know…that doves peck out the eyes of Cinderella’s stepsisters…or that a mad rage drives Rumpelstiltskin to tear himself in two will find themselves hardly prepared for the graphic descriptions of murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest that fill the pages of these bedtime stories for children.’ (Tatar 364)

The genre of the fairy tale itself was another reason that I decided to dedicate my creative writing piece to it. Within the fairy tale there is scope to create and imagine, something that I was extremely keen to do. The fairy tale has become mostly directed towards children and therefore can embody the elements of fantasy and departure from reality that the majority of fiction for adults lacks. I decided to keep within some of the structures that fairy tales seem to conform to, but was nonetheless left with far more freedom. I decided I would emulate Angela Carter’s ability to create the fantastical world of the fairy tale and set it out as children’s fiction whilst, at times, mixing mature themes into the narrative that would be deemed inappropriate. I have, therefore, intended to merge the styles of several fairy tale authors into my piece. The style of the writing and the themes share likenesses with both the traditional fairy tale authors and Angela Carter in her tales of The Bloody Chamber. My story is at times graphic like Carter’s but it attempts to keep its suitability for children by only hinting to its graphic nature and with potentially disturbing and horrific events being averted and resolved. This is similar to some of the traditional authors, the Grimm’s tale of ‘Little Red Cap’ for example. The girl is consumed by the wolf but is rescued almost immediately by the huntsman. It sits between the authors too by emulating much of Carter’s themes yet keeping the patriarchal framework of the predecessors. An example of this is the scene during the tale wherein the spectre-like image of Alice’s brother attempts to rape her. Although the description is not explicit, the references and metaphors are not overly complex and it is obvious to most readers what the indication is. However, Alice is rescued and the crisis is averted.

It was important to my tale that I emulated certain facets of Carter’s tales – ‘The Company of Wolves’ being the main inspiration. I have included certain elements such as the description that makes it clear the heroine is at the age of puberty and the use of pathetic fallacy regarding the weather. Another example is introducing the gothic convention of the uncanny in scenes such as the one with Alice’s brother. She recognises him but simultaneously does not know who he is. I also mention Alice’s ‘mounting unease’ (Beatson 12) or phrases similar to represent the uncanny, which is a direct influence from Carter who mentioned that the uncanny in gothic literature ‘retains a singular moral function-that provoking of unease.’ (Carter 1974 133). However, Carter’s tales are more of a feminist reading, and I preferred to keep much of my tale colluding with the patriarchal themes contained within the traditional tales. I found difficulty finding balance when demonstrating the story as a classic tale yet at also adding the mature and hardcore elements of Carter. An example of my mixture of the two is in the final line: ‘And she lived.’ (Beatson 17) This displays the fairy tale ending but without the archetypal ‘happily ever-after’ closing phrase – this suggests to my readers that life to come will be hard for Alice, but keeps the emphasis on the fact that she had survived.

The key intention of the piece was to highlight the graphic and mature themes within the traditional fairy tale by (like Carter) accentuating them and placing them amongst the fantasy and innocence of a child’s story. Additionally, I wished to display the type of moral tale that was so often used in the classic variations within a fairy tale that was written in the present day. By the plot being subjectable to a reading of a girl’s rite of passage – with the forest being her journey through adolescence and the struggle it poses and threat to her virginity – I was able to emulate the educational style of editions of Red Riding Hood such as Perrault’s and the Brothers Grimm. The key morals that I intended the piece to illustrate were the proverb stating that it is unwise to trust a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that to stray from the metaphorical path will lead to punishment. This is most like the traditional fairy tales; the most lucid of examples of this is the moral message at the end of Perrault’s tale.

Another one of my intentions with my creative piece was to remove, alter and merge various conventions that are typical throughout the classic fairy tale. This included elements such as the style, the structure, themes and other conventions that I discovered after undertaking my research into my primary and secondary texts that I personally identified, and furthered by my research into secondary material. This is an element of my companion that I will come onto in the research section.

Furthermore, I wished to show a different example of the dangers of adolescence by colluding with Perrault’s moral. The tale obviously shouts that girls must fight hard to control their desires and be aware of false prophets. The creatures seem so beautiful that she wishes to follow them and she believes that they are helping her are then revealed to be the very things that destroy her. These creatures can be interpreted as hormones that are developed within adolescence and the traditional character of the wolf that is translated as a symbol of the male gaze and male sexuality and lust – either way they are tempting Alice to follow them, and by doing so she is presented with her demise until, that is, she wakes up. It would be prudent to note at this stage that the views and morals contained within the tale are not my own, but ones that I provided to strengthen the theme of my text. A Freudian and Laconian reading of my unconscious intentions might prove different, as I have studied with the interpretations of the classic tales, but on a conscious level, the views are not ones I share.

Self-Reflective Section:

The formulation of the fairy tale came in different stages as opposed to one drafting and redrafting process. I had for some time wished to write a children’s story and had the rough idea of a creature that I would depict as evil and terrifying that would in fact be the rebuked saviour. It was after deciding to choose the creative writing option for my independent project that I realised not only did I have a basis of a story available, but that its genre and predecessors had an excess of criticism and secondary reading available to me.

When considering characters and settings I decided that I could add significantly to my story by emulating the Red Riding Hood tales whilst simultaneously enabling an effective critical reading. I therefore began note taking with spider diagrams and setting out key features of the variations of the tales and finding the parts that I would apply, change or eradicate completely. The result was five separate a3 sheets of paper that started with spider diagrams and progressed to a list of bullet points that outlined intended plot, characters and themes.

