The Role of Fairy Tales in Forming Child’s Gender Stereotypes

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The fairy tale has always been and still remains to be one of the most important sociolinguistic phenomena, which dates back to thousands of years. The main themes of the fairy tales included the problems that troubled the society the most. Therefore, we can envisage the fairy tale as a tool that shares experience and knowledge of certain social contexts. The importance of fairy tales in the cognitive development of a child is paramount. Through fairy tales young readers have access to the social information will that be stereotypes, gender roles or the cultural values of their country (Bettelheim, 1962). This paper highlights the growing importance of the gender issues as reflected in fairy tales in the 21st century. Specifically, it follows two fairy tales- Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and their different versions throughout history and different cultures. The data are collected with the help of qualitative and quantitative analysis. Moreover, the theoretical framework includes “Text and Corpus Analysis” by Stubbs (1996), Halliday’s “Systemic Functional Grammar” (1985) and Van Leeuwen’s “Representation of Social Actors” (1995). The aforementioned fairy tales are analysed from the linguistic angle, more precisely, the paper studies which lexical units surface the most in the texts and which adjectives the authors use in order to describe the main characters. As well as this, the text also examines the verbs employed in the texts and whether they show the tendency of passive verbs being used more with females and active verbs with male characters. The study has revealed that the fairy tales indeed employ gendered discourse, more precisely, the unequal treatment of women and men and stereotypical attitude towards women is especially evident. The chosen fairy tales obviously associate women with household chores, they pinpoint their passivity and the importance of physical beauty, which was and still remains to be crucial in today’s society. Moreover, the lives of the female characters of the chosen fairy tales are extremely dull, very inactive and sometimes even unbearable, until a prince charming comes along and saves his damsel in distress.
Gender, Fairy Tales, Sociolinguistics
III International Symposium for Young Scholars in the Humanities (Symposium proceedings)