Background Information: Women’s role in society is apparent in stories as the female protagonists often embody those traits. Feminine beauty is a “socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets” (Baker-Sperry 711).
- "Briar Rose": The importance of establishing feminine beauty is often seen in fairytales such “Rapunzel”. In the story, Rapunzel is described as “the most beautiful child under the sun” (Grimm 67). Leading characters in the story are often very beautiful women.
- Analysis: This emphasizes the idea that beauty is a very important part of a woman’s life because fairytales are “major means by which children assimilate culture” (Baker-Sperry 713). Since children will learn the culture of their country by reading fairytales, authors often place society’s values into their stories to help children learn the correct ways of their country. By associating the kindness and beauty of characters together, readers will connect beauty with other attributes that comprise of a good citizen and person. The danger to a social value such as this is the growing vanity of women. If beauty is prized as a woman’s most important asset, many women will focus purely on physical appearance rather than more important traits such as integrity and kindness. Women assume that kindness comes with beauty, but that only exists in fairytales. They will fail to comprehend the other attributes that will make them a well-rounded person rather than women who only care about looks. In addition, less attractive characters in the stories are portrayed as evil and sinister.
- "Briar Rose": In another example, Princess Rose is in slumber under her curse until the prince “kissed her…and she [opens] her eyes” (Grimm 170).
- Analysis: This story displays women as weak and fragile people who are always in some type of trouble who require assistance from others. It is also this type of female character that ends up achieving happiness in the end. This displays society’s expectations for women. Woman are supposed to be reliant on their husbands and fathers rather than having their own independence. How are women supposed to achieve independence and their own freedom? Many myth stories by the Grimm Brothers serve as a method of brainwashing women into believing that women are destined to be below their male counter-parts. This prevents women from seeking equal respect and rights.
- "Hansel and Grethel": In “Hansel and Grethel”, the witch who lures the children into her home is “a very old woman, walking upon crutches…[with] red eyes, like wild beasts” (Grimm 61).
- Analysis: Women who are less physically appealing in the stories are the antagonists of many German fairy tales. By building a connection between ugliness physically and emotionally, these stories encourage women to pursue physical beauty in real life. It is unfortunate how less attractive women are seen as evil and witches in fairytales. This teaches the children of German society to judge people based on appearance rather than other parts of a person such as personality and education. If a country is full of people who judge a person’s worth on their exterior, there is no growth in a nation as a whole.
- "Cinderella": In Cinderella, she is “obliged to work hard from morning to night” (Grimm 87), and her step-sisters treat her terribly. However, the prince of her kingdom rescues her, and she becomes the queen and lives a lavish life for the rest of her life.
- Analysis: This perception of women allows sexism to thrive. If women choose to follow the lifestyle of being taken care of by men, equality among gender will never exist. That can cause society to restrict the rights of women and consider them second-tier people inferior to men.