I had decided on the name of the piece to be ‘The Rankvile’ which was also to be the name of the creature that dwelled within the forest. However, as the writing of the first draft came to an end, I realised I could not introduce the name of the creature without affecting the tone I hoped to create. Consequently I progressed without adding the name in and, once the final draft was completed, I had decided not to name the creature at all to grant it additional mystery and fear. I felt that if I could create enough of a shroud of fear around the monster’s persona it would not only increase enjoyment in the reading, but act as an even greater twist when reversing the creature to being a positive character. I achieved this by the application of vivid imagery to the description of the monster and concurrently allowing a greater opportunity to describe the same features in a positive light towards the end of the story. An example of this is the way in which the natural light from outside the forest turns the creature’s ‘mouldy claws’ into ‘the most beautiful and pale skin.’ (Beatson 16).  I eventually decided to rename the story: ‘The Forest of Lyca’, as it is the forest in the tale that symbolises Alice’s journey and it is the forest that creates the real evil. The name of Lyca is a reference to the girl within the poem ‘The Little Girl Lost’ by William Blake. This poem, it could be argued, depicts a young girl’s descent into adolescence and adulthood, which is similar to my tale where Alice’s entire journey into the forest is her rite of passage and depicts her battle with adolescence and journey to adulthood. Another piece of intertextuality resides in the choice of the protagonist’s name. This is a reference to the protagonist and themes in both Alice from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and Angela Carter’s short story ‘Wolf Alice’.

I found difficulty in not rushing into the writing of the fairy tale, as I had so many ideas I was keen to put together. This made the planning process and note taking procedure arduous and, although making spider diagrams and lists, I eventually felt prepared to begin constructing the tale. Although I ended up with a long and well embellished story of which the word count came to just over 11,000, I was left with the challenging process of removing large amounts of it that I had, ultimately, written for my own pleasure rather than for the success of my independent project. By cutting such a majority of the fairy tale down I lost the in depth characterisation that I had managed to build and the extensive description and imagery that went into the settings and emotions. However, by keeping the tale much shorter, it made it more dramatic and I was able to capture much more the feel of a fairy tale as opposed to a short novel of children’s fantasy fiction. In hindsight this is unquestionably something I would have done differently and will learn from; the need of planning and properly formulating my ideas in a structure so that they will correlate with the themes needed to allow my piece to be subjectable and to be the critical reading I wished it to be.

A further element that I feel I could have improved on within the writing of my fairy tale is my time management. This was something that I was aware I would struggle with and therefore did attempt to work hard on. To endeavour to manage my time effectively I spent sections of selected days during the week working on it shortly after handing in my topic proposal at the end of the first semester. This was a positive step, but I feel that I may have been benefitted further from actually planning out the schedule in which I would write parts and checklists to include the themes and elements I needed. It is this type of discipline that I would apply in the future.

As an overall project I feel that it has been a success – I am satisfied with the end result. I feel that I have managed to translate the aspects of it that I aimed to. I found that the most beneficial way to check I was achieving my aims was to call on others to read it and give their overall impression. This included fellow students on my course who were able to give a critical opinion from a literary theory perspective, members of family that work within publishing and friends and family who were able to bring a fresh and more basic opinion. I asked these readers to email me their thoughts on the piece, their personal opinion on its deeper meanings and how it made them feel whilst they read it and after. I received similar, encouraging feedback from all groups, which stated that they felt it was extremely dark, had a childlike feel to it but that they were unsure at times if it was suitable for children and surmised that it would down to parental decision. This was exactly the type of feedback that I had been hoping for, as this was precisely the opinion of the Brothers Grimm after their revised edition of ‘Little Red Cap’ was made more appropriate for children, despite its sinister themes. This is illustrated in their introduction:

Therefore we have taken care to leave out of this new edition expressions which were not suitable for children. Yet there may be objections. One or another parent may find material embarrassing or offensive, so that they would not be comfortable putting the book into the hands of children. In such well founded individual cases, the parents have an easy choice to make. (Shavit 327)

All of the readers that I had give feedback also noted that the story sharing similarities with the Red Riding Hood tales and other early fairy tales, notably as a rite of passage tale with strong moral undertones. One fellow student even asked me if I had read Angela Carter, as the graphic style reminded of them of her work.

I have found the project to therefore be a general success and, despite the aforementioned elements of production management that I would change, I feel very satisfied with its outcome.

Research and Analysis Section:

In preparation and throughout my composition of the fairy tale I undertook thorough and vast amounts of research for secondary material and critical work concerning the fairy tale genre. It is no surprise therefore, that the beginning stages of my research were dedicated to understanding the genre and its conventions and structure.

One of the quintessential theorists concerning this is Vladimir Propp who listed thirty-one functions and a ‘Dramatis Personae’ of characters. Studying this I was able to understand the structure of the folk tale as expressed by Propp and was therefore able to select the parts that I wished to use for my own fairy tale. The functions and characters set out by Propp served a beneficial role, as I was able to play around with them and work them into the twists of my fairy tale whilst keeping to their specifications.

Propp’s ‘Dramatis Personae’ lists the characters that he identified in the material he studied. ‘Our working material consists of 100 tales. The rest is reference material, of great interest to the investigator.’ (Propp 386) From studying the collection of tales he surmised that he could condense the characters into seven broad figures with qualities that each of the ones he had encountered would embody.

