Glass Slippers and Abusive Husbands

A study about women who love fairy tales and their abusive husbands has been receiving some attention in the blogosphere lately, so I thought I’d give my opinion, as a long time lover of fairy tales, and wife of a non-abusive husband.

Obviously, there are lots of problems with this study. First, there’s the sample size – 67 women. A study done of 67 women could not accurately determine anything of value, really. And then, there’s the total lack of a “control group.” I am sure one could do a similar study and determine that there was a strong preference for wearing blue jeans among women who’ve been subject to domestic violence. But if you don’t look at 67 women who haven’t, then you really don’t know anything. And a childhood love of fairy tales is just as common as a predeliction for blue jeans in modern industrialized countries. So I don’t know why asking 67 self-described victims of domestic violence whether they liked fairy tales growing up tells anyone anything.

There’s also a problem, though, with the way they seem to be interpretting the texts. In the AFP article, the author of the study, grad student Susan Darker-Smith, is quoted as saying, ” “They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner’s behaviour.” I don’t know how one would read fairy tales in their semi-original form and come to the conclusion that one could change one’s partner, as the fairy tales, typically, have fairly limited characterization skills. When I was about eight years old, my mother bought me The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Jack Zipes, and I tore through it. (Later, she picked up herself, and grew worried about me liking such a bloody, gory, disgusting book. But, to her credit, she merely checked with me to make sure it wasn’t twisting my brain and let me alone.) And the thing is, no one, male or female, has such a strong personality – or such a strong personal growth – that one can accurately determine that the woman changes the man through the strength of her love. The Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” is just beastly in form, really. It’s not even implied that it’s his fault that Beauty has to stay with him – her father plucks a rose from a magic bush and that’s pretty much that. The Prince isn’t even Charming in Grimm’s; he’s just a prince.

The cinematic renditions of these stories – with two hours rather than a couple of pages to fill – go far deeper into the characterizations, and thus Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, and modern-day Cinderella classic Pretty Woman all play on the theme of a good woman changing the behavior and even personality of a formerly not-so-nice guy. Even Shrek, which went one step better than Beauty and the Beast by allowing the girl to be unattractive, too, centered around the taming of an ogre into a nicer ogre because of the love of a good, if feisty, woman. Those depictions (along with all other romantic comedies ever) seem to do far more to promote the idea that you can change a man by loving him than the original fairy tales would. Which would be fine and well, except the study does single out the fairy tale “literature,” and favors TV- and movie-watching as the anecdote to these bad, bad bedtime stories. Again, from the AFP, “Darker-Smith said she believed younger generations exposed to television and other entertainment media may react differently and be less submissive than those weaned solely on literature.” How on earth is she determining that TV and movies, laden with images of good girls making bad boys good, will be better for women than Cinderella?

I would also like to note, for those of you who’ve dismissed fairy tales as get-a-man, fast-as-you-can claptrap, that most of Grimm’s Fairy Tales have nothing to do with finding a husband, and there are a surprising number of stories about women getting their brothers out of some kind of trouble, either self-induced or evil-forces induced. Not that it’s a feminist paradise in there – it’s usually the sisters’ ability to stay quiet for extended periods of time, or be submissive and “good,” which save the day. And there are A LOT of wicked stepmothers and mothers-in-law. I’m just saying. They’re not all, “Someday, my prince will come, and until then, I’ve got mopping to do.”

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My Husband is Knitting

My husband is knitting.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Although my husband has never done anything quite this effeminate before (aside from relishing Jane Austen movies, I guess), he’s always had a casual disregard for gender roles, or, in fact, any rules imposed by a society which clearly does not operate at as high an intelligence level as he himself possesses. Also, it makes sense. He’s very physically dexterous, and he needed a new project. And why should I be so hung up on gender roles that I think it’s weird for boys to knit?

But I thought we were buying the yarn, the needles, and the Stitch&Bitch for me.

What happened was, I recently took up embroidery with this lovely kit. I happened to be with my m-i-l when I purchased it, and she mentioned that she’d heard knitting was making a comeback, and she’d like to take it up herself, because not only would she be able to make nice, warm things for her family (a major value for her), but she might stop biting her nails. So I bought her the Stitch&Bitch, and the requisite supplies, for Mother’s Day. This prompted my husband to lament, for the four hundred and second time, that I haven’t yet learned to knit. I ignored him, but then I started reading, and I got interested. Also, I bought a hank of yarn, which looks like a coil of yarn rather than the standard ball or skein, for his mother, and the two of us had a great time rolling it in a ball for her. He had an especially good time, as he went a lot faster than me. So he decided that we would buy all the necessary equipment for me this week, and he would roll yarn into a ball, and that would make him happy.

But now he appears to be knitting. And having a great time. He’s told me I don’t need the book, he’ll just show me. But why should I learn how to knit if he’s going to do it? I’ve got embroidery projects to work on.

Faith and Science

I have just completed my semester-long course in the Bible as Literature – the New Testament. This was, of course, material I’d never read before so it was very exciting for me and as a consequence, I talked so much about it that my husband was about ten seconds from inventing the human mute button. But here’s something I’ve yet to talk about too much. Why is it that any Christian gives a shit about evolution being taught in public schools under the heading “science”?

I realize, of course, that many Christians do not give a shit, and in fact, the majority of people who fill in the bubble next to “Christian” on surveys and forms that still have the temerity to ask are not batshit crazy and do not wish to interfere with science curriculae. But the majority of people who do wish to interfere with science curriculae identify themselves not only as Christian, but as extremely Christian, as Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian, or some other variety of Christian that in most cases boils down to “batshit crazy.” And why? Now I feel I know something about Christianity, I feel I can state, with some authority, that it should not matter to a person who believes in the ideals put forth by people like Paul whether science classrooms teach evolution or not, because to care about things like that is to belie the whole notion of faith. Faith is believing in something when there is no proof, when all provable evidence is either indifferent or against what you believe. So faith should pretty much roundly ignore science, no?

Paul writes all over his letters (or, for the more Biblically correct term, “epistles”) that faith in Jesus is all that’s important now. He even puts an interesting spin on the story of Abraham to prove that faith is the all-important thing. In it, he’s disproving the significance of the law, not of science, but it can be applied either way. Paul reasons that Abraham was deemed “righteous” because when God said to him, “Pack your bags, move to this unknown land, and you will be father to great nations,” Abraham said, “Sounds good to me,” even though there was no reason to believe that any of this would work out, since he had never heard of this place and he was already too old to think of fathering anything. So if Abraham is supposed to be your model, isn’t the exercise in faith in the word of Bible that much stronger in the face of some really serious scientific proof of evolution than it would be if there were no such proof? If it were still reasonable to believe that the world was created by God in six days, would it really be so faithful to do so?

Also, these guys tend to want their faith taught as science. That seems blasphemous to me. Why should God have to hold himself up to the standards of the scientific method? That is totally anti-thetical to the very concept of God.

Anyway, I was just wondering.