It wasn’t just a play, it was a Cinderella story. My friend didn’t have to say much to convince me to go, given my love for theater, and add to it a classical childhood story, I was sold on the spot. In fact, I imagined it was one of those deep theater performances with supplemented messages, as Cinderella could symbolize a vast array of notions and ideas. That said, I totally neglected the fact that it was probably a children’s play, only to be surprised when I arrived to the theater that indeed it was. Yet, considering that some of my fondest childhood memories were related to children’s plays which the school used to take us to attend from time to time, I was actually excited. It was a reminder of why and how much I loved theater.
Alas, it wasn’t a play that I would take my hypothetical children to see, but as an adult, I really enjoyed it. It was almost devoid of any moral value, but it was funny and the actors were good, as well as the dialogue and special effects. Yet, despite enjoying the play, it was obvious that my good friend Abeer had a major issue with it. You see, for people in the Western Hemisphere, it’s usually Santa that marks their transition from childhood to adulthood and represents the biggest clash with reality in their younger years. Yet, here in the Orient it’s different. In Abeer’s words, Cinderella was the biggest lie in her life, and I could only agree.
Let’s try to put this in perspective. Here’s a girl who has nothing, a good girl who never talks back or try to defend herself. A victim if you will. And then, there’s a fairy with a magic wand that turns her life upside down in an instant. And it doesn’t stop there, because there’s a prince who’s, not surprisingly, everything she’s ever wanted. He’s charming, he’s handsome and most importantly he can protect her and provide for her so she never has to do all that tedious work for her evil stepmother again. Couldn’t be more perfect, no?
That exactly was Abeer’s problem. She was brought up with a deep rooted, subconscious belief that she’s a princess in a commoner clothes, a diamond in the rough waiting for a perfect man to discover her and that man definitely exists, in abundance too. But as she grew up things began to clear up and reality proved to be far from what she read in the dreamy fairytale.
The reality was that she’s no victim, and no princess. She was a girl with lofty dreams and before she knew it she was a strong woman living away from home and earning a living. And despite all the hardships she had to endure, there was no magic wand to turn her life upside down, and most men who came into her life proved to be losers. Even when the closest thing to a “knight in a shining armor” came along, things didn’t go well and it was never meant to be. Moreover, she found that the older she got, the higher her standards became. Maybe she is a diamond in the rough and she deserves a Principe Azzuro, but this was no fairy tale, this was life as we know it, or don’t know it for that matter.
Victimizing women and portraying them as meek creatures who’s only role in life is to look graceful and wait to be rescued isn’t something new for sure, but things have a weird habit of changing overtime. Women are no longer dependent beautiful things who can’t function on their own, in fact sometimes they look too independent for those who still fear a strong, empowered woman. It was something new when Jane Austen first opened the door for women to break free from societal chains that doom her to marry any man who can provide for her regardless of his other quality, simply because she couldn’t possible provide for herself, something which Austin proved wrong by becoming a famous author and an independent single woman. And if that was an exception 200 years ago, nowadays it’s more of a rule.
Some might argue that this lead to changing the roles of men and women in society and contributed to the increased number of unmarried women, or spinsters as some would call them, because women now might feel that men are not good enough or that they don’t need to make that commitment, something which I respectfully disagree with.
The thing is, one can’t neglect the fact that there are different social and economic factors that lead to this, and I don’t think it has much to do with women being independent, on the contrary, being independent could help a woman make the right choice when it comes to choosing a life partner, because she no longer “forced” to marry anyone just to provide for her, she has to have a better reason. One might argue that at this rate women have no reason to get married at all, which can’t be any more wrong, since no matter independent a woman is, and no matter how happy she is with her life as single lady, for most women the emotional side always has the best of them. I’m not going to say family and motherhood, which is vital as well, but at the very least there’s the issue of emotional support, which is intensified by the picture of “Cinderella” that’s imprinted in her subconscious.
So that’s the dilemma. A girl goes into life with big expectations, and then she’s faced with a world of disappointment, and even if she’s a successful talented young woman, if she doesn’t have a “Prince” on her side, the society will always look at her with a pity and perhaps condemnation because she failed to fulfill her Cinderella duties.
Be that as it may, the harm is already done, but fortunately we’re big enough to realize it and deal with it. What we must be concerned with more now is how to reform this mentality, remove all these cultural stereotypes and instill in our young girls the values so that they won’t grow up thinking of themselves as victimized Cinderella’s, but rather as strong, empowered women who can write their own stories.