Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An answer to my own question

So my wonderful Prince Charming was doing some research of his own (he was my "research assistant" at the Library of Congress last month, and an excellent one at that! A huge thank you!) and found an artcle by Virginia E. Swain in The Greenwood Encklopedia of folktales and fairytales that answers the questions I was just asking about the cultural significance of the Beast asking Belle to sleep with him.
A.L. Bowley

"In the original edition, the story is told within a frame narrative, which is usually removed when the fairy tale is anthologized. Within the frame, the audience of Beauty and the Beast is a group of young adults, including a young woman who is about to be married. This accounts for the story's frank references to sex, such as the Beast's repeated inquiry to Beauty: "Do you want to sleep with me?" This brutal question suggests Villeneuve's understanding that women face the constant threat of rape, even in their marriages. Beauty's ability to defer the event offers a rare example for the time of a woman exercising power in her own behalf. Nonetheless, it is debatable whether the novel, with its overriding emphasis on self-sacrifice, is truly a feminist tale."

Emphasis mine. In my opinion, this element of a woman wielding the power of the "no" is a HUGE example of feminism for the time-feminism has to be seen in the context, and even novels and TV shows from 50-150 years ago may seem incredibly sexist to us but were remarkably groundbreaking in their time. In addition, though self-sacrifice has sometimes been seen as a quality only expected in women, I think it's a beautiful quality that should be found in everyone regardless of gender, so I don't think of it as making the story less feminist.

1 comment:

  1. I heartily agree, Kristin! And reading your blog has significantly enhanced my appreciation of Beauty and the Beast, so thank you!