When you hear of book banning, you probably imagine a cranky old man saying, “What ever happened to good, old-fashioned, traditional family values?” Or an uptight hag rolling her eyes and groaning about “that disgusting filth.” Or maybe a ‘50s era angry mob setting fire to libraries and throwing bricks through ice cream parlor windows … Yeah, I’m just describing scenes out of Pleasantville.
Clearly, book banning and censorship don’t reflect open dialogue and free thinking. Around the world, books like The Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple, and Of Mice and Men were banned under the criteria of “blasphemy,” “profanity”, and for being “sexually explicit,;” this includes homosexual implications. For Christ’s Sake, Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises were both burned in Nazi bonfires in 1933. And you know what? Nobody likes a Nazi … except Nazis.
But, is there an instance where book banning is okay? Is it alright to ban books when it comes to our children? Even if that book is a beloved children’s fairy tale that even our great, great, great, great, great grandparents grew up reading? One woman thinks so.
The book, or rather, story, in question is Sleeping Beauty. The tale was first published and composed under that title by Charles Perrault in 1697. However, references to “a sleeping beauty” go back even further to oral folklore.
We all know what happens in Sleeping Beauty, right? Well, just to quickly refresh your memory. A beautiful princess is put under a sleeping curse by a bitter enchantress. But, of course a handsome prince discovers her and blown away by her serene beauty, he kisses her, thus breaking the spell. They lived happily ever after.
Well, British-mom Sarah Hall thinks that Prince Charming should have spent his happily ever after in a sexual predator rehabilitation program.
On Nov. 19, Hall Posted a photo of her 6-year-old son’s school provided copy of Read at Home: Sleeping Beauty, which is an easy-to-read condensed version of the story. “Tell you what, while we are still seeing narratives like this in school, we are never going to change ingrained attitudes to sexual behavior #MeToo #consent #mysonissix,” Hall captioned the photo.
The majority of responses to her Twitter post were negative, thinking that she was incorrectly attributing this to the #MeToo movement. One person simply put, “Omg. Seriously? It’s a fairy tale Get over it.” Another person said that the story isn’t the problem, it comes down to education, “The way to change these attitudes is not by getting rid of fairytales (repeat FAIRYTALES} but by educating in values and ethics Too much stupidity too much political correctness.”
But, a few people did stick up for her. “You’re an absolute inspiration It’s all about teaching our little men not to objectify women, from boyhood to beyond #metoo #mysonisfourteen,” wrote a commenter. But, let’s read what Hall has to say about her own post.
Hall, a 40-year-old PR consultant said, “In today’s society, it isn’t appropriate - my son is only six, he absorbs everything he sees, and it isn’t as if I can turn it into a constructive conversation.” She went on to say that the major issue in the story was consent. “I think it’s a specific issue in the Sleeping Beauty story about sexual behavior and consent,” she continued. “It’s about saying is this still relevant, is it appropriate?”
Hall says that she doesn’t think that the book should be banned at every grade level. She thinks that children around the age of six are too young to understand the implications of the story. “I don’t think taking Sleeping Beauty books out of circulation completely would be right. I actually think it would be a great resource for older children, you could have a conversation around it, you could talk about consent, and how the Princess might feel,” Hall said. “But I’m really concerned about it for younger children, would really welcome a conversation about whether this is suitable material."
But, for that reason, that they are too young to understand the issues of consent, is Hall just unnecessarily provoking an issue? She may have not even found an issue with the story, but since we are living in a moment in history when people are standing up to sexual abuse, she connected an age-old fairytale to the #MeToo movement. “These are indicative of how ingrained that kind of behavior is in society,” she said. “All these small things build up, and they make a difference.”
The #MeToo movement is clearly a landmark point in time when men and women are standing together and speaking out about sexual violence and abuse of power. There’s serious and poignant conversation going on in society right now, but bringing media focus to the implied sexual abuse in a children’s story where a prince kisses a sleeping princess just seems to trivialize a real and ongoing problem.
If we are going to ban Sleeping Beauty on the grounds of consent. Then, should we not ban Snow White? Jesus, she was dead when the prince kissed her. So, is it okay if you’re dead? Should we ban Shrek, after all Fiona was a sleeping beau …err… ogre. Or is it okay cause she wasn’t fully human. If we’re on the subject of non-human, then shouldn’t we ban Beauty and the Beast, and the remake, featuring only one of the most outspoken young feminists and #MeToo supporters of our time, Emma Watson? After all, the beast locked her up, that certainly wasn’t consented. Let’s also not ignore the implied bestiality. Yuck.
People in important positions in education also disagreed with Hall’s petition. Kate Edwards, chief executive of Seven Stories, the national center for children’s book, think that traditional fairytales teach children important lessons. “The fairytale tradition is rooted in moral instruction, telling children what’s right and wrong,” she said.
“Of course, cultural context and morals have changed hugely, so it’s important that children are given cultural context – but you can do that without losing these stories,” Edwards added. So, do you think the story should be left as is? Or, should Sleeping Beauty and fairytales like it be altered in mind of the current social climate? Or should we focus on the more important things, like actual real-world abuses? You tell me.