If I was a character in a Disney princess film, I would most likely be the villainess. I kind of fit the profile.
- I live alone.
- I am childless.
- I live with two cats.
- I’m not just single, I’m divorced.
- I look young for my age.
- I dress young for my age.
- I own a lot of fabulous heels, dresses and coats.
- I love makeup.
At first glance these traits might seem like nothing but put them all together and I’m basically the Evil Queen in Snow White,
The twisted Fairy Maleficent
Or even the aging Mother Gothel in Tangled.
This is me in a mermaid costume, you can see it now right?
In Disney’s universe and in many of our iconic fairy tales the most dangerous threat to a young maiden’s well-being is a scheming, jealous, aging beauty.
The bitter fallen woman antagonist is so ingrained children’s fables you’d think there be some basis in reality for the archetype. We all know bitter angry women but where are the marauding mobs of middle-aged gals destroying modeling schools, poisoning cheerleaders, or torching beauty pageants? There is the popular Real Housewives series on Bravo but those ladies are mostly Disney villainess types attacking other Disney villainess types.
In the real world around 77% of murder victims are men, and men commit about 90% of all murders.. Statistically speaking women have far more to fear from the men in their lives then they do from other females.. Intimate partners, former intimate partners, relatives, neighbors and co-workers are the most likely to murder or maim any woman. Female murder victims (41.5%) were almost 6 times more likely than male murder victims (7.1%) to have been killed by an intimate. Men are also more at risk of violence from men they know well, as more than half of them are killed by an acquaintance, but for the most part women aren’t much of a threat to either gender. Of course women do make up 10% of murderers and 15% of serial killers but it does seem odd that most fairy tales showcase the exception and not the rule.
Our most iconic fables were obviously written by men, in a time when women were lucky if they even had a rudimentary education. The theme of an older jealous homicidal female might have made more sense when women had far fewer choices. Until fairly recently most women had four basic paths in life – wife, nun, prostitute or domestic laborer. Women and girls also had little agency in their choices. Most families decided the fate of their daughters, as women had few rights to make their own decisions.
Since it’s 2016 and I’m not limited to whatever choices my family wants for me, I don’t see young women as adversaries. I see someone who will soon learn how hard it is out there to just exist as a woman. I know she’s going to go through situations where she won’t be taken seriously, when she’ll have to use her husband or boyfriend as some type of mouthpiece to get her point across. I know she’ll face disappointment after she sees man after man promoted ahead of her for no reason. I can hear her sigh with disgust when she reduced to nothing more than breasts, butt and legs. I can feel her cringe as a man in power touches her in a way that makes her skin crawl. I can imagine the many painful years ahead of her when she’s been let down by her husband, becomes frustrated by screaming children and disillusioned by white picket fence dreams.
I also reject the notion that I’m in competition with young women for attention from men. A man’s affections aren’t necessarily worth much. I’ve just seen too many marriages fall apart or turn into something less than fulfilling. More than a few married men have sent me awkward emails in the middle of the night, or dropped their wedding ring into their pockets while chatting me up, or confessed that they hated their wives. After these examples and my own divorce I know marriage is mostly a crapshoot. Some are beautiful unions that strengthen both partners but many are sad and tragic illusions. I also can’t help but think of the bad relationships I’ve had with emotionally needy and draining men who demand constant reassurance yet give little in return. Then there are the pretty boys who have to chase every woman they find to help feed their insatiable egos. A good partner is hard to find for both genders and I’d rather be alone than be in a toxic disaster.
Sure there are some younger women who frustrate me. I do get annoyed when I see them treating themselves like doormats just to keep their boyfriend or partner happy. My heart hurts when I see them trash each other or buy into the notion that women must always compete with other women. I roll my eyes a bit when they seem to crave and demand attention based solely on their appearance. I also remind myself that we’ve all been brought up in a culture that reinforces the notion that women are only valued for their appearance. I try to give younger women a break too when I remember what an insecure, attention seeking mess I was at their age.
I’ve often said I want to rewrite all the fairy tales. If I were a Disney villainess I would wrap the young maidens in an invisible cloak that would warm them every time they makes a misstep or danger approaches. I’d bequeath magic potions to detect date rape drugs, weapons to protect against would be predators, and magic mirrors that would offer daily affirmations not criticism. I’d give them glitter bombs to throw on aggressive cat callers and tutus to slap on angry misogynistic bullies. I’d create a kingdom where there were no glass ceilings, no demeaning remarks by men in power, no boys clubs, no cyber-stalkers, no angry internet trolls, no sexual predators, no gender biases, and no assumptions that women are lesser or only the sum of their physical parts. I’d do it all in my fallen woman finery with dresses that are “too young” for me, tight skirts, high heels, full hair and bright red lipstick. I wouldn’t wear a coat made of puppy skins or a high-necked caped gown but I would include all my sisters young and old to celebrate in the sisterhood of womanhood.
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