The characters within my tale of the ‘The Forest of Lyca’ certainly display qualities and characteristics that conform to those guidelines stated by Propp, although due to my aim of the tale incorporating a mixture of traditional and modern there are some deviations. For example, my tale contains Propp’s character types of the Hero (Alice) and the Villain, of which there are more than one. However my tale merges many of Propp’s character types. For example the roles of the Donor, the False Hero, the Princess, Dispatcher and Helper are blurred and merged to almost a point beyond recognition. This was my attempt to challenge some of the traditional conventions whilst still maintaining some. This is something I also applied to my working of the functions stated by Propp.

The beginning of my tale assents with the first seven stages of Propp’s functions. The ‘absention’ (Propp 386) occurs firstly, as the reader is introduced to Alice having left her home and is embarking on her journey to and through the forest. Secondly the ‘interdiction’ (Propp 386) is addressed as the warning Alice receives is stated to the reader as she recalls it. I had already touched upon the second function with the description of the creature and the tragedy of the missing children. This serves as a warning to the reader, as they are encouraged to understand that there must be already be a warning and ban from entering the forest. This ban and warning is of course broken as Alice enters the forest to retrieve the cure for her mother. This serves as the third function: the ‘violation’ (Propp 286) and is followed a short while after by Alice’s departure from the path, the warning that is stated as part of the second function. The fourth function is the ‘reconnaissance’ (Propp 286), which appears to be addressed as Alice begins to hear what she assumes to be the creature that she also assumes to be hunting her. However, as we discover, the creature is not the real villain and as Alice flees from its noise she falls at the feet of one of the enchanted animals that dwell within the wood. It is this then that serves the purpose of the fourth function and simultaneously fulfils the requirements of the fifth, sixth and seventh functions in one motion. By meeting one of the enchanted animals, the real villains, and by trusting it, Alice falls prey to the ‘reconnaissance’, ‘delivery’, Propp’s fifth function, the ‘trickery’ and the ‘complicity’ (Propp 386). The villain attempts to find something out about the hero, obtains it, attempts to deceive the hero and finally succeeds as ‘the victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps the enemy.’ (Propp 386).

It is from this stage that my tale begins to divert from Propp’s formula. The decision to deviate from the formula was mainly because I wished to introduce the elements that would conflict with the quintessential conventions that I had indentified with the genre from my secondary reading. As mentioned, I wished for my fairy tale to emulate both the traditional versions and the editions such as ‘The Company of Wolves’ by Angela Carter.

After analysing the traditional conventions and structure of the classic fairy tale, I began to analyse the variations of the Red Riding Hood story and read critical work surrounding it to further my understanding of its themes and conventions. An element of this that I was most interested to explore was that of the degree of explicit and adult themes that resonate throughout so many of the traditional fairy tales. For the sake of this companion, I will limit my investigation into these themes in only the most prominent versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

The earliest recording of this iconic tale is ‘The Story of Grandmother’ whose specific origin is unknown. The story is one fraught with taboo throughout with references to murder, cannibalism and bestiality. After the wolf kills and stores away the remains of the little girl’s grandmother, references are made to the little girl consuming them shortly before giving the wolf some sort of ‘medieval striptease’ (Burns, 32) and being lured into bed with him. One has to speculate at the purpose of the gruesome undertones within this story. When reading and analysing this tale it is important to realise that it was not solely written for children, or indeed intended for them at all. Secondly, to provide distraction and entertainment, tales necessitated higher degrees of melodrama within them, as Tatar so candidly states: ‘Is it surprising that, in a an age without radios, television, and other electronic wonders, they favored fast-paced narratives with heavy doses of burlesque comedy, melodramatic action, scatological humour, and free-wheeling violence?’ (Tatar 3)

Perrault’s tale eradicates the striptease contained within its predecessor in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ but its contents are still rich in violence, with undertones of rape. After the evidence of irresponsible bad parenting: her mother sending her off alone through the woods and the statement of that ‘The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stop and talk to wolves’ (Perrault 12), the girl succumbs to temptation and picks flowers and chasing butterflies whilst the wolf proceeds to murder her grandmother. Little Red Riding Hood arrives, eventually, at her grandmother’s house and fooled effortlessly by the wolf into believing that he is in fact her grandmother she obeys him without question to remove her clothes and climb into bed with the wolf. After some elementary discoveries by Red Riding Hood that her grandmother seemed slightly different, the wolf swallows her whole. It would be my suggestion that the cruel and sadistic application of taboo exists within this Perrault tale to serve an even greater purpose than when used in the earlier, original tales. The moral following the girl’s demise advises girls to learn from Red Riding Hood’s example and beware of wolves of all kinds. The intention of the tale appears to be one of moral purposes, to keep children on the Christian path. Despite this there is certainly an air of sadism within the text from the author. As Burns describes, Perrault ‘is amusing himself vicariously with the thought of seduction while warning little girls who are innocent and pretty to be careful.’ (Burns 31)

