TW: Abuse, Slavery (I don’t use these often enough. I apologize.)
I came across a very interesting post last night. You can read it here. To summarize, the author argues that Cinderella is not a good example for young girls to follow. Everything in the movie happens to her. Almost none of the action is motivated by Cinderella herself. For the most part, I agree. But I would also say that this is kind of the point of the story. Cinderella can’t do anything for herself. This story is hundreds of years old. The movie is set in a different century. It is set in a time where women did not have a voice. The system she was in was so oppressive and so harmful towards women that there was no recourse for Cinderella. It literally takes a higher power to break her free.
Deep down, Cinderella is a deeply abused girl. Most movies and books present her as a generally happy, cheerful girl. But, imagine the trauma she must have gone through! Her parents die when she is young. She is ripped from her comfortable surroundings to live by the fireplace. Her entire life is taken from her. Her station, her belongings, her autonomy, etc are taken. That would traumatize anybody. Not to mention the beatings she must have received. Cinderella is really a lesson on why abused girls stay in bad relationships.
Cinderella could have left anytime she wanted, sure. Just walk out the door and leave. But who would take care of the animals, even Lucifer? Who would take care of her father’s estate? How would she make a life for herself in a time when women had to rely on their husbands? Would she just end up a servant in someone else’s home? Again, it literally takes an act of God to set her free. Here’s a wonderful post giving some possible reasons that Cinderella stayed.
Now you could argue that the message is still misogynistic. It does kind of give the impression that a woman just needs to find the right man to be happy. But, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that I see a deeper level to the story. Because I don’t see the Prince as just a man. I see him as Jesus Christ and the Fairy Godmother as the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, and I would argue most of the time, it takes the power and love of God to change your identity from that of a slave/victim to that of someone who is dearly loved and cherished. The Bible says in Psalm 113 that God lifts the poor up from the ash heap and seats them with kings.
Maybe Cinderella was dreaming her life away according to the post linked in the beginning. But her identity was built on being a slave. A slave has no autonomy, no agency, no power to act on their situation. That is, until a higher power comes along to break the illusion. Maybe it’s not some ecstatic vision of God. But maybe it’s a friend, a teacher, a coworker that says, “Hey, I see something great in you.” and acts for you and with you in your situation.
I’ve argued on my blog before that the power of the Fairy Godmother wasn’t transformation from one thing to another. It was the power to reveal who you truly are. The Fairy Godmother didn’t see a slave. She saw a beloved daughter of the King, beloved bride of the Prince, a beloved princess of the people. When we get a hold of that revelation of what we truly are, we are unstoppable. In Colossians 2 and elsewhere, the Bible says that we have the fullness of God within us. What power we have! If fully realized, we could change the geography of the planet spiritually and physically. We could make women safe and loved and give them power beyond imagining whereas they would spend most nights just dreaming.
So, is Cinderella feminist? I can’t give a complete answer because I’m not completely familiar with feminist thought. But what I will say is that Jesus Christ is looking to set women free from bondage. He wants women the world over to realize the power they have in Him. If feminism is about giving women power, then look nowhere else but Jesus Christ. He is the source of all power. I also believe that Jesus Christ respects all forms of femininity. Jesus Christ didn’t make women to just be baby factories. Proverbs 31 describes a faithful woman who not only takes care of her home but does business and works in the community. She is wise and respected. Even the city leaders have respect for her.
Some women work at a career. Some women stay at home to raise their children. Some women do both. Some women cut their hair short. Some women wear their hair long. Some women wear traditionally masculine clothes. Some women wear dresses and buy expensive makeup. Some women do both. Some who are biologically female identify as men. Some who are biologically male identify as women. Some identify as both or neither. I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is looking for cookie cutter women. He is looking to build up his body with many different parts. One person may be the middle finger, another the small intestine. Both look very different. Both function very differently. To expect the middle finger and the small intestine to look and act the same is ridiculous. It is equally ridiculous to expect two women to act and look the same.
I think Cinderella is a representation of all women. We have all felt powerless and without the ability to do anything about our situation. Sometimes, we are able to break free ourselves. Other times, I would argue most times, it takes the restorative power of Jesus Christ to break free of our bondage.