Piss Off, Grimm Brothers!

“Mama, you’re evil,” Lil’ K. told me the other day while I was giving her a bath.

“Come again?” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes the way four-year-olds do when they’re trying get your drawers all in a knot and said, “You’re EVIL.”

Taken aback, I asked, “Why?”

“Because you’re a stepmother to Bubbie and Sissie,” she said, smiling as sweetly as if she’d just told me I looked pretty.

“HUH?” I sputtered.

“You don’t give them food,” she said.

“WHAT?” I cried. “Yes, I do!”

Considering the way I cook, denying them MY food might benefit ALL the children. I wasn’t thinking that way at the time of this exchange though.

“No, you don’t,” she said. “The stepmothers in Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Snow White don’t give the kids food. So you don’t either.”

Holy poisoned apples on a stick, Batman! In our culture, when even the sweetest woman takes on the role of “Stepmother,” she apparently morphs into a child-eating bitch right before the eyes of her own wedding party. I’ve been complaining about society’s perception of stepmothers since I met my husband twelve years ago. In my humble opinion, the Brothers Grimm can suck it.

I know, I know. They were expert linguists who sought to immortalize spoken-word stories on paper, share these tales with the literate world, and spread them through the ages the way the rats spread the plague.

I’ve also read that the Grimm Brothers watered these stories down a bit by making the stepmother, instead of the mother, the evil character. Reading about mothers murdering their own children apparently disturbed everyone, so these two geniuses had the stepmothers, instead of the mothers, hire the huntsmen. Wednesday Martin corroborates this factoid in her sanity-saving book for stepwitches entitled Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do.  Children of divorce have enough to contend with besides the subconscious cultural belief that their father’s future significant other intends to chop them up into little pieces. That sentiment really makes for a happy family, doesn’t it? Hey, Grimm Brothers—where’s the story about the rotten stepfather?

I like Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Jungian analysis of the whole psycho stepmother stereotype a little better. In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, she notes that the young stepdaughter heroines cannot fully develop their strength and wisdom while the “too good mother” is alive. The stepmothers come along and force them “into the woods,” thus pushing them to reach their full womanly prowess. Gee, I love that role. Sign me the hell up. Oh, wait, I’m already under contract. From what I’m hearing, even my biological child believes that society ought to take a contract out on me.

I know my complaint about the cultural stepmother stereotypes pervading our culture like a rash won’t reach any sort of resolution in this century or the next. I just hope I can convince my daughter that, despite what her fairy tales proclaim, I can be a stepmother and still possess a pube or two of human decency.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the whole Cinderella thing thrown in my face. That other time, it almost killed my stepdaughter. Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about it.

Mama’s Losin’ It

33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. clownonfire
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 13:26:53

    Jenn,
    “Holy poisoned apples on a stick, Batman”… HA!! I’m sure that made Batman’s dark stick rise…
    Le Clown

    Reply

  2. Jennifer
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 13:31:21

    WOW! Kids are so deep, aren’t they? I’m totally checking back in tomorrow for the Cinderalla story!

    Reply

  3. hughcurtler
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 13:33:05

    You may be the evil stepmother (and who am I to counter what your own child has said?) but you sure as hell can write! I had an evil stepfather, by the way. But he was not the sort you would write tales about — fairy or otherwise.

    Reply

  4. hollow tree ventures
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 13:37:34

    Luckily our family got so confusing with siblings, step-sibs, and half-sibs, my kids can barely keep track of how everyone’s related. I guess it *would* be strange to think that your dad is no relation to your sister, or that your step-brothers’ other siblings aren’t related to you. Frankly I can’t keep it straight either. With the older kids, I just embrace it and sign all my texts and emails to them with ES (Evil Stepmother).

    Reply

  5. colonialist
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 14:06:18

    Our family is all very boring. No steps. All on the level.
    You are going to prove the Grimm grimness by telling us how you nearly killed stepdaughter? I can’t wait!

    Reply

  6. Sword-chinned bitch
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 15:52:33

    Thanks for sharing that Jungian analysis. My parents divorced after twenty years. My dad remarried and took my baby sister with him to live with the new wife. They love each other as if they were blood relatives. We all love her. Nice post.