Tatar suggests: ‘Sex and violence: these are the major thematic concerns of in the Grimms’ collection, at least in their unedited form.’ (Tatar 369). ‘Little Red Cap’ is no exception and takes a different approach to the tale than Perrault with different intentions behind it. Despite the wolf having his metaphorical ‘way’ with Little Red Cap and her grandmother, he is discovered by a huntsman travelling through the forest who cuts him open, rescues the two females and (with the help of Little Red Cap) fills his stomach with stones before sewing him back up and allowing him to wake up and disembowel himself. As in Perrault’s version, there is strong evidence to support the devouring of Little Red Cap and her grandmother as a symbol of the text being a rape narrative. Susan Brownmiller suggests the swallowing of both Little Red Cap and her grandmother who are completely docile and defenceless ‘is a parable of rape’ (Brownmiller 343) and elaborates that the tale encourages girls to ‘stick close to the path, better not be adventurous. If you are lucky, a good friendly male may be able to save you from certain disaster.’ (Brownmiller 344). But the difference with the application of taboo within the Grimm’s tale is in the difference of their intentions. It is to serve a more educational purpose than Perrault’s moral tale – simply to teach children to obey their elders, and that if they do, no harm will come to them. ‘Unlike Perrault, who has written a moral story about innocence and its frailty in the face of raw violence, the Grimms’ tale has its roots in the necessity for obedience’ (Burns 33).

It is clear from my research into the adult themes within these traditional tales, that they are rife with them, and the authors unafraid of using graphic and grim elements to translate their intentions. I would argue, that the reason taboo is so heavily featured within the tales, is for the specific intention of the author; whether for education, entertainment, sadistic satisfaction or to impress moral guidelines.

Not only were almost all traditional fairy tales written by men, but the female characters represented within them tend to be ones of a far less than flattering quality. It is from my research that I have learnt that the majority of female figures presented throughout fairy tales were essentially portrayed to be to be the domestic female, without independence that conformed to patriarchy. It is Marcia Lieberman and her article on the acculturation of women in fairy tales that influenced this stage of my research principally. Lieberman states that ‘among other things, these tales present a picture of sexual roles, behavior, and psychology,’ (Lieberman 384) and it is clear to see truth in her statement. Consistently, the traditional fairy tales present women to only be positive characters if they conform to social roles and display the characteristics that, presumably, were desirable in the time that they were written in. The heroines are portrayed as mild tempered and passive beings who require nothing but their beauty and desirable temperament to be rewarded with or saved by a prince or courageous male, and are helpless without him.

‘Most of the heroines … are entirely passive, submissive, and helpless. This is most obviously true of Sleeping Beauty, who lies asleep, waiting for a brave prince to awaken and save her. (She is like the Snow-White of “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs,” who lies in a death-like sleep, her beauty being visible through her glass coffin, until a prince comes along and falls in love with her.)’ (Lieberman 388)

As illustrated here by Lieberman, the heroines sole purpose is to remain docile and beautiful, to not upset the status quo and to await the arrival of their prince and, or, future husband.

The idea of the heroine’s need for a male character to save and marry her, and one could suggest, for her to serve, is prominent throughout the majority of the fairy tales. In variations of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and, most importantly, Red Riding Hood, the heroines are weak without redeeming male characters. It could be suggested that Red Riding Hood is portrayed as completely reliant on men. Within ‘Little Red Cap’ by the Brothers Grimm, the girl is not only fooled and controlled by the wolf who, I would suggest, represents masculine lust and sexuality, but requires the rescue from the huntsman. It is interesting to note here that further interpretations state that the action the huntsman performed could be read as antagonistic towards both sexes as opposed to solely women. The action of cutting the wolf’s stomach open could be viewed as a caesarean section response to the wolf’s metaphorical pregnancy. This could be viewed as women punishing men as Fromm describes:

‘How, then, is the wolf made ridiculous? By showing that he attempted to play the role of the pregnant woman, having living things in his belly. Little-Red-Cap puts stones, a symbol of sterility, into his belly, and the wolf collapses and dies. His deed … is punished according to his crime: he is killed by the stones, the symbol of sterility, which mock his usurpation of the pregnant women’s role.’ (Fromm 241)

The theme of the female characters total passivity and reliance on male figures to save them is something that – like the majority of the conventions of the classic fairy tale in ‘The Forest of Lyca’ – I have deviated from at points whilst maintaining similarities. Alice is, undoubtedly, an archetype of the female characters within the traditional fairy tales. She is helpless, at the mercy of others and is constant need of being rescued. She displays certain traits of resilience, level-minded and logical thinking that the traditional heroines do not, which was my attempt to make her character a slightly more complex and memorable one so as the reader may feel more empathetic with her. Nevertheless, ultimately her beauty, submissiveness and rapidity to succumb to the beautiful creatures’ temptation results in her embodiment of the traits that are quintessential to the heroine of the traditional fairy tales. Conversely, there are no explicit references to the chauvinistic rescue from a hero, prince or huntsman. Alice is repeatedly saved, or at the least the reader believes she is saved, by the very things that intend to hurt her. This is another convention that I have decided to warp to make the piece more critically engaging to consider when comparing it to the traditional fairy tales. However, despite there being no explicitly male character who comes to Alice’s rescue, the animals who supposedly save her are implied to be men; the centaur for example is a male and there is a stag as opposed to a deer. They are also the combined character of the wolf, embodying male sexuality, and intend to eat Alice which, if we agree with Brownmiller’s view above, is a threat upon her virginity. The centaur, for example, echoes the line from ‘The Story of Grandmother’ of “You won’t be needing them anymore.” (Beatson 15) when instructing Alice to leave her red cloak outside which, as mentioned, can be read to symbolise her virginity.

