A Feminist Reading of “Little Red Riding Hood”

by Celine Lang, Kim Schneider & Karina Schweighofer

In the class "Introduction to Cultural Studies" students were asked to choose a theoretical approach and analyse the fairytale "Little Red Riding Hood" to demonstrate how the result of an analysis depends on the approach. Here's one of the many very good examples:

When we were kids, our parents always told us fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood”,
but as children we always had such an innocent view on the story. However, if we take
a closer look at it and focus our view on a feminist approach of analyzing the story,
we can see that it is full of stereotypical elements about women and girls. The feminist
approach is not only concerned with those kinds of issues, though. It tries to analyze
the text for power imbalances as the different portrayals of men and women and their
presumed roles in society.

Little Red Riding Hood is described as a sweet little girl, that obeys her mother and is
very dutiful. She is, like every little girl, very into clothes, especially in her red little
cap, which represents a typical color for girls.
Little Red Riding Hood and her mother bake a cake for her grandmother, because she
is sick, weak and helpless and her mother told her to bring it to her grandmother. But
girls should never leave the intended path, especially when they are told not to.

The grandmother is very naive and easy to manipulate, so she lets the wolf into her
house, where he then eats her. He got into the bed of the grandmother, which could
also be a metaphor for rape. But Little Red Riding Hood has been tricked as well. When
the wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood it could also be the metaphor for him raping her,
which shows the superiority of men again, because they are stronger than women, and
they can ”take” them whenever they want to. Whereas women are powerless to the
desire of men. They are something to “feed on”, which objectifies the women (like an
apple you can grab).

In the last paragraph, the huntsman saves Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother,
which makes it obvious that women must be saved by a man, because they were not
able to help themselves. This shows the traditional male hero.
In the story the men have a lot of differences in their behavior (“villain/bad guy” vs.
“hero/good guy”) whereas the women appear to be very similar (naive, helpless, etc.).
Overall, the men are shown as superior and generally stronger.
The message of the story is that you should listen to your mother, not talk to strangers,
and always follow the intended path. As a girl/woman, you should not explore the world
by yourself, because there are too many dangers for you!

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