One traditional and stereotypical view of a woman is the “honey I’m home” wife who stays in the kitchen doing the cooking and cleaning while wearing the perfect outfit. While this particular view is more centered around the 1950’s the basic ideas of the woman’s role has been the same for hundreds of years. In the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White, though Snow White is a princess and a child, she is still taught that in order to be a good girl she must obey what she is told to do. This includes the cooking and cleaning the dwarfs ask of her. The other component of being a perfect woman is looking presentable at all times and ultimately looking better than everyone. This is where the queen in the story fits in. She has become so obsessed by the image in the mirror and being the best she becomes essentially evil. The story is giving women mixed messages saying not to obsess about looks but be beautiful, and portraying a woman as the heroine, but still saying disobedience of the women’s roles will lead to punishment.
When Snow White is “rescued” by the dwarfs they make an agreement with her that they will keep her safe if she does the cooking and cleaning for them. By agreeing to this she is put in a position of servitude. A woman is supposed to be responsible for everything in the kitchen while the man, the dwarfs serving as the man in the story, is the protector and is the one who will be right in the end. They warn her not to let anyone in, but Snow White disobeys them. In doing this she disobeyed men, which leads to consequences like being poisoned and death in the end. This creates the idea that women don’t know what they are talking about and are distracted and should take men’s advice on all subjects. In the time this story was written the hidden message was to designate these ideas and roles to women and show them what they need to do, but in a way disguised as a fiction story.
The issue the queen deals with is beauty and the necessity, but consequences of it. She is consumed by beauty, which is a contradiction of what is expected of women. They are expected to look perfect at all times and be refined and beautiful, but if they obsess about it they are seen as crazy or in some cases ugly. How then are women supposed to make sense of what is expected of them? The queen is evil because she wants to kill Snow White because of jealousy. Though there is no doubt this is an evil claim, is it not society’s fault that she wants to be beautiful and be the best? The idea of beauty is central to the story because the most beautiful is the one who is the winner, and the queen who is not as beautiful is the loser.
The story Snow White is a fairy tale intended to entertain both children and adults, but serves another purpose. It assumes the stereotypical roles of women dictated by society instead of creating a world of pure fantasy. It presents the point that women are expected to be obedient or there will be consequences, and also a point about beauty saying beauty is important in order to be the winner of the situation. The oppressive ideas of beauty corrupt the story by means of the evil queen whose obsessive thoughts about beauty lead her to kill her own daughter, or stepdaughter. These messages of female roles influence women negatively and teach them negative habits in regards to how they can be their own independent person.
One Response to “Traditional Female Gender Roles in “Snow White””