Our twisted beauty standards: it all begins with fairytales

So, I was just watching that ‘Snowwhite and the Hunstman’, you know, the one with Kristen Stewart and my god, my English Literature degree has ruined me because I started analysing it (kill me now). But anyway, I had a realisation on how twisted our ideas of beauty are. Ok, just hear me out.

So, beauty is seen as wonderful and desirable. If you are beautiful, you are (generally) a good person. Most fairy tale princesses embody beauty, because they are so good. In contrast, being ugly is a punishment for being bad people. Cinderella’s step sisters are ugly. Their ugliness is associated with their evilness. This is probably better explained by Roald Dahl, who, in his children’s book, ‘The Twits’, says that if you have ugly thoughts and are ugly on the inside your face will show it and you will become ugly on the outside but if you are beautiful on the inside, you will be beautiful on the inside. So good equals beautiful and evil equal ugly.

As well as this, if you’re beautiful you’re treated with adoration, respect and love and generally, good things happen to you in the end. However if you’re ugly, people treat you badly and usually you have a pretty bad outcome. How characters in these stories react to the superficialness of beauty is seen at the beginning of the Beauty and the Beast when the the prince turns the witch away because she is ugly and old but then begs forgiveness and offers her anything when she transforms herself into a beautiful woman. And, ironically, his punishment for being so superficial is to be turned into an ugly beast…

Ok, BUT If you want to be beautiful and are not already its seeing as bad. Which is super twisted. In the fairy tale setting women are punished for trying to achieve the same standards of beauty that others are celebrated for. The fact that the queen in Snow White wants to be the most beautiful woman in the land, is seen as horrifying, (even before she starts being all evil). So its bad that she wants to be as beautiful as Snow White, BUT its good that Snow White is already beautiful. In ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, she says how shes only got where she has done because of her youth and beauty, so can she really be blamed for wanting to keep that? Also, when the queen in Snow White is defeated, she is shown in rather shocking graphic imagery turning old and ugly. That is her punishment.

So children, the moral of the story…

Its good to be beautiful, and beautiful people are well loved. It’s bad to be ugly and ugly people are shunned. But it’s bad if you try to be beautiful and are born ugly. Ugliness is used as a punishment for people being superficial so they will be treated badly. But it is bad to judge those who are born ugly. But those people who are ugly already are not allowed to try and be beautiful, coz that would be superficial and selfish of them.

I know I’ve barely scraped the surface here but seriously, what the fuck. Rant over.

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World Literacy Foundation – tackling illiteracy in Uganda

Right now, in this day and age:
20 million classrooms lack basic educational resources.
In Africa, 11 million children leave school without completing basic primary education.
In 2010, 61 million primary school age children were not enrolled.
59 million children cannot read, write, or do basic maths.
1.2 billion children have little or no access to basic learning resources, electricity or internet.
1 out of 5 people in the world cannot read or write.

This post is going to be slightly different to usual. Today I’m going to shamelessly talk about this charity I work for that is battling all of those statistics that I just listed; the World Literacy Foundation.

This year 100% of the money raised for them will go to the Sun Book Tablet project currently running in Northern Uganda where there is the highest poverty and illiteracy rate in the country. The Sun Book tablet is an innovative, low-cost, solar powered, tablet with pre-loaded educational content. It contains hundreds of books, learning applications, lessons plans, student assessments and many other interactive tools. Powered with solar chargers and pre-loaded with educational content, the Sun Book tablet has been designed and tailored to meet the needs of classrooms in “off the grid” settings that lack electricity and the Internet. The Sun Book tablet aims to provide the most enriching and empowering learning experiences to children in off the grid environments. Greater access to quality education provided by the Sun Book tablet provides beneficiaries with an opportunity to acquire the literacy and numeracy skills needed to succeed in school, enhance social inclusion, secure employment and ultimately bring themselves, family, community and country out of poverty.

Apart from the obvious benefits of curing illiteracy, there are many others. For example it will be able to promote gender equality, improve health, increase employment, reduce poverty and create a whole new future for these children.

Gender Equality
It is undeniable that education helps to tackle the issue of gender discrimination, and it promotes changing attitudes in young children and lead to equal opportunities and benefits for both men and women. Literacy practices enhance gender equality and empower both men and women to empower one another.

Improved Health
Literacy significantly enhances a person’s ability to understand, apply and access health-related information. In impoverished communities, mortality rates for young children under five-years-old are considerably lower when literacy rates are prevalent. Literacy leads to an increased awareness of disease and a stronger initiative to seek quality healthcare for their family and community.

Employment Opportunities
Literacy significantly correlates with employment, and as reading and writing are vital skills in the search for meaningful employment, it is a necessary that we continue to promote the importance of education around the world. Literate individuals are able to access to a wider range of career choices, and are more likely to champion for equal pay and fair work rights for themselves and their family.

Reduced Poverty
Literacy allows children, communities and countries to lift themselves out of poverty. Those who live with high literacy skills are likely to have access to employment and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. When children feel empowered through literacy, they will empower the wider community and bring around real change in the world.

A Whole New Future
Through literacy, a child can create a new future. They are able to fulfil their potential and achieve their biggest dreams. When a child is empowered through literacy, they enrich the lives of their family, community and nation.

As I have explored in previous posts, I have a great passion for literature and think that it’s a huge injustice that there are those who cannot read and therefore miss out of all the benefits of literature. This is me trying to tell you about the gravity of the problem and to a lesser extent letting you know that you can help my donating to my crowdfunding page here.

https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com:443/world-literacy-foundation?utm_id=63

(In the interest of copyright a lot of this information has been given to me by the WLF charity itself and I’m just sharing with you what they’ve shared with me.)

Confessions of a bookaholic.

Fair warning, this is just a major novel/book/literature/story appreciation post and also partly marvelling at how much they influence pretty much everything.

I love reading, I always have done. It is a huge part of my life and one of the main reasons that I chose to do an English literature degree.

I only really started thinking about this properly recently, how literature, stories, books are such a huge part of our lives. They make up everything. The form the way we think, the way we speak, the way we feel. Even when we are children, everything that we learn are from stories we are told by our parents. Fairytales supposedly shape our moral compass and lessons when we grow up. Our culture, nature and history are all taught through stories, stories round the campfire, stories before bed, even stories we tell each other about what happened the other night.

Some people make the argument that they’d rather just watch a film but seriously, one of the best things about novels compared to films is that there is so much more to novels than meets the eye. There are so many interpretations to be drawn from them so many different ways, it’s one of my favourite things to do. There are so many meanings that can be drawn and finding them all or finding the one that means the most to you in the best part of novel reading.

It’s not only how they influence the world in such a drastic way, people greatly underestimate the power of literature. A good book or story can change how you look at the world, about how you feel about things. Good story telling can change your mood. Make you happy or sad. You can tell someone how you feel through a story.

It’s even more than that though; the therapeutic power of books is astounding. You can get lost in a good book, it can distract you from your life, you can be in another world, lead another life, become another person. If you’re feeling depressed or just a little down, they can distract you from your problems, change your mood and make you feel so much better.

The power of the written word and even verbal story telling is second to none.