When Pookie was first struck by Disney fever a couple of years ago, one of her oft-repeated questions to me was “Which is your favourite Princess?” Now, knowing the horrifying origin stories of fairy tales and after examining them with the lens of feminism, this wasn’t an easy question to answer. My choices were Cinderella (marries a man who picks brides by shoe-size), Rapunzel (falls in love with a trespasser), Snow White (marries a necrophiliac), Ariel (no business sense whatsoever, who trades their VOICE for LEGS?) Jasmine (poor little rich girl) and Aurora (married the first man who kissed her WHILE SHE WAS ASLEEP.)
That left Belle and Mulan. I chose Belle because she likes books and hates the sexist Gaston. Very relatable. But then Pookie asked, “Why do you like Belle more than Cinderella?” I don’t blame her. Cinderella gets a makeover and that is irresistible to any girl, even one aged four. And Belle might have a library and a yellow gown, but Cinderella gets sparkles and magic. Now, Pookie was being slightly bullied in school at the time and I wanted to teach her to stand up for herself. So I explained that I felt Cinderella was a bit of a doormat because she put up with her step-family’s rubbish just to be kind.
I have revised my opinion since.
Being kind, I have realised takes an enormous amount of strength. To look beyond yourself, your problems and imagine the hardships of another person and then say they deserve my patience and kindness? So. Much. Strength. Because they may call is basic human decency but there’s nothing basic or human about it.
Humans are animals, plain and simple. Self-serving, fight-or-flight, might-is-right animals. The basic human instinct is selfishness. Take away a toddler’s toy and it screams. Someone took away my toy! Me, me, me, that’s human. To get over your own nature? You have to learn to do that. Kindness is taught. Empathy? Taught. And not all of us learn the same amount.
To look at people who’re ruining our lives and think maybe it’s because they don’t know better, or because they’re going through a rough patch, or even consider that maybe they’re just a good person having a bad day – this takes a heart the size of the Atlantic and patience just as deep. I’m not pretending I have either but it’s something to work towards.
So I have since told Pookie that Cinderella has her plus points. Now if she could only also have a spine…