Deconstructing gender in revised feminist fairy tales

Linda Mcandrew, Fordham University


Power relationships are a central premise in children's literature, especially traditional fairy tales and modern feminist fairy tales. This is seen in many fairy tales where the main female character is in some distress, her Prince Charming rescues her, and they live happily ever after. Modern feminist fairy tales are understood to be a forum where these male-dominated discourses are critiqued and alternatives to gendered subject positions are illustrated in the texts. The focus of this study was to identify the power of gender in reconstructed feminist fairy tales and the characters that benefit from and/or are hindered by this power. The researcher utilized critical multicultural analysis (CMA) to analyze four reconstructed feminist fairy tales: Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess, Mary Kate Osborne's Kate and the Beanstalk, Diane Stanley's Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, and Jane Yolen's Molly Whuppie. Readers can use CMA to investigate, question, and deconstruct language because language in the text positions a reader into a particular power relation. The framework that guided this analysis included three lenses: how the characters display and demonstrate power; which characters benefit from the power; and which characters are disadvantaged and limited by this power. Several themes emerged in this study: modern feminist fairy tales often have widely divergent gender messages about males and females; power is not equally shared among male and female characters; and very few characters display any form of agency. In fairy tales, when cultural gender norms are questioned and analyzed, the landscape of gender may change.

Subject Area

Language arts|Social studies education|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Mcandrew, Linda, "Deconstructing gender in revised feminist fairy tales" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3591410.