Marina Warner thinks that Perrault's story contains thinly veiled sarcasm and should not be taken seriously; it's true that he was a feminist for his time and a friend and associate with many female fairy tale writers of his time. Maria Tatar thinks he may have given random and contradictory morals just to prove how foolish it is to try and find deeper meaning in fairy tales.
Yet many people who later retold the story seemed to take the moral completely seriously, despite the fact that the story's events contradict the condemnation of the woman (Bluebeard is always punished and the wife lives happily). Cautioning women against curiosity was a big theme in the Victorian era, and even through the 20th century (anyone remember the episode of Dick Van Dyke where they purposely trick Laura into opening a package meant for Rob, and she is humiliated when the boat expands in her living room?)
Unfortunately, Fairy Tales Framed doesn't include anything directly written about "Bluebeard", but includes his own words about his Mother Goose tales and another fairy tale collection that included Donkeyskin-which will shed light on how he thought about all of his tales. In both of those instances, he spends the vast majority of his arguments defending the validity of fairy tales, simply because they had beneficial morals. He compares his stories to ancient myths and fables, and even claims that his morals are superior because they make sense (he claims that "Cupid and Psyche" has no discernible meaning).
For example, regarding "Donkeyskin", Perrault wrote that "It is not hard to discern that the goal of this tale is to help children learn that it is better to risk the most severe punishment than to fail to do their duty; that virtue may be thwarted, but it is always rewarded."
Perrault's tale Griselda is a very preachy tale about the need for a wife to humbly obey her husband in all things, even when he is clearly at fault. When the Prince of the tale decides to marry another girl and send his wife back to her parents, she responds with "You are my husband, lord, and master. And whatever else you may hear, you must remember that nothing is nearer my heart than to obey you completely." Seriously, the whole story is like this, it's a very uncomfortable read. It's actually possibly the most sexist fairy tale I've ever read and makes our discussion of how females tend to be more passive overall look like nothing in comparison.
Yet Perrault did not see the cruel husband as needing to change, but the tale concludes with " Indeed, the people even praised the prince's cruelties because they had produced so remarkable a proof of Griselda's constancy that people saw in her a model for women everywhere in the world." He later wrote that the story "tends to influence women to put up with their husbands and to make them see that there is nothing so brutal or strange that the patience of an honest woman cannot bring to an end."
It's really hard to say what Perrault's true intent was. Scholars tend to think he couldn't have meant his words literally, and it's true that many fairy tales were disguised criticism of royalty. Yet I don't really find Perrault's tone to be that "tongue-in-cheek." He may have been defending the publication of fairy tales in general, which was a hot debate at the time, but to all appearances he was literally preaching complete and total obedience of wives to their husbands, no matter how degrading or cruel, in multiple tales.
Russian children's book illustration from Soviet Era-(can't find illustrator name, at least not in English)
And it really begs the question, why do scholars feel the need to defend Perrault's intentions? I admit I don't know much at all about French culture at the time other than what I've read in fairy tale books, but I kind of find it hard to believe that he was really just writing for shock value when it seems everyone at the time and for hundreds of years afterwards took him literally.