Participants of my ongoing Saving Cinderella class have the option to a write guest post on the topic of the session they attended. This post is in response to Session 1: The Importance of Fairy Tales and Why Feminists Get Them So Wrong.
To enroll in a future session of the class, click here.
The following was written by C. S. Johnson.
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Faith Moore in her first Saving Cinderella class, focusing on fairy tale symbolism and why feminists get it wrong.
I enjoyed the class, but I was not prepared for the reaction I experienced; my own internal journey managed to momentarily befuddle me.
Growing up, I did not have a close relationship with my father. My mother was my hero (and still is). Even when we found ourselves at odds with each other — when she assumed the role of the villain and I the rebel — I had a healthy fear of my mother’s position and power in my life. I cannot say the same about my father.
To be clear, my father is not a bad man. He just wasn’t able to be genuinely interested in my life, and he certainly wasn’t able to help me much when a father’s love would have soothed my broken pride or tempered my self-righteousness. Sunk in his own depression and his resulting and reinforced narcissism, he largely ignored me, mostly trying to buy my affections with gifts when he tried.
Today, I have a better relationship with my father, but it’s because of another important man in my life: my own husband. He helped me unlearn several of the bad habits I had learned in defending myself from my father’s emotional shadow.
One of the common objections I have heard from feminists, and I had myself, is that a lot of the princess tales revolve around marriage. When I was younger, I thought I did not need a prince or a kingdom to make me feel complete. I was smart, capable, reliable, and if I wanted something, I worked my way to get it. As an independent woman who carried the scars of her father’s neglect, feminism worked for me.
But I know now it has its limited benefits; a deficiency of empowerment will leave women vulnerable to abuse, and an excess will train women to be the abuser, even the self-abuser.
I mentioned this in the class, too, but when I was younger, I did not realize how necessary the right marriage is for people. (I am speaking in general terms, knowing as I do plenty of smart, fulfilled people without families or spouses or significant others.) Who you marry is the single most important determining factor, in a secular sense, in how happy and content your life will be.
Committing yourself to someone sounded terrifying to me — and it still would, if I hadn’t fallen in love with my husband and if he hadn’t loved me so well. When I think of the things that he has been through with me — the ups, downs, and all-arounds of depression, joy, and new experiences — I am reduced to tears. Tears because I do not deserve him, tears because I do not deserve to be loved that way, and tears because I live a life so much better than I could possibly ever imagine. In many ways, he is too good for me, and I am too good for him, and it is only by being together that we are more of who we are and we have more than we could ever have on our own.
Feminism does not allow for this vulnerability. I tell people that “feminism” is setting up the female against the other, instead of embracing the other — pitting spouses against each other instead of allowing them to come together as interlocking souls. If I was ever going to have the relationship that I now could not be the same without, I would have to lay down my pride and lower myself — appropriately — to be on equal footing with my husband. I see this now, even more so, with my children. I tell people that “feminism” has no place beside “family-ism.”
Marriage is meant to be a reflection of God’s love, but it is also the image of self-sacrifice, of putting everything down you have for the sake of the people you love. It is only when we are at that place, where we would die for others, live for others, kill for others, or suffer, sometimes continuously and without promise of reward or gain, for others, that we are able to become our true selves.
Seeing that truth reflected in fairy tales gave me hope as a child that my own marriage and future family would be different — better — than the home I grew up in. And now, fully realizing that truth’s importance in my own life gives me so much more hopeful pleasure in seeing my own kids watch and read these fairy tales.
C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family.