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The story of Cinderella is fairly well known. For anyone who needs a quick refresher, a young woman is abused and neglected by her wicked stepmother, forced to wear rags and to work basically as an indentured servant until one day she colludes with a well-resourced fairy, a few mice and a pumpkin to attend a ball where she meets a wealthy prince who falls in love with her, rescues her from domestic hell, marries her and sweeps her off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Whatever that means.
So what does all that have to do with the general election?
It didn’t take long for a few people to work out that a pithy bit of wordplay turns Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern’s name into a fairy tale allusion. Lucky her. Because of course every political leader who is trying to run a campaign to win an election from an underdog’s position would just love to be characterised as a fairy tale princess. Especially when that political leader is young and female. How wonderful it is to be compared to a helpless oppressed young woman waiting around to be rescued by a man.
I’ve no doubt that pointing out the problems with comparing a young female political leader with a fairy tale princess will inspire the usual round of “can’t you take a joke?” anti-PC moaning, but at this stage it’s just one more gendered sting in an election already mired in sexist bullshit. The reality is that comparing the Leader of the Opposition to Cinderella is either patronising, sexist or remarkably tone deaf.
Sure, we’ve all seen politicians cast as fictional characters before, with Pinocchio and Scrooge making fairly regular appearances in political discourse, but the princesses are a different kettle of fish. While being compared to a Pinocchio or Scrooge may insinuate that a politician is untruthful or miserly, it doesn’t undermine their whole personality in the way that comparing them to a princess does.
You’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the many criticisms levelled at Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White et al., the relevance of which can be quite easily synthesised in this one simple question: Would you choose a pretty, sugar-spice-and-everything-nice princess to lead your country?
The likely answer – no – does not exist in a vacuum. It speaks to the way in which society has historically undermined and underestimated young women, preferring them to be pretty, compliant and, most importantly, in need of a man.
Comparing a woman to a fairy tale princess is no compliment if said woman wants to be taken seriously. As detractors of Jacinda Ardern like Whale Oil likely know.
The joke will be on them, of course, if Ardern takes Labour to a fairy tale ending.Support Villainesse