Once Upon A Time

Since feminist fairy tales are currently in vogue, I thought I’d have a crack at it.

Ahem.

Once upon a time, Cinderalla was employed to mind the young daughter of a very successful marketing executive, Drusilla. Drusilla had gone to Smith, and was an ardent liberal feminist.

Though Cinderella’s long hours gave Drusilla the freedom to climb the corporate ladder, she never saw her employer’s raises and bonuses reflected in her own paycheck. As a matter of fact, her paycheck was often late. It never included any extra compensation for the many times Drusilla, who was just “held up at the office and running fifteen minutes late,” did not appear until night had fallen.

Cinderella did her best to provide warm, nurturing care for Drusilla’ daughter; Drusilla noticed this.

“You know, you’re such a natural, you like kids so much! I bet this isn’t even a job for you.”

She herself, Drusilla explained, was not a natural. Her dreams had always been too big for her to stay at home with kids.

Cinderella’s dreams also stretched far beyond play-dough and organic applesauce, but she did not think this worth mentioning to Drusilla.

Drusilla sometimes held dinner parties at which her successful, cultured, ardently feminist friends gathered, and for which Cinderella babysat. Some of these friends took a lively interest in Cinderella. They urged her to get her bachelor’s degree and self-actualize.

Cinderella explained, with a quick glance at Drusilla, that college was not really something she could afford right now.

“Have you thought about egg donation?”

************************************

One evening, Cinderella was at the end of her rope. Her electricity was shut off at home, and the little girl had thrown tantrums, that, it turned out, were the signs of incipient illness. Cinderella discovered this when her charge threw up on her. She was exhausted, overworked, tired of children, and hadn’t been paid.

Drusilla reminded her, after the little girl had been put to bed, that she had agreed to babysit tonight while Drusilla went to a white tie benefit for girl’s schools in India. She would be home, she said, no later than one or two.

As the door closed behind Drusilla, Cinderella began to cry.

Suddenly in a flash of light there appeared Silvia Federici and Gloria Steinem.

“Don’t cry, Cinderalla. We are your fairy godmothers, and we are here to tell you that care work is at least as important as any other kind. Moreover, your time and leisure are valuable as Drusilla’s, and you shall go to the ball.”

With a wave of their magic ballpoint wands, Cinderalla’s vomit-stained t-shirt became a dazzling red velvet gown. Her bus pass grew into a sleek black Porsche.

“Get behind the wheel, Cinderella. And remember: you can come home any time you want. No curfew, and we’ll watch the kid.”

***********************************************

At the ball, Cinderella was the envy of all who saw her. She danced, drank champagne, and delivered several extremely witty pronouncements on business and politics to Drusilla, who was eager to agree with and befriend her.

Late in the evening, the handsomest, and coincidentally, richest man in the room asked to dance with her. In the midst of laughing at each other’s jokes and listening thoughtfully to each other’s opinions, they got onto the topic of feminism.

“I’ve always thought,” said he, “that the one of the most important goals of feminism is both socially recognizing the value of care work and personally distributing it more equitably.”

“Tell me more,” breathed Cinderella.

*****************************************

A few weeks later, Cinderella gave Drusilla notice, as, she explained, she was going to marry the handsome millionaire, move into a mansion where the lights never went out, and never spend another minute changing diapers.

Drusilla was aghast.

“Why? I thought you wanted me to become self-actualized.”

“Yes, of course, dear. But by having a career, getting a 401(k), wearing a suit! As an independent woman, not by relying on some man.”

Cinderella cocked an eyebrow. “If you wanted me to be independent,” she said, “you might have considered paying me overtime.”

******************************************

Cinderella and her man lived as happily together as clams in a barrel. Cinderalla used her new-found leisure to organize domestic laborers, and as their family grew, shared the burden of care-work with her husband–although, true to his word, he always insisted on changing the diapers.

 
THE END.

Not Your Grandma’s Little Red

Video

This short film is quite disturbing, but I think very true to the undertones of the original story. It’s not a revisionist fairy tale so much as a reworked one.

This is a Little Red at once primal and modern, and I think there is something very resonant in her discovering that the wolf has devoured her grandmother only after she has killed him herself.

Fairy tales retain their power in spite of, or because of, endless critiques and revisions– even the Disneyfied niced-up versions have some  kick. I think it would be interesting to compare these with their Grimmer and gorier grandmothers, so you may shortly be watching a lot of Thumbelina  videos.

Also, the names of Red’s creators sound Spanish, which makes sense to me. Has anyone seen Pan’s Labyrinth?

Via The Hairpin