A delightful spin on the politically-oh-so-correct gender issue by Quentin Letts and Jane Fryer. Published in the Daily Mail on November 24, 2017.
The row about whether ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is suitable for young children is the latest twist in the increasingly barmy world of gender politics, political correctness (PC), and health and safety madness that seems to intrude on every area of life.
Mother-of-two Sarah Hall, from North Shields, demanded her six-year-old son’s school bans ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because the princess does not give consent to be kissed.
This is just one of many batty interventions in public life, and recent history suggests few of our much-loved stories are safe from a whitewashing. See examples below:
Sleeping Beauty: As mentioned above, a mother of a six-year-old boy demanded his school bans ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because the princess does not give consent to be kissed. She argued the story is irresponsible because it teaches children it is acceptable to kiss women while they are asleep.
The Pied Piper: Did the townsfolk of Hamlin have a child safeguarding policy? Even if they were strangers to the Children Act 2004, they should have known that a grown man in a coloured nightshirt should not have been allowed to lead their youngsters off to a mysterious cave. Why didn’t anyone suggest they check the Sex Offenders Register? Aside from the fact that anyone who offers to murder hundreds of rats for money should have set alarm bells ringing at the RSPCA, this story has worrying suggestions of paedophile tendencies that will terrify any children reading it. Oh, and you should never, ever refer to a differently abled boy as ‘lame’.
Little Red Riding Hood: Yes, the wolf eats an elderly lady. And yes he tries to eat a little girl, too. But the true message of this uplifting story is surely that we should not be forced into the straitjacket of the gender assigned to us at birth. When the wolf dresses up in Granny’s nightgown and frilly sleeping cap, he’s not just trying on her clothes, he’s trying a new gender for size (body hair notwithstanding). It’s only a shame the children reading the story never get to find out whether he decided to transition fully or not.
Cinderella: It’s hard to know where to start with this outrageously sexist tale. First, why is Cinders expected to do the kitchen chores? Were there no men in the house who could be asked to do their share of the domestic work? Second, ‘the ugly sisters’? No, no. Such ‘body-shaming’ is not acceptable at all. Children must not be brought up to think it’s ever appropriate to refer adversely to a person’s looks, especially if they are gender fluid. Right-thinking parents will be uncomfortable with the casual stereotyping of ‘Prince Charming’, who may in fact simply be an over-privileged member of an outdated hierarchical and patriarchal regime. The prince’s pursuit of Cinders looks dangerously close to stalking – did she ask him to search the kingdom with her lost shoe?
Humpty Dumpty: Where was the risk assessment? Was there any cognisance of the Working at Height Regulations (2005)? Frankly, what was Humpty thinking as he perched on top of that wall? That said, if only the Tories’ NHS hadn’t been so underfunded and the ambulance service so overstretched, he might just have made it, albeit a bit battered and cracked. As for references to ‘all the King’s horses and all the king’s men’, it’s an appallingly outdated and sexist assumption that the monarch would be male. And this at a time when male primogeniture in the royal family has finally been abolished!
Robin Hood: While the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor is very much to be encouraged, and may even score points for diversity and social inclusion, there are difficulties with this tale. Does Robin have a licence for his longbow, and has he been on the relevant training course? Must Maid Marion really swoon at the sight of him, or is this just the sort of ridiculous, regressive chauvinism we have tried to get away from in recent years? The teasing of Friar Tuck for being overweight is simply fat fascism. Obesity is no laughing matter – just look at the rising incidence of type-2 diabetes – and this sort of thing will only encourage bullying. Schools, however, will find the Sheriff of Nottingham a useful teaching aid, since he was undoubtedly a typically rapacious Conservative.
Snow White: Let’s face it, the name is a near-insuperable problem, given that it discriminates against the BAME community [that’s Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic to you]. Producers will need to show they have given serious consideration to actresses of colour before schools can safely countenance trips to any production of this fairytale. Is it sensible to make children fear that apples may be poisoned? Could this not dissuade them from consuming their five a day? And as for the Queen who gives Snow White the apple, she is of course her stepmother, which hardly conveys a positive image of the blended families which are a reality for so many children today. Finally, we should also beware using the full name ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. This should be changed to something more acceptable such as ‘Snow White and the Seven People of Alternative Stature’.
Three little pigs: Could there be a better example of the selfishness that led to the wicked Conservative government’s housing crisis? Here you have three pigs who could all happily live together in one house, but instead choose to have one each – one straw, one sticks and one brick – thereby depriving two hard-working families of a home. Our only concern is that the Big Bad Wolf’s attempts to eat the pigs is likely to cause grave offence to Muslim and Jewish children.
The ugly duckling: A classic tale of discrimination, alienation and body-shaming. The duckling (we will never call him ‘ugly’ here) is cast out of the duck pond, not just for being different to his peers, but for being less attractive. It is a deeply demeaning message made worse by the fact that his final redemption comes only when he turns into a swan and trumps his tormentors with his elegance. Whatever happened to beauty coming from within? We should only be grateful the duckling isn’t shown self-harming in the depths of his despair.
Goldilocks: There are so many worrying issues here – breaking and entering, trespass, vandalism, theft, and worst of all, overtones of bestiality. It’s amazing this story is allowed in any school library. And the gender stereotyping is appalling. Why should Daddy Bear get the biggest bed and the biggest chair and the biggest portion? Why should we assume Mummy Bear isn’t the primary earner and perfectly entitled to the bed of her choice? And why are they ruining Baby Bear’s teeth with all that sugar in his porridge? As for a bed-hopping young girl – what a terrible example to set to a generation of teenagers already beset by sexting and revenge porn.
Jack and the Beanstalk: After a risk assessment, it has been decided that Jack will need to wear a hard hat and an EU-standards-compliant harness when he climbs the beanstalk to visit the giant. The beanstalk may also have to be surrounded by scaffolding that meets Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents guidelines, with appropriate health and safety signs. We do not want the children thinking they can just shin up any old beanstalk without proper regard for their safety, thank you very much. When the giant booms ‘Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman’, this may need to be changed to ‘I smell the blood of a UK national’ to reflect the fact that fewer and fewer citizens of modern Britain now identify themselves as English.
Pinocchio: Why on earth is Pinocchio crying out his little wooden eyes? Well, you only have to ask why a lonely old bachelor might want to make a plaything for himself in the shape of a small boy. No wonder the little scamp runs away! Child protection services should make an urgent intervention in this case and take this child into care. As for Pinocchio killing a cricket with a hammer – such cruelty to animals, however small, simply cannot be condoned.
Hansel and Gretel: Granted, childhood obesity is becoming a national crisis, but it’s an unacceptable example of ‘victim-shaming’ for Hansel and Gretel to be turned out into the woods by their parents simply because they eat too much. But it gets worse. The Country Code clearly states that people should ‘guard against all risk of fire’ and ‘take your litter home’. Yet these children not only leave a messy trail of stale bread and pebbles, they also light fires with abandon deep in the woods. Then, of course, they are kidnapped by a witch whose gingerbread house would incur a monumental sugar tax, who then tries to eat them herself. All in all, a deeply troubling story.