Is Cinderella Feminist?

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.

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Midnight Again

For years, I’ve been obsessed with Cinderella.  There is a lot of prophetic significance to the story.  The name Cinderella means “Little Ashen Girl” because she sleeps in the ashes of the fireplace.  She is a slave in her own house.  The house is run by her stepmother and stepsisters.  Her life is changed when an invitation to the national ball comes in the mail.  Her stepsisters and stepmother make her work even harder than usual.  Somehow, she manages to sew a few things together and look somewhat decent for the party.  Her stepsisters are livid and tear her dress to shreds.  She is left crying in the garden when, suddenly, a pure spirit lights up the area.  This spirit promises to make Cinderella ready for the ball but the spell will break at midnight.  Off she goes.  She dances with the prince.  He falls in love.  She runs away at midnight, leaving a remarkable shoe behind.  The prince searches high and low for the owner of that shoe.

In the same way, we are slaves in our house.  The house is run by Satan and his daughters of religion.  Our lives are changed when we are introduced to The Gospel.  The Holy Spirit comes and transforms us and allows us to see/hear/feel Jesus.  Isaiah 61 says “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on mebecause the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashesthe oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  Cinderella means “Little Ashen Girl” but the Holy Spirit comes to take away our ashes and give us a crown of beauty.

Let’s get in Cinderella’s frame of mind here.  She is an abused girl who just wants one night of escape.  One night that she doesn’t have to work.  One night to feel beautiful.  One night to have fun.  Marriage didn’t even her mind.  She wasn’t there to snag a prince like her stepsisters.  She didn’t even realize who she was dancing with that night!  Because her vision was too small, her focus on only one night, she took the fairy godmother’s words literally that the spell would break at midnight.  One night, no more.  In the same sense, we just look for one night or one season of escape but then back to the world we go.  The problem is, we don’t realize who we’re dancing with!  It’s the prince, it’s Jesus, and he’s already in love with us.  He isn’t looking for a fling or a mistress.  He’s looking for a bride, someone to be part of him, someone to help him do the work of the kingdom.

So what happens at midnight, the beginning of a new day?  Cinderella had a choice to make.  She could stay and let the spell break and risk everybody seeing her as she was.  Or she could go back to her old life with nobody the wiser.  She runs, of course.  But what would have happened if she stayed?  Would the fairy godmother have renewed her?  Maybe, just like the Holy Spirit, the fairy godmother doesn’t want to do the same thing twice.  Maybe, the fairy godmother had something greater in store for her.  But, because Cinderella couldn’t see past midnight, she ran.  It’s the same in our own lives.  We sense something is about to shift but, because we are not focused on eternity, we run.  We may not go completely back to our old life.  But we do pull back.  We let our practices become prisons, our movements become monuments.  You see, Cinderella could have lived happy for the rest of her life based on that one night.  Happy, but still in slavery.  We become so used to one way God moves in our lives that we don’t notice when He’s moved on.  What used to work no longer works but we’re so blinded by our habits that we don’t even realize it.  Don’t get stuck on formula.  You may be happy but still in slavery.

What happens next?  Cinderella leaves a shoe behind.  She makes it home just as the carriage turns back into a pumpkin.  The next day, she is humming and dancing as she does her chores.  She doesn’t realize that the prince is looking for her.  Curiously, she still has the glass slipper.  It didn’t change back.  When the prince comes, the stepsisters fall all over themselves to make the shoe fit.  In one version, they cut off their toes and heels to make it fit.  The stepsisters represent religion.  They work and work and work to snag the prince.  They think they are the rightful bride.  They think they can seduce the prince by their works.  But he isn’t so easily swayed.  He looks at the heart, not outward appearance.

When the prince comes and the stepsisters try it on to no avail, he asks if there are any other ladies in the house.  They quietly mention their spinster stepsister who works in the kitchen but she couldn’t have been at the party.  She’s just a servant.  The prince insists.  They bring her out and, of course, the slipper fits.  And, of course, they live happily ever after.

Last night, while worshipping the Lord, I saw a picture of the prince putting the slipper on my foot.  I was wrecked from the point on.  What is the significance of the shoe?  The prince wanted to reaffirm Cinderella’s identity.  Not her identity as a slave but her identity as a princess, a bride.  I felt like there are those of us who feel like we had our chance, our season, our dance with Jesus but that was 1, 10, 20 years ago.  But he is coming.  He is searching for his bride.  Not just another dance but a life lived alongside him.  One of my favorite authors likes to say that he’s not looking for the experience of a lifetime but a lifetime of experience.