Publication Date: October 3, 2022
Explore the fascinating link between gender stereotypes in fairy tales and real-world life with Only Prince Charming Gets to Break the Rules: Gender and Rule Violation in Fairy Tales and Life. This thought-provoking book carefully analyzes 200 folktales and fairy tales from around the world, uncovering a universal disparity in how male and female characters are punished for breaking the rules. Through a blend of thorough research and literary investigation, the book sheds light on how these stereotypes affect our families, politics, and education. A powerful feminist critique of social norms, this academic yet accessible exploration shows how our most cherished tales shape our cultures.
Using samples from 200 fairy tales and folktales from around the world, Beall and her team identified rule violations ranging from trivial to extremely serious. Noting that men are more likely to break the rules than women based on the research, she then draws upon data to make a connection to real life.
From there, the book focuses on key areas such as the categories of rules that are broken, the consequences, and what emotions are felt by the rule breakers. Examples are provided from the original sources to emphasize the main points. Each chapter concludes with a major message summarizing the findings with a comparison between fiction and reality.
Based on her research, the author concludes that women tend to follow the rules more than men. Those women who break the rules find themselves facing more severe punishments than their male counterparts for the same infraction. Beall’s work is an excellent example of content analysis, including a clear explanation of methodology and supporting data.
It’s also interesting to note that the conclusions are tied to the classic definition of gender. For me, the most compelling point of the book is a question posed by the author asking whether we are teaching girls that they need to follow the rules while instructing boys that they can misbehave. This merits more exploration before it can be treated as a concluding factor.
Only Prince Charming Gets to Break the Rules offers plenty of food for thought. While I’m not certain that a comparison of rule-breaking in fairy tales serves as a true reflection of what is happening in our current world, it does make for interesting reading.
Anne E. Beall is an award-winning author whose books have been featured in People Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Sun, Hers Magazine, Ms. Career Girl, and she’s been interviewed by NBC, NPR, and WGN. Her book, Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales won a Gold award from Literary Titan. And her Heartfelt Connections book was named one of the top 100 Notable Indie books in 2016 by Shelf Unbound. She received her PhD in social psychology from Yale University and is the founder of the strategic market-research firm, Beall Research.
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