Are We Sacrificing Love Stories for Feminism?

We grew up watching love stories: Cinderella, Repunzal, the Nutcracker and Mulan. Love stories where the woman is saved by her Prince Charming... but with the feminist movement of today, we now realise this is no longer how we want to find love. 

 

But has the young girl’s dream of a prince charming completely vanished? Should we still expect men to hold open doors for us? Pick us up for dates and pay for the meal? Be the one to go down on one knee and propose? Would it be wrong in this day and age to wish for a fairy tale ending?

 

Although I don’t like to admit it, I do love a good love story! As a young girl, I was obsessed with ‘The Notebook’ and dreamt of the day I would find my own Noah. My favourite books were always romantic and never sci-fi! I wanted to be Bella and meet my Edward Cullen (even though I was always team Jacob, I’ll be honest). And now, as a postgrad doing English Literature,  Wuthering Heights will remain my favourite classic. 

 

And yet, I am also a feminist, someone who believes in the fundamental equality of the genders, and someone who is proud to be independent. I absolutely do not wait for a man to save me, but does this mean I will never experience my own love story?  

 

The problem feminists have with traditional chivalry and courtship is that it reeks of sexism. Prince Charming saves the damsel from a tower, over and over again. A feminist would ask, why she can’t save herself? Why is it always a man who saves her? Why are we teaching young girls that a love story consists of a lady waiting to be “saved” rather than finding her own way? Films, books, magazines for decades have been promoting these roles of male saviours and female victims. Even the ceremony of marriage is outdated, as a woman is “given away”. Traditional love stories are rooted in the belief of the frailty of women.

 

But, I have good news! It is possible to be both a romantic and a feminist. Let’s think about Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth, for her time period, is a strong, unconventional female character. She walks everywhere in a time when women were believed to be frail and ought to stay indoors so as not to over exert themselves. She is witty and confident, particularly among Mr Darcy, whereas women were supposed to be quiet, submissive and inferior to the husband. She refuses a marriage proposal, something unheard of for a lady of her inferior class and background. And yet, she still finds her love story, and it is the arguably the most famous love story to exist. 

 

I know it is only a novel and not real life, but the principle still stands; we can be strong, independent women and still believe in love stories. We just need to update the narrative to one where the woman can pay for her meal or propose to her fiancé. We need to update the narrative to centre around love as an equal partnership, not one of female submission. Romance and chivalry can still exist today, but the difference today is, women can be key players too! And one day, it won't be the unconventional love story like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, it’ll be the norm.