It’s been a busy and excited week for the dusters! Yesterday (Saturday 10th June) I attended the Reimagining Cinderella Conference at their Luton campus, where I had been invited to present an academic paper entitled ‘Cinderella – The Ultimate Domestic Narrative. The dusters came too and a selection were exhibited during the event, including my original seven, as they dealt specifically with the fairy tale theme. I was excited to attract some new participants to the project too as I took some duster packs along with me to distribute to anyone how showed an interest in joining in .
It was a really stimulating event, with papers presented from many different backgrounds, but with a strong literary element running through. I’ve included the abstract below, details on the publishing of the paper to follow.
Cinderella – the Ultimate Domestic Narrative
The Cinderella story has it all; birth, death, jealous siblings, wicked stepmothers, Prince Charming, a ‘fairy tale ending’, and the curse of women the world over – domestic drudgery. Subversively the main messages in this tale are pretty clear: don’t trust your stepfamily, you apparently need a man to be truly fulfilled, and crucially, hard work without complaint makes for a good girl. And this is my point: female domesticity is at the heart of the Cinderella tale, completed with a smile because no-ones likes sulking and a woman’s work is never done.
Fairy tales were originally told to women, by women, often while they worked. The original Old Wives Tale. They provided a narrative means of making sense of the world around them and reflected the moral codes and social expectations of the day. Marina Warner writes: ‘the matter of fairy tale reflects… lived experience, with a slant towards the tribulations of women…’ [These stories are] ‘a historical source, or a fantasy of origin [that] gains credibility as a witness record of lives lived, of characters known’ (Warner xix).
The myth of happy domesticity still persists; according to social standards presented by popular media culture a woman’s fairy tale dreams of happy ever after are no less relevant today. Let us all be like Cinderella, never complaining and ever happy with a broom in our hand! Yes, the tale saves her from the wicked stepmother and her kin, but why give up on all that domestic bliss? This idea was embraced by the advertising industry back in the 1950’s when post-war policies encouraged women back into the home, but it is still very much in evidence today. Modern women are seen daily, happily dancing across our TV screens with mop in hand around a sparkling kitchen floor – what better way to sell the domestic dream than through the oldest tales of all?
Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blond. London: Vintage. 1995