(5/2/05 10:08 pm)
Well, I'm not sure that any of this counts as bad publicity. I'd say the chances of the study getting published are good, and the chances of my reading the study once it is out are quite good. I do find it fascinating--and somewhat encouraging--that fairy tales are still provoking such discussion and reflection. And, if this turns out to be a study that many disagree with, I have to admit that I'm rather looking forward to reading the responses.
(5/3/05 8:16 am)
The more I read about the study, the more troubled I become. I spent
ten years working in an office where a significant proportion of
our clients were abused women fleeing their abuser, or trying to
deal with the legal consequenses of the mess the abusers created
in their lives. Fairy tales were a happy escape for those who knew
how to read--and their children were lucky if they were read to
at all, let alone had access to books. (Now granted, the slice of
society I witnessed was an economically poor one, and lack of resources
wouldn't necessarily apply to middle-class abused women, but one
of the classic ways in which an abuser controls his environment
is to hold onto to the family's money so the woman cannot escape
with her children.) Perhaps there is a psychological connection
made by an abused woman with passive/catalyst roles, but I cringe
at the notion that the tales caused
the woman to become a victim. This kind of passive/catalyst role
is portrayed all the time in television and movies, even now when
there are more pro-active female roles in existence. Cinderella
and Snow White as envisioned by Disney reflect this storytelling
view of how women "should" behave, but Disney did not
cause this bias--Disney reflected it.
This study reflects the age-old societal bias in describing abusive situations: the woman is abused because she allows herself to be abused, and so to solve the problem we need to figure out how to stop women from allowing themselves to be victims. I disagree. As Mangan stated in her article, quoting Professor Cameron: "Why . . . are we always looking for reasons why women become victims, and not at why there are still such large numbers of men around who think it's OK to beat their wives?"
Edited by: AliceCEB at: 5/3/05 8:22 am
(5/3/05 12:11 pm)
Quite a while ago there was a thread on here about what were the favorite childhood fairytales of the posters on this board. Interestingly but not surprisingly, the posters seemed to like stories where the protaganists and/or female characters were strong and ultimately in control of their own fate. Some were stories of women against girls, like the Juniper Tree, where the girl won in the end.
Correlation or Causation? I wonder if those with submissive personalities to begin with choose submissive female characters (whether in fairy tales or elsewhere) as role models because they can identify with them more, rather than the stories themselves leading to a submissive personality? How can one know or control for the innate personality of a child without starting the study at the earliest stages of that person's life and watching them progress - e.g. the 7-up series?
(5/4/05 11:16 am)
Good morning all. I can't help but add my perspective to this disturbing concept. I agree with Jess on the idea that readers often choose fairytales in which they can identify with the central character. Over the years, the regular posters on this board have displayed great strength of character. However, (and I hate to be the one to say so), D-S may be seeing some correlations that actually exist. It is never advisable to stereotype. But I don't think she is saying that "all" young readers of fairy tales will exhibit submissive traits later in life -- that would absurd. Instead, it appears to me that she is saying that there is a possibility that archetypes can become magnified by the reader's own perception of self. Isn't that one of the reasons archetypes exist at all?
As to my own personal experiences (which is all that I can really add to this post), I was a voracious reader of the fantastic -- even as a young girl. My mother was and still is a fan of Walt Disney -- and so as a very young child my first bedtime stories were Disney's fairy tale versions. I still have those books and they are falling apart -- not a complete binding left among them. My mother told me that before I could even read, I had memorized Cinderella -- which was favorite of them all. As I grew older, I continued reading fairy tales and by third grade had discovered Grimm and Anderson. But my favorite stories were always the ones where the girl was saved by her prince and the ones where beauty and goodness have the power of transformation. My parents never even so much as had an argument in front of my sister and I. They have been happily married for more than 36 years and my father still brings my mother flowers every week. And so I should have modeled my relationships on the healthy one that I grew up with -- right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. I was married for six years to an extremely abusive man. And after I was divorced, I kept falling into similar situations -- always being attracted to dominant men. Now does this have anything in common with the theory presented by D-S? Who knows? I still read fairy tales, but as I've gotten older (hopefully a little wiser) I have found myself identifying with characters that are different than the ones I loved so much in my youth. In exploring issues with fairy tale renditions of my own, I still see echoes of the past, but at the same time my own characters are becoming stronger and more self-reliant -- sometimes. And as a writer, seeing these issues manifest on paper, I'm of the opinion that many things can influence us in many different ways -- including fairy tales with thier richness and depth and darkness. I think that influences are powerless until we give them power in our own minds. Otherwise, stories would touch us all the same way. Just a thought -- and not a popular one I'm sure.
On the side: Did anyone note the small graph on Darker-Smith's other paper on anorexic and creativity? I personally find it to be an interesting theory.
‘The Dual Mind-Set Of Anorexia Nervosa – conceptualism through to cure’ looks at how anorexic victims often enjoy creative pursuits and struggle with mathematics – yet are able to become experts in weight and calorie calculation very rapidly.
Susan suggests an imbalance between the left side of the brain (critical) and the right side (creative) intensifies anorexia and could be treated by compassionate mind training currently being used to help schizophrenics.