As mentioned, the typical heroines are portrayed as passive and domestic. Furthermore those that are not and are instead ambitious, independent and powerful, are portrayed as evil or inhuman. The queens without kings are usually evil; the cunning stepmothers are wicked, and even the fairy godmother in Cinderella who demonstrates power and independence for good is not human: ‘Women who are powerful and good are never human … those women who are human, and who have the power or seek it, are nearly always portrayed as repulsive … and are generally shown as active, ambitious, strong-willed and most often, ugly.’ (Lieberman 197)

The concept of beauty is an important one when considering the patriarchal role of women within the classic fairy tale. It is evident throughout the study of the majority of the tales that to be a beautiful girl is to be a decent person and, above all else, to be rewarded. As part of a family ‘the prettiest is invariably singled out and destined for reward’ (Lieberman 385) and it is clear that beauty is rewarded and ugliness punished. In variations of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, it is the beautiful character that is ultimately the one who has the happiest ending. ‘Beautiful girls are never ignored; they may be oppressed at first by wicked figures, as the jealous Queen persecutes Snow-White, but ultimately they are chosen for reward.’ (Lieberman 385). To be beautiful grants the ultimate reward: a prince to marry or a happy marriage where they will fulfil a domestic role successfully. One can therefore make the conclusion that fairy tales were encouraging girls to think only of their looks, ‘and the focus on beauty as a girl’s most valuable asset, perhaps their only valuable asset.’ (Lieberman 385).

After studying this concept from Lieberman’s article and other secondary critical material, I began to consider how I wished this to affect my own fairy tale. I considered that within the classic editions of Red Riding Hood it could be construed that the heroine is punished for her beauty but, unlike the previous characters mentioned, not rewarded afterwards. In Charles Perrault’s version, I would argue that the girl’s beauty is not the only reason for her burden and punishment, but that it is her lack of awareness of it that brings her to an ending that is far from ‘happily ever after’. Maria Tatar confirms this when she describes the Grimm and Perrault’s intention to make ‘the heroine responsible for the violence to which she is subjected. By speaking to strangers (as Perrault tells it) or by disobeying her mother and straying from the path (as the Grimms tell it), Red Riding Hood courts her own downfall.’ (Tatar 6) Perrault’s version is followed by the moral epilogue, warning girls to beware of men who covet their appearance. It is this idea that I have decided to apply to my tale. I vividly describe Alice’s blossoming femininity and beauty and it is this that the reader is led to believe makes her such a target, from the creature that senses her stage of puberty to the constant convert and extrovert references to attacks upon her virginity. However, to keep the tale on the borderline appropriateness for children, Alice finds that it was all a dream, and that her childhood innocence has been prolonged as she looks at the untarnished red cloak upon her door, which can be read in this case as a metaphor for the unbroken hymen.

However, an element that I have partly shared and partly reversed, depending on the view, is the one that beautiful characters are good and the ugly ones are bad. The creatures in the forest are beautiful and elegant and therefore Alice feels compelled to trust them against the horrifically ugly creature that she thinks means her harm. However, once out of the light that the forest (and in reality, adolescence) casts, she realises the once beautiful creatures are ugly, and therefore the evil and the once feared creature is in fact beautifully pure and consequently good. One could argue that I have gone against the convention and presented the beautiful creatures as evil and vice versa, but it is the former interpretation I had envisaged.

From studying the theoretical material surrounding the negative portrayal of women it is necessary to consider the historical and social contexts of the time of the recording of the fairy tales. I have previously discussed that the tales contain extremely negative portrayals of women, however, that is speaking from a present day viewpoint. A feminist reading of the fairy tales is, in comparison with their origins, startling recent in history. The historical and social context of the tales’ time of assembly is one of patriarchy and where women held a far more prominent role in the domestic side of life than the vocational, and although perhaps some of the depiction is slightly one-sided and extreme, it is important to consider the differences in society. Jack Zipes comments on the relevance of the attitudes towards women present within the Grimms’ tales:

What became apparent […] was that the Grimms’ tales, though ingenious and perhaps socially relevant in their own times, contained sexist and racist attitudes and served a socialization process which placed great emphasis on passivity, industry, and self-sacrifice for girls and activity, competition, and accumulation of wealth for boys. (Zipes 1979 3)

Secondly, the education of women was considerably different and exceptionally limited in the time that the tales were written. In the time that Charles Perrault was writing his tales, the 17th century, the level of education offered to men was severely different to that of women. The tales were of course written exclusively by men, and read more dominantly by men. Even at the time of the publication of the Grimms’ tales, they were still releasing stories that were appropriate to their audience. ‘Wilhelm consistently tried to meet audience expectations. And the reading audience of Germany was largely bourgeois, growing in power and becoming more Biedermeier or Victorian in its morals and ethics.’ (Zipes 1979 8) I would argue that this does more to explain than excuse the portrayal of women, as the overwhelming material I have read supporting this interpretation has led me to believe that that despite these factors, the representation is still decisively negative and derogatory.

