I have always been a great sucker for stories with a female protagonist. You know stories that actually start with “Once upon a gtime there lived a girl” rather than “One that day, he saw a figure in the bus stand”. Stories of that sort are actually very hard to come by. It is for that reason that I instantly fell in love with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. I did not have every pencil box and school bag themed with the Disney Princesses but that is because such things were not easily available during my childhood and were insanely costly when they did exist. They were pretty and feminine and the story was about them and not about some guy. In a childhood that was filled with stories about Rajinikanth and Kamalahaasan and Mowgli, these are the only type of Female centric stories I ever got. I am not including Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood here.
But as the time of internet came about I noticed that pretty much every feminist I have read seems to be against these stories. They say that these girls wait around to be rescued by a Prince rather than take the initiative to solve their own problems. Also that being pretty is a hugely important thing in both the stories. Snow white would not have got into trouble if she had not been the fairest of them all. And the Prince would not have bothered to track Cinderella the next day if she had not been that pretty. So it teaches women that beauty is risky business and also the ticket to fame.
While I do understand and to a certain extent sympathize with these two arguments, I have never been to really hate these two stories as anti-women stories that teach passivity and vanity to impressionable girls. For the main part, I feel that similar stories from the male POV do not face similar criticism.
Cinderella is rescued by a Fairy Godmother and is introduced to a prince; Aladdin is rescued by the Genie of the Lamp and is introduced to a princess. Both move from slavery/poverty to being Prince/Princess because they get married into Royalty. But no one says Aladdin shows that little boys should passively get supernatural help and somehow get married into royalty. This is because Aladdin is only one of many stories about young boys with unique adventures. Harry Potter also begins in a very similar fashion and is rescued from abusive foster parents (Aunt and Uncle) by Hagrid. People in slavery just cannot save themselves just like that. That is not how slavery works. It is quite alright that Cinderella had to take some help from a fairy Godmother.
Snow White is spared by the hit man who recommends that she run away from the palace and live elsewhere as the queen may kill her. After a small rough patch, Snow White finds employment in a house that lodges seven little men and offers to do cooking and housekeeping in exchange for food and lodging. That is surely a smart thing to do. Also notice that there are many stories in which the male protagonist gets help from some Fairy/Nymph/Witch. People do not take the angle that men need female intervention/help and are portrayed as weak non-entities. Snow White earns the admiration of the seven dwarves by working hard in their house. Give her a break.
I am not discussing the topic about Beauty and Vanity playing a huge role in these stories and about the stories having Female Antagonists (Step Mother or Witch) here as I feel they are huge sprawling topics and deserve separate posts.