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Handsome is not a personality

Writing in the Independent, Ceri Radford has an interesting review of some gender-swapped fairy tales.

the co-authors used an algorithm to flip all gendered language (‘he’ becomes ‘she’, ‘daughter’ becomes ‘son’) in the classic Fairy Books, a series published in the late 19th century that collected and popularised many traditional folk tales. While fairy stories have been rewritten countless times to make them more palatable to changing tastes, this is the first experiment to revisit the originals with a purist gender reversal, leaving the text otherwise untouched.

Radford saw the title and thought it was a gimmick, but found that on reading the book it was “a strangely disconcerting experience”.

It’s one thing to know that misogynistic stereotypes exist, another to peer into the machine that creates them. After countless run-ins with scheming wizards, I started to find myself feeling hostile and suspicious towards any old man strolling across the pages. With the genders reversed, it became stark and ridiculous how almost every reference to a young guy concerned his appearance and his clothes.

…The thing I found most unnerving was that even after just half an hour of reading manufactured tales with a cynical hat on, I started to get sucked into the belittlement of young men, beginning to expect them to be nothing but weak window-dressing. In reality, when there are centuries of cultural norms combined with structures that encase real-world gender roles, it’s no wonder that the pace of change towards equality makes the average glacier look like Usain Bolt being pursued by a bear.