After writing a fairy tale with many of the elements that the traditional tales contain, several facets about them have become clear to me and raised certain thoughts. Firstly, the degrees of the themes that lie within the pages of the tales are more sinister and twisted than I had realised at the beginning of this project. I realise that the reasons behind the application of them from my study of the tales and critical material are down to their intentions, both conscious and unconscious, but it still surprised me to see the extent of them. Similarly to this, the other elements discussed within this companion have been enlightening to me in regards to the medium of the fairy tale. But after writing my own and attempting to emulate these qualities, whilst adapting some, and changing many, I have discovered that to attempt to recreate them with similar intentions would be near impossible within today’s society. Angela Carter succeeds admirably in completely modernising them, with an explicit feminist twist upon them and making them so vivid. However, to attempt to write a contemporary fairy tale with the themes that the classic tales embody, and direct them towards children no matter what the intention, would not be accepted. Not only is equality between the two genders more level than it ever has been, but many forms of socialisation and imposing roles upon children at a young age is rapidly being discouraged. I for one do not believe that adults would permit a story written in the modern day to be read to children if it contained such conventions. Correspondingly, children now are more intuitive and discerning than ever before and I do not think that many of the extreme themes directed over their heads to their parents or into their subconscious would be missed. This is mirrored at the end of ‘The Little Girl and the Wolf’ by James Thurber:

‘for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out her basket and shot the wolf dead. Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.’ (Thurber 17)

Primary Texts:

  • Anon. “The Story of Grandmother” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 10-11.
  • Brothers Grimm. “Cinderella” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 117-122.
  • Brothers Grimm. “Little Red Riding Cap” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 13-16.
  • Brothers Grimm. “Snow White” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 83-89.
  • Carter, Angela. “The Company of Wolves” The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage (2006). 129-139.
  • Carter, Angela. “The Erl-King” The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage (2006). 96-104.
  • Carter, Angela. “The Snow Child” The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage (2006). 105-106.
  • Perrault, Charles. “Little Red Riding Hood” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 11-13.
  • Tatar, Maria. Ed. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (2003).

Secondary Texts:

  •  Bettelheim, Bruno. ““Hansel and Gretel”” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 269-280.
  • Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. London: Penguin Group, 1991.
  • Blake, William. “The Little Girl Lost” Romanticism an Anthology. Ed. Duncan Wu. Malden: Blackwell Publishing (2006) 193-194
  • Bottigheimer, Ruth B. “Tale Spinners: Submerged Voices in Grimms’ Fairy Tales.” New German Critique. 27. Duke University Press (1982) 141-150. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Brothers Grimm. “The Juniper Tree” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999. 190-197.
  • Brothers Grimm. “Hansel and Gretel” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 184-190
  • Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. New York: Bantam (1976) 343-344
  • Burns, Lee. “Red Riding Hood” Children’s Literature 1.1 (1972): 30-36. Web. 10th Apr. 2012.
  • Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. London: Fabbri Publishing Ltd (1992).
  • Carter, Angela. “Afterword” Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises Cambridge: Harper & Rowe (1974). 133.
  • Carter, Angela. Ed. The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales. London: Virago Press Ltd (1993).
  • Carter, Angela. Ed. The Virago Book of Fairy Tales. London: Virago Press Ltd (1991).
  • Carter, Angela. “The Werewolf” The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage (2006). 140-149
  • Carter, Angela. “Wolf Alice” The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage (2006). 140-149
  • Calvino, Italo. “The False Grandmother” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 17-19.
  • Colopy, Cheryl. “Sir Degaré: A Fairy Tale Oedipus.” Pacific Coast Philology 17.1/2. Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (1982): 31-39. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Dahl, Roald. Boy: Tales of Childhood. London: Penguin Books Ltd (1986).
  • Dahl, Roald. “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 21-22.
  • Fromm, Erich. The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales and Myths. New York: Rinehart (1951). 241.
  •  Gilbert, Sandra M, Susan Gubar. “Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 291-297.
  • Koepke, Wulf. “[Untitled].” South Central Review 5.4. The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the South Central Modern Language Association (1988). 109-110. Web. 13th October 2011.
  • Lieberman, Marcia R. “”Some Day My Prince Will Come”: Female Acculturation through the Fairy Tale.” College English 34.3 (1972). 383-395. Web. 28th March 2012.
  •  Linkin, Harriet Kramer. “Review: Telling Tales about Angela Carter.” Contemporary Literature 44.2 University of Wisconsin Press (2003) 340-344. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Mi, Chiang. “Goldflower and the Bear” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 19-21.
  • Propp, Vladimir. “Folklore and Literature” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 378-387.
  • Shavit, Zohar. “The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales: Test Case-‘Little Red Hood.’ The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 317-332.
  • Smith, Lindsay. “[Untitled].” Nineteenth-Century Literature 54.2. University of California Press (1999): 255-260. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Tatar, Maria. “Sex and Violence: The Hard Core of Fairy Tales.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 364-373.
  • Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Thurber, James. “The Little Girl and the Wolf”. The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 16-17.
  •  Wardetzky, Kristin. “The Structure and Interpretation of Fairy Tales Composed by Children.” The Journal of American Folklore 103.408. American Folklore Society (1990). 157-176. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Warner, Marina. “The Old Wives’ Tale” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 309-317.
  • Zipes, Jack. “A Second Gaze at Little Red Riding Hood’s Trials and Tribulations.” The Lion and the Unicorn 7. (1983). 78-109. Web. 20th January 2012.
  • Zipes, Jack. “Breaking the Disney Spell” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1999). 332-352.
  • Zipes, Jack. “Spreading Myths about Fairy Tales: A Critical Commentary on Robert Bly’s Iron John.” New German Critique.55. Duke University Press (1992). 3-19. Web. 16th October 2011.
  • Zipes, Jack. “Towards a Social History of the Literary Fairy Tale for Children.” Children’s Literature Assoction Quarterly 7.2 (1982). 23-26. Web. 2nd April 2012.
  • Zipes, Jack. “Who’s Afraid of the Brothers Grimm?: Socialization and Politization through Fairy Tales.” The Lion and the Unicorn 3.2 (1979). 4-41. Web. 21st January 2012.
  • Front Cover Image Selected From: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/03/21/the_dark_forest_of_childhood/

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This is they way of things now, Wolf.” Said Red.