(5/4/05 8:33 pm)
correlation vs. causation|
i do enjoy reading such thoughtful, intelligent conversation. and this time instead of just lurking, i must comment. i had a psych professor who was very fond of saying that correlation is not causation, so indeed there may be a correlation between which characters we identify with as children and the people we grow up to be, but this does not mean that these characters cause us to be one way or another. from what i've read, i gather that most have come to simular conclusions. its still a very interesting observation. domestic violence tends to run in families, so were these young girls read these stories with submissive characters by women who were abused and submissive themselves? did these daughters find ciderella so appealing because they wanted to explain what they were seeing in their own lives? i thought carrie made some strong points from her own experience, and while i have not had any violence in my life thankfully, i still found myself as a young woman having to overcome some of the notions i got from disney princess stories. i also agree with the notion that we must examine society and find out why we are still so tolerant of violence against women and children. i have some notions about patriarchy and the way our kids are socialized, but i have also read stories by people who frequent this board, and those recomended here, and think that this community should be very proud of the work it puts out into the world.
(5/4/05 11:39 pm)
well said. :)
(5/12/05 2:47 am)
I simply wanted to state that some of the newspaper reports have been largely focused on headliners that grab readers attention, rather than being responsible. Lucy Mangan's report, for me, meets this attention-grabbing headline tactic to increase readers by making a marginal controversy seem dramatically controversial.
The research is NOT about fairy stories making women submissive. It IS about abused female survivors over-identifying with particular characters in stories. Admitedly, these are subjective, as abused women may have selective memories - however, if we are not going to look at abuse survivor's own perceptions of why they cannot leave a relationship which is abusive, then we are nothing better than scientists excluding the human-element. Those stories responded to by survivors of abuse are the generalised format read to children today, which may be considered "disneyfied" by some.
No child that is read Cinderella will automatically become submissive - and this is a ridiculous concept which is NOT supported by D-S. However, the research actually is concerned with why domestically abused women and men stay in domestic abuse relationships - and the results show a marked indication of over-identification with submissive female role models in stories. The fact that over-conditioning can come from other sources (i.e. Family, Environment, Media etc.) has always been argued by D-S.
(5/14/05 8:49 am)
Good points, Sue.
The relationship between fairy tale identification and domestic abuse or child abuse is an interesting subject. I grew up in an abusive situation and I identified with fairy tale heroines very much -- but not with Disney heroines, who I found bland, simpering, and unsatisfying. I was fortunate to have books containing older versions of the tales, full of suffering but strong and active heroines. Thus, I never saw Cinderella as a passive figure rescued by a prince -- but rather as someone who actively defied her step-mother (with the help of a mentor figure: the fairy godmother) and took her fate into her own hands.
If anyone's interested, I've written about the importance of fairy
tales in this context in several forums, including an essay in the
Armless Maiden and Other Tale's For Childhood's Survivors;
also an essay published in the expanded 2nd edition of Kate Bernheimer's
excellent book Mirror,
Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
(available on-line on Endicott's "Adrienne Segur" tribute
you have to scroll halfway down the page to find the essay, called
"Transformations"); and also in relation to Tolkien's
ideas on fairy stories in an essay published in Karen Haber's Meditations
on Middle-Earth (available on line at www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/fortolkn.html).
Edited by: Terri Windling at: 5/14/05 8:57 am
(5/24/05 11:03 pm)
I've been unable to access the board for awhile, and am playing catch up. This is a thought (and gut) provoking topic. About domestic violence, about societal ills, about the impact- real or imagined- of stories. I can only speak from my own experience... my father was an extremely violent man. My mother loved him. I dodged a vast number of lifelong repercussions- I didn't kill myself, become a drug addict, decide on a career in the sex industry, marry or live with an abusive man, develop an eating disorder, or become a helpless victim of my past. I LOVED stories. Stories saved my soul. Stories helped me BELIEVE in the possibility of something better when my real life seemed bent on my personal and total destruction. There is validity on both sides of the argument. Yes, we need to ask why so many men think violence is a solution. We need to try to fathom why so many women think violence is what they deserve. The thing about this study that seems to be so inflammatory is that it seems to say that girls who become victims of domestic violence as women are reared to it by the stories they are exposed to. Which is far too narrow a thesis, imho. Influences on children are diffuse, vast, and nearly impossible to isolate from one another. I read the stories and they helped me; other women clearly got something else from their interpretations. How is it even possible to choose fairy tales as a possible contributing factor when there are so many factors present in a child's life? I want to rant, but I've got to think a little more...
(5/27/05 3:27 pm)
Terri - I've read your wonderful article (and also discovered the illustrations of Adrienne Segur).
I think that pain and sorrow are the pebbles that form the path of joy -because joy isn't like happiness something that you can reach (just to be tired of it very soon and find that you're starting to desire something else): it's a way to relate yourself to life, a kind of courage that springs among the difficulties of life, like the thread of salvation from the burning nettles. That's why we can talk of tragic joy (like Yeats), but would be quiet ridiculous to talk of tragic happiness...
Sometimes, due to the terrible experiences of your childhood and life, but even due just to yourself, to your sensibility and particular nature, you really feel trapped in a tower with no doors, like Rapunzel, and in adolescence this tower can be your own identity, overwhelming and suffocating you. You have to be patient then. The only thing that you can do is waiting, or crossing the shadows, disguised as a freak, as a living dead (Im thinking of Donkeyskin) until you find a sign of recognition. You become an adult, or more simply you become yourself, you find the balance that allows you not to be devoured by any wolf.
Rapunzel can't destroy the tower because the tower is herself: she can only wait for a change, a trasformation (the growing hair), starting again from her own body/identity.
Fairy tales help you confronting with a gruesome, violent wolrd, but even with the wonderful power of possibilities that are hidden inside you....
You learn that even if you're suffering it's through your actions that a swan - one of the greatest symbol of the soul -can become a visible, fleshy and strong human being.