A mother has called for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale to be banned from schools for fear that a kissing scene featured could encourage ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Sarah Hall from Newcastle is concerned about the message the scene is sending to her 6-year old son on consensual relations. A Prince kissing a sleeping woman who, obviously, has not consented is anathema in the context of the new enlightenment on sexual harassment against women.
The aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations has, predictably, resulted in a binary system of ‘for’ or ‘against’. There are those who applaud the women who have come forward and who are seeking to rewrite society’s rules on how men treat women. The other half are the ‘against-ers’ who are still making excuses for men and blaming women for what happened to them. Sarah Hall has captured the pulse of those in the ‘for’ camp. She is shining the spotlight on a story that has been regurgitated countless times globally to young children.
I wholeheartedly support her campaign for the simple reason that society is a evolving entity. Our thoughts, analyses and opinions are shaped by our experiences and new unfolding circumstances. We would be mugs as mothers for not absorbing and questioning what challenges the status quo. We have a huge responsibility to educate our children and this extends to questioning accepted wisdom and absorbing it into contemporary truths.
Reading fairy tales to our children plays a huge part of our mothering especially when you consider that this is an activity that is done both during the day and at bedtime. When my daughter was under 5 I would read to her mid-morning and in the evening before bath time as a ritual to get her ready for bed. Her father would then read to her after tucking her into bed. Aggregate these hours and you will get a sense of how much children are exposed to fairy-tales. Children are internally absorbing these messages without challenges. We accepted these stories as being cast in stone when we ourselves were children. The act of parental storytelling is also one of passing these stories down unchallenged. Sarah Hall is turning this supposed inevitability around.
I do wonder how much support her campaign will receive from schools though. For every parent who supports her there will be many others who will dispute it and see the taking away of fairy tale telling as somehow diminishing the experience of childhood.
However, she has opened up a discourse that is worth taking forward but one, in my opinion, which ought to recognise the role of mothers as story tellers. My Asian cultural experiences help me add another dimension to this experience. I used to make up stories for my daughter which involved tales of courage and overcoming adversity. Reading from a book isn’t the only way Asian mothers tell stories. I made up stories involving little Asian children who rode elephants, had mothers who were poverty stricken, sick children who needed doctors and little girls who grew up to become independent women. Mother story telling provides large opportunities for reimagining society and being fodders for inspiration.
While some of my stories did reflect the stereo type Asian mother who prioritises educational success there were also nuances on bravery and the importance of values.
If your child is hearing fairy tales that don’t align with your values don’t despair. You, as a mother, are the premier story teller. Yours could incorporate your values and belief system.Our search for rethinking and revaluating the status quo powerfully begins with us. By imparting this wisdom to your children your story telling takes on a persona that contradicts the simple regurgitation of ‘happily ever stories’.
This blog post was ranked 8th in the weekly Golden Dozen published on 26 November 2017