As he tried to clamber to his paws, the wolf glanced up in terror at the two women standing over him. He couldn’t understand.

One was an elderly woman, she was haggard in her face, a hunch in her back, but that did not cause him sympathy. Now this could have been for a few reasons. It could have been due to him being a cruel and heartless wolf, it could be that a wolf’s sympathy is not seduced by such things, perhaps. Or perhaps it could have been due to the heavy spade that the frail old dear was raising, to hit him again across the snout.

One was a girl of the age wherein childhood is but a repressed memory and womanhood a tentative cycle journey away. He felt nothing but pure dread when regarding the girl and her rosy hood. Now this might have been for a few reasons. It might have been due to the fact that despite being where he was, he felt such an affinity for her, it might have been from her long dark hair to that repulsively rapacious rouge robe that seemed to pursue him through the very wood in which he dwelled and through his very soul. It might have been this rebuked compulsion, perhaps. Or perhaps it might have been due to the eight-inch knife that he assumed the girl intended to use to remove his other ear.

This had been waiting to happen he thought. Fate had been hinting a change of play, in the way that it did, the unrelenting, unfeeling director that it was. Girls just weren’t what they used to be. No longer did they marvel at his propensities and their utilities or even fear from straying from the path. Perhaps he was no longer something to fear but a rite to simply conquer before continuing down along the passage.

He wondered why this was happening. It was in his nature to pursue and dominate (the wolf: a strong essentialist) but that didn’t seem possible these days. He even missed the huntsman. As he noted the absence of the third killing entity he noted its presence now obsolete.

As he got to his paws, the wolf looked up in terror at the two women standing over him.

“This is the way of things now, Wolf.” Red said.

He understood.

The End.

I just knocked this together in a few minutes. I’m writing a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland for my dissertation at the moment, investigating the gothic stereotype and female sexuality within the traditional fairytale. Yes, before you ask that is precisely what I ought to be doing right now.

This takes a slightly different route (obviously) in looking at the rise of feminism and the wolf as a symbol of male lust (as is pretty standard within the interpretations of LRRH), the male gaze and, perhaps, misogyny and patriarchy.

From Charles Perrault’s LRRH with its message at the end to girls to keep on the path and beware of wolves of all types makes it quite clear that to stray off the path is to lose your virginity and to keep clear of men who will try to charm you into bed. The story is a rite of passage within many different versions. Other versions take different stands, Angela Carter takes a feminist approach for example, The Brother Grimm another; the wolf usually embodies male lust and killing the wolf either symbolises repressing female lust and sexuality for safety, or setting it free to celebrate it. Nothing new here.

I suppose this represents that times have changed. The wolf speaks the voice of masculinity, intimidated by stronger women, being over-ridden and destroyed and highlights the crisis of masculinity found today. The wolf used to be the one that preyed on Red, she was the damsel in distress and fell prey to his dominance unless she behaved in a very puritan fashion. But now, despite the fact that her entrancing and arousing nature over the wolf has not changed, she is in control and exerting her femininity and sexuality over the wolf that causes him to fear her. He wants what will destroy him. The grandmother takes revenge on the wolf from her days of suffrage and it acts a form of ritual between generations as a rite of passage.

Red doesn’t require the huntsman (or any man) to save her or awaken her sexuality. Homo-social worlds are a thing of the past in this story.

The wolf presents an essentialist view upon gender and sexuality. He is confused as the lust and drive to hunt is something he was born with and therefore he is confused (to begin with) as to why he is being punished for it. Red presents a more social constructionist view upon gender and sexuality, and is performing the role she performs in every pro feminist reading of the original text(s).

Please leave comments on any other interpretations you took from it, it’s packed full of imagery and metaphors so that one and all can have (hopefully) an individual view of it!

Post Script: Sorry for any spelling/grammatical errors and stuff that doesn’t make sense, I’m in a rush and need food.

P.P.S: Thanks to this site for the image: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2010/12/the_10_sexiest_mcfarlane_toys_action_figures.php

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So I sit a module in University (when I attend) called Gender, Sexuality and Writing. Sounds like fun right? Half right I suppose. It is indeed filled with interest and probing, (no pun intended) questions and ideas.

As one may envisage, much of the discussion is generated from the oppression of women over the centuries, feminist criticism and general damning of those with Y in their chromosome’s construction. Still sounding like fun? Well, I thought there must be other chaps out there besides myself that would also be on this course and I was correct. Gazing around the lecture hall I can in fact pick out three other guys, out of around seventy odd. And, surprise surprise, none of those chaps happen to inhabit my seminars. So these happy one hour sessions include fifteen people; fourteen of the female persuasion, and me. Definitely still sounding like fun isn’t it?

At the beginning of academic year I found myself to be worrying about the end state of self-esteem and my genitals after enough of these sessions. I mean surely, me sitting there, discussing the damnation of the male race would make most men want to chop their general and two colonels? Either that or I had strongly anticipated some sort of sacrificial castration eventuating at one stage or another. However, I have found it to be one the highlights of my week.

