ponedeljek, 10. marec 2008

Exercise in interpretation »If you're a woman, become a man!«

Thursday's discussion on gender in Balkan fairy tales added
fairytale opening of Red Dawns festival in Wednesday by
providing with
theoretical frame and background. Lilijana
Burcar explained how fairy tales which
challenge the binary
construction of masculinity and femininity were
told by
women in literary saloon in Ludvik XIV palace as a direct

critique of his rule. Women who were forced into marriage
due to
economic and political reasons found an escape in
fairy tales. Even
though fairy tales are organic forms, they
do not change spontaneously
only. Little Red Riding Hood, at
first sexually independent girl who
manages to escape the
wolf, Perrault turned into a helpless child who
ends up in
wolf's stomach, being saved only with a help of a male
A strong moral dictum can be drown out of it: women, do not

wander in wood on your own, and do not be surprised if/when
violated if you chose to do so. With a different aim,
in the 19th
century the fairy tales were transformed to serve
the strengthening of
the national consciousness and
consequently the widening of the gap
between public in private.
Grimm's Snow-White is in the latest versions
asked to perform
more and more household work (also more explicitly
for the seven dwarfs than in previous ones. It seems as
the fairy tales lost its role in challenging the patriarchal
Those who attended the discussion had an opportunity
to listen to Zdena
Gajser telling Balkan fairy tales where
distinctions between genders
are shadowed and female figures
really are heroines. Nonetheless, even this
stories to certain
extent confirm heteronormativity: the princess

(otherwise dressed as a men) has to change into the man to lie
with her
wife. Neither homosexuality nor transvestism are
acceptable. What is
then the possibility for a lesbian marriage
in the fairy tales, Suzana
Tratnik asked herself, and in the
next breath answered: it is an
Not only that the heroines in fairy tales are not able to
their homosexual relationships as such, also in real
life so-called
'virginjesha' assume on themselves a masculine
gender and do not really
establish homosexual relations. Balkan
fairy tales which challenge the
heteronormativity then do so
only to certain extent. I am ending with
two questions that
appeared to me in relation to the discussion: to what
(will) contemporary Balkan writers and story tellers use the

potential of the fairy tales for a subversion of the patriarchal
And why there is no known old Slovenian fairy tale that would even
attempt to do so?

Tanja Škander

Ni komentarjev: