The Gender Stereotypes In Little Red Riding Hood

In the modern age when female identity and role of women in society is rapidly changing, Happermann questions the usefulness of the ideals from fairy tales. Happermann claims fairy tales perpetuate narrow lessons and specific stereotypes that are misguided toward the modern day girls. In one such adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, the “Werewolf,” Angela Carter expands on this argument. Carter presents an atypical fairy tale with undefined female roles, blurring the lines when it comes to what constitutes a hero and villain.

The traditional version of Little Red Riding Hood portrays the little girl as naive and innocent. The Little Red is easily deceived to stray from the path, and only when the wolf attempts to act as Grandmother does Little Red realize what has happened. However, in the “Werewolf,” the little girl is the exact opposite of the typical Little Red Riding Hood. The unnamed girl “knew the forest too well,” (Carter) so she is experienced rather than naive. The little girl is not entirely innocent as well as she deliberately calls out for her neighbors, knowing that they would kill her grandmother. The deviation from the stereotypical little girl demonstrates a modern view on female identity. Carter disregards the common feminine traits, replacing the traits with a girl who is independent and confident in her actions. Happermann agrees because according to her poem, the stereotype of the perfect girl in fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White provide an unreasonable expectation for girls. Unlike fairy tales, the girls in the poem act in a misbehaving manner. Life is not a fairy tale just as girls do not always fit the exact mold of naive and innocent.

Carter denounces the excessive emphasis on youth and virginity. While describing the houses of the townspeople in the cold hardened country, Carter mentions the “crude icon of the virgin,” (Carter) a biblical reference to Virgin Mary. It is clear that the townspeople value virginity and youth to the extent that they essentially worship the defining figure of virginity. While the townspeople worship youth and strength, they condemn the old and weak. Using superstition and religion as a guise, when the town suspects an old woman is a witch for any small abnormality, the people proceed to brutally kill the old woman.

Carter claims the focus on youth and virginity leaves society ignorant of other character traits, disregarding the complexity of the character, specifically the female character. The little girl let the wolf slowly bleed to death, leaving “a trail of blood” (Carter). However, it snowed so quickly that the blood was covered. The snow, which is white and symbolic of innocence, suggests the the external belief from the townspeople that the girl is innocent masks her true self. Similarly, when the girl calls out for her neighbors, they do not question her, instead they immediately proceed to kill the grandma. While her exact motivation is unclear, she is portrayed as a potential villain, or at the very least not the hero. The townspeople immediately assume she is innocent simply because she is young. However, in reality, the girl was able to get her grandmother killed, so that she can prosper in her grandmother’s house. In fact, the little girl is wearing a “coat of sheepskin” (Carter) which alludes to the saying wolf in sheep's clothing. Based on the poem, while Happermann will probably agree with Carter in that the stereotypes blind society of other traits, Happermann focuses more on the problem that modern day girls face. There are expectations and social pressures in how a girl must act, but society does not place much emphasis on those problems. For example, when Happermann explains that girls can “spit out cereal,” one interpretation is a reference to the prevalent problem of eating disorder and body image in today’s society.     

07 July 2022
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