One or two here may know me in ‘real’ life. I am an antagonizing and irritating (though of course simultaneously witty, charming and modest) degenerate. But a degenerate blessed with the skill of being able to argue extremely proficiently about any given topic and generally tie people in knots. This aids me in great lengths within these heavenly hours, as I am forced to defend the male race alone (the tutor is also a fervently furious feminist) as feel I ought to.

Now before I continue further, I would like it to be made known that when it comes to my own personal opinion on feminism and all of that, I am rather asexual. I argue for both sides of the equation and want nothing short of equality, equally. However, there are just certain things that have been thrusted to my attention that I wanted to explore. I’d also like to make it crystal clear that when it comes to my historical and theoretical knowledge on these things I am, in the grand scheme, a perfect novice, so do not destroy me too thoroughly.

The module is named Gender, Sexuality and Writing, but as far as I’m concerned Gender and Sexuality means that we ought to discuss all genders and sexual orientations. This is sadly not the case for we touch briefly on male literature and homosexual writings but it seems to be there for formalities sake, to make room for the overwhelming feminist literature, lesbian writings etc. We studied for instance, H. Rider Haggard’s imperial romance She, a superb novel directed at men, discussing homosocial worlds and drawing on societies fears of and reacting to the emerging New Woman. This was the inclusion of looking at feminism from a male perspective, however, we were ushered to criticize it in an attack against this way of thinking. It seems that feminist writers are allowed to attack men and the patriarchal society but when a male writer wishes to write anything that could be construed to isolate women, or have women as femme fatales or negative roles of any kind, this is unacceptable and sexist.

It is one hundred percent clear and understandable to me why there is feminism, and frankly, I’m glad there is. I dread to think of life if we lived in the type of society we do today but with 19th century views towards the treatment of women and their rights. Emmeline Pankhurst was a heroine in my opinion and I could name you hundreds of female authors that depicted women struggling for equality whilst they too struggled with the same hypocrisy and torment, and I stand behind them well and truly. However, although women still do not have perhaps equal opportunities today, neither do men.

I’m aware of a few employers that are forced to hire women over men who are in fact are more qualified due to the lack of diversity and fear of law suits. Employers who are continuously taken for ride from female employees that exploit maternity leave. There are countless stories of women complaining about sexism and the lack of equality that are all taken extremely seriously (and so they should be) but you rarely hear the same complaints from men. Despite there being a good amount occurring in society.

Girls are now allowed to join Beavers, Cubs and Scouts but boys are not allowed to join Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. There even complaints emerging about men’s organisations grouping together to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer with events such as the ‘Movember’ scheme. The complaints stem from women stating that they too have lost close ones to prostate cancer. Well this is very true, but men are not allowed to contribute to breast cancer organisations and race for life events despite that they too have lost loved ones and that men can in fact also contract breast cancer.

I do not believe in set gender roles and all that rubbish and sexist views that women have had to confront since the beginning of time. I do however, believe that some feminists, need to take a break from attacking men and attempting to have everything that men have and allow women to have it too (whilst not allowing the process to be reversed) and come to realise that men and women are, in fact, different. On the majority, women are often more intelligent than men, so that should be reflected in them securing jobs over those that do not qualify as well. They are also often more apt at teaching younger years, and therefore it should be no big deal that more jobs are given to women to become primary school teachers. It also shouldn’t be a big deal that, on the majority, men tend to be larger and physically stronger than women. It is not always the case, but often this is the way. Therefore there should not be these day to day arguments over women feeling they are being oppressed because men are being allocated higher ranking roles in areas that require a higher physical demand. I decided to poke fun at this exact point within one of my seminars. The tutor had been doing her routinely damning of men and how women can do everything the same if not better which of course was a lovely hour to sit through. As we were leaving however, she was struggling to pick up the entirety of her files and papers. I strolled past and commented that I would of course offer to assist her, but that I wouldn’t want to undermine her femininity and oppress her in any way. I’m sure this comment contributed in my low marks of the next assignment.

I’m also not saying for a minute, that women now have equality and that the examples listed above are the indication of that now we men are oppressed. That would be silly. Women still struggle daily, but the point I’m making is that now, so do men. It’s very hard to conform to societies wishes. Heterosexual men are now required to be sensitive to women’s needs and allow them to be their own person and pursue their own lives. But, we are also still needed to be protective, decisive, confident and often things that completely contradict the first set of requirements. Many of us are plodding through life, with our heads continuously looking over our shoulders, terrified of our own shadows and attempting not to be sexist.

To be honest this post probably doesn’t make much sense, and I’ve most likely managed to offend some people. For this, I apologise. Alike to all of my posts, this one was not planned or thought out, I simply write as if I were speaking. I’m sure if I had thought more or taken more time over it I may have been able to come up with a more fluid and well balanced argument. I have not though.

Therefore, I’m sure that it is accurate to assume, that due to men having it rather easy over the centuries, and women being horrendously oppressed over the centuries, that it is man’s time to suffer. But if that is true, then think about all we’ve done to earth and the animal kingdom. Trust me, it won’t matter what gender you are; when that day comes, we’re all screwed. There’s nothing I want more than for things to be equal between men and women, but unfortunately, I just don’t think it’ll ever happen. That’s because we are in fact different. And these differences aren’t always a bad thing. Who says it’s a bad thing for a man to be the one to drop down on one knee and propose? Or a woman to be the one who is proposed to? After all, the differences we have, often complement each other extremely well and result in grand things. In the words of Rodney King and Mars Attacks: “Can’t we all just get along?”

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