    Reply

  7. Carrie Rubin
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 16:27:59

    Like mother-in-laws, stepmothers get a bad rap. Big time.

    Reply

  8. dianasschwenk
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 16:52:42

    Hahaha I love the logic of toddlers!

    Reply

  9. Laura@Catharsis
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 17:21:07

    Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard “a pube or two”, and I’ve got to say, I LOVE IT. I have zero experience with stepmothers. I’m not one myself, nor have I ever had one. And I feel I have a lot to learn. So just to be clear, what you’re saying is you’re not all happiness-denying, misery-inducing cock blockers? Good to know.

    Reply

  10. Smaktakula
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 22:02:42

    I think sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. You are clearly a great step-mother. I, for a time, had a step-father who was a hell of a guy. My wife’s step-father is her “dad.” But are these necessarily typical? I don’t think so.

    As you well know, there are all kinds of people. Most are just normal, a handful are downright bad and about that same number, I think, are exemplary. Think about the teachers you had in school (if you had a public school education, as I did until college; if not, this might not apply). Most of them were probably just clock-punchers. Sure, they taught you something, but that was their job. You probably remember the really awful kind, too–the teacher who was drunk, or diddled students, was incompetent or cruel. And then you definitely remember the third kind of teacher–you may be Facebook friends with this person still–the teacher who loved what s/he was doing, who loved kids and loved to teach, and what a tremendous impact that person made in your life.

    Well, I think step-parents are probably like that, too.

    Reply

    • Jennifer Worrell
      Jul 20, 2012 @ 01:20:58

      You are so right–they are. My post was sort of tongue-in-cheek, although less so than usual. “Family” has so many different meanings and constructions now. As a society, we have to evolve with the model and support this wide variety of constructs. I’m thinking in terms of the portion of the wedding vows where it says, “Let no man put this marriage asunder,” or something like that. Be it a blended, gay, lesbian, or one-man-one-woman-2 1/2 kid-and-dog type union, the point is to rear happy, healthy kids. In short, people shouldn’t judge or make assumptions; they should just shut up and be supportive as long as there’s functionality and love in the house.

      Reply

  11. Annabelle
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 23:14:36

    There are a lot of appalling stereotypes in those fairy tales that I didn’t much pick up on as a kid. Like the fact that the evil women are always brunettes. Um, hey!

    Reply

    • Jennifer Worrell
      Jul 20, 2012 @ 01:28:37

      Christian Grey favors brunettes in the 50 Shades Series. But, yeah, the evil women tended to have chestnut hair. I’d never thought about it until you just brought it up. That is weird, isn’t it?

      Reply

      • Annabelle
        Jul 21, 2012 @ 12:05:31

        I’ve heard the hair color thing explained as the result of the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen being from countries in which blondness is almost the norm and dark hair was most often seen on foreigners, which makes a certain amount of sense, but is still rude for dark-haired kids!

      • Jennifer Worrell
        Jul 21, 2012 @ 15:08:46

        No joke! I guess I see where they were coming from, but still!

  12. Jamie@SouthMainMuse
    Jul 20, 2012 @ 12:17:43

    I just saw Tangled — which I loved. But the villain there was an adoptive mom. (Granted she stole the child). But if you really examined the message (way too hard) biology wins out. I guess you’re right. Making the biological mother the evil one just doesn’t work for fairy tales. Great post.

    Reply

    • Jennifer Worrell
      Jul 20, 2012 @ 13:50:16

      Biology always wins out, and that’s the natural course of things. That’s not the bad part–I guess it’s making the other players in a kids’ life evil just because…Thanks! Thanks for reading, too:)

      Reply

  13. Jo-Anne Meadows
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 05:50:46

    Those brothers have a lot to answer for……………….lol

    http://jo-annemotherandnanna.blogspot.com.au/

    Reply

  14. doncarroll
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 13:20:08

    i suppose i have heard of the psycho step mother phrase also.i grew up in that kind of environment and it worked out pretty well. i can say i do know how a kid can use the natural parent against the step parent in order to get what they what. you know – if it was her she’d let me do it. this certainly has a bite to it. and i certainly like to see bite when it needs to be released:)

    Reply

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