Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Fairytales, Folklore and Femininity: Making Sense of the (Un)Sexed Female Body across Time and Space
Contributor(s): McKay, Kathryn  (author); Dune, Tinashe  (author); MacPhail, Catherine  (author)orcid ; Mapedzahama, Virginia  (author); Maple, Myfanwy  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2014
Handle Link:
Abstract: Through the ages, and within myriad cultural contexts, fairytales and folklore have taught children and adolescents morality and socially acceptable behaviors. In particular, fairytales and folklore propagate ideals about the ways in which female characters should best behave, and the ways in which others interact with them. On the one hand, women who were perceived to enact the correct behaviors were rewarded with marriage and motherhood. On the other hand, women who deviated from such behaviors were relegated to spinsterhood or witchery. There is underlying assumption that women are not only seeking to have their bodies inscribed by heterosexual sex, marriage and motherhood but that this is their only reward. They cannot be the heroes; they are always and simply a prize. Our aim here is to make sense of how fairytales and folklore construct a values system where a woman's worth and place within a society is based on the type of sexuality she is attributed. Considering the enduring nature of fairytales and folklore, deconstructing the ways in which they portray women, and their bodies, over time is important to problematizing the assumptions that women should - be virgins, get married and become mothers. It problematizes the fact that women have to be obedient, and require men, in order to be of societal value, to exist - without which, women are banished and exiled. We attempt here to demonstrate that such enduring representations, well into the twenty-first century, have tangible implications for women's wellbeing - mental, physical and sexual. Within a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural frame, we will examine the following aspects: 1. Marriage as 'happily-ever-after' in European fairytales; 2. Shona-Zimbabwean folklore and labia-pulling; 3. Virginity-testing and South African folklore; and 4. 'Realistically'-ever-after in Zimbabwean folklore.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Exploring Bodies in Time and Space, p. 15-26
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Press
Place of Publication: Oxford, United Kingdom
ISBN: 9781848882478
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 111714 Mental Health
160805 Social Change
160806 Social Theory
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 420313 Mental health services
441004 Social change
441005 Social theory
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 920507 Womens Health
920408 Health Status (e.g. Indicators of Well-Being)
920410 Mental Health
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 200509 Women's and maternal health
200407 Health status (incl. wellbeing)
200409 Mental health
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
Publisher/associated links:
Series Name: Probing the Boundaries
Editor: Editor(s): Loyola McLean, Lisa Stafford, Mark Weeks
Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Rural Medicine

Files in This Item:
3 files
File Description SizeFormat 
Show full item record

Page view(s)

checked on May 28, 2023


checked on May 28, 2023
Google Media

Google ScholarTM


Items in Research UNE are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.