Sleeping Beauty and Precocious Barbie, bff?

quilt girlA cigar may sometimes be just a cigar, but when it comes to fairytales there’s almost always interesting subtext to be found.  Take Sleeping Beauty for example:  a princess has been cursed at birth to die when she comes of age by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel.  Spinning wheels are banned from the kingdom, but an old woman in a tower has one nonetheless and the princess, just coming of age, tries it, pricks her finger and falls fast asleep but doesn’t die (due to the effects of a good fairy’s counterspell).  A hundred years pass before a prince hears of the enchantment, braves the wood of thorns protecting the castle, and plants true love’s kiss on sleeping beauty, awakening her (and everyone else in the castle) to live happily ever after.

This story is really about sex and waiting.  The wicked fairy represents jealousy (and could be read as a projection of the queen’s Shadow side, unconsciously jealous of a potential rival for being fairest in the land).  Spinning connects to storytelling, and transformation (i.e. straw into gold in Rumplestiltskin), in this case the transformation of the girl into a woman.  The pricking of the finger and the blood is a symbol of the onset of her period and of sexual maturity.  Just as desire comes potentially into consciousness, the princess falls asleep—thus dodging the whole sex issue.  A hundred years is just about how long it would feel for a girl to wait from fifteen to sixteen or seventeen to begin dating.  The thorns that grow around the castle are an apt symbol of the rose as the symbol of love (in this case the princess is the flower, her maidenhood protected by sleep of her self and all potential suitors in the castle) and the thorns, which tell us that love always includes some suffering.

In contrast to Sleeping Beauty is Barbie, the precocious American icon that is all about speeding things up.  Still, Barbie may be soul-sisters with Sleeping Beauty since research from University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland suggests that with a 36-18-33 figure and a to-scale height of 5’9”, Barbie would be so underweight (i.e. anorexic) that she would not be able to menstruate.  So, Sleeping Beauty gets her period and falls asleep while Barbie stays awake but never gets her period.  Barbie is 50 this year, but she’s still as stunted in emotional development as ever (her big achievement this year is a low back tattoo of Ken’s name, but Ken has no need to make his way through thorns as Barbie is nothing if not available).

While our kids may not be “into” Barbie, the anorexic clones that populate magazines and shows are still very much under the influence of their plastic queen mother.

As an Anima figure, Barbie has contributed to men idealizing, sexualizing and fetishizing girls in favor of women.  As men become increasingly insecure, they shy away from intelligent, successful and maternal women—fearing that as perpetual boys in their own rights they will be engulfed by anything resembling the Great Mother.  While men need to recognize the Anima is within, women need to recognize the Animus (their own male aspect) is also within.  When this truly is understood, women are potentially freed from compulsions to undergo plastic surgery or starve themselves into anorexia (which may be more about staying a girl sometimes than it is about attracting a mate—perhaps a sort of Sleeping Beauty strategy of arresting development in the secret hope that true and unconditional love might one day break the curse that the wicked fairy of our exploitive marketing culture has visited upon their authentic beauty).

For female development to reach it’s full feminist potential, our developing young women need to be supported to wait until they are ready for sex and love, while being validated in both their power and their desire; they also need to know that their first and most essential beauty lies in their spirits, and not in their use as objects for gratification.

So let’s dedicate today to consciousness in the service of all our developing young women (and the men we hope will grow up to love, appreciate and respect them).  Developmentally, here’s to a good long nap and a healthy snack—some meat on the bones and some neurons in the head.

Namaste, Bruce

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One Response to “Sleeping Beauty and Precocious Barbie, bff?”

  1. krk Says:

    as a woman who is blessed with daughters and grandaughters I appreciate
    your words. My hope is that I can help them be aware of the power they have
    in their true selves.
    thanks and peace krk

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