The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories

The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories

The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories

The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories

Synopsis

Why is the story of romance in books, magazines, and films still aimed at women rather than at men? Even after decades of feminism, traditional ideas and messages about romantic love still hold sway and, in our "postfeminist" age, are more popular than ever. Increasingly, we have become a culture of romance: stories of all kinds shape the terms of love. Women, in particular, love a love story.

The Glass Slipper is about the persistence of a familiar Anglo-American love story into the digital age. Comparing influential classics to their current counterparts, Susan Ostrov Weisser relates in highly amusing prose how these stories are shaped and defined by and for women, the main consumers of romantic texts. Following a trajectory that begins with Jane Austen and concludes with Internet dating sites, Weisser shows the many ways in which nineteenth-century views of women's nature and the Victorian idea of romance have survived the feminist critique of the 1970s and continue in new and more ambiguous forms in today's media, with profound implications for women.

More than a book about romance in fiction and media, The Glass Slipper illustrates how traditional stories about women's sexuality, femininity, and romantic love have survived as seemingly protective elements in a more modern, feminist, sexually open society, confusing the picture for women themselves. Weisser compares diverse narratives--historical and contemporary from high literature and "low" genres--discussing novels by Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, Victorian women's magazines, and D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover; Disney movies; popular Harlequin romance novels; masochistic love in films; pornography and its relationship to romance; and reality TV and Internet ads as romantic stories.

Ultimately, Weisser shows that the narrative versions of the Glass Slipper should be taken as seriously as the Glass Ceiling as we see how these representations of romantic love are meant to inform women's beliefs and goals. In this book, Weisser's goal is not to shatter the Glass Slipper, but to see through it.

Excerpt

“I believe my Prince Charming is out there somewhere.”

These words were tearfully spoken by rejected “Bachelorettes” in the ninth season of the popular reality TV show The Bachelor, in which dozens of beautiful women compete for “the heart” of a coveted male. This time around, The Bachelor: Rome (2006), whose overwhelmingly female audience numbered over eight million viewers a week, featured an actual prince from Europe, thereby invoking many breathless references to fairy tales. The tale of Cinderella, with its beautiful but undervalued woman and the instant recognition she garners from the prince, is of course the quintessential romantic story. As even a six-year-old can tell you, its climactic moment centers on the perfect fit between the mistreated Cinderella’s dainty foot and the highly improbable shoes that she wore to the ball. And as a feminist literary critic will tell you, the Glass Slipper is a trope for the “perfect fit” of the romantic couple and particularly women’s wish to be chosen as the One, whose value is at last recognized and rewarded at the moment she is discovered as perfect for him.

It’s well known that the Bachelor series rarely works as a route to romantic happiness for its participants, though this lack of success apparently doesn’t prevent the audience from enjoying the fantasy. We may take this odd fact as a metaphor for the cultural view of marriage as a safety net for the domestic happiness of young women. In 2005 newspapers trumpeted a new trend in American society: for the first time, married women were in the minority of all U.S. women. Marriage has been decreasing in the United States, slowly catching up to a trend that has been prevalent in Europe for quite a while. Even as gay activists campaign for marriage rights in America, all couples are marrying later, divorce is common and increasingly acceptable, and more women remain single after being widowed or divorced.

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