“Something has happened. But how? Was it overnight, or has it been creeping up on us and we’ve only just noticed? It’s the girls, the young and pretty girls.They used to sing like sirens, like mermaids, all sweet and liquid, breezy melodies, wavy melodies, but now they’re shorn of melody, though their mouths open and close as before.
Have their tongues been cut out?”
Margaret Atwood, “Something Has Happened”,The Tent, 2006.
In our workshop “Wake Up Sleeping Beauty” we use traditional fairytales as a stimulus for discussion. All the pretty girls are challenged to awaken: to identify the poison apples in their lives and slay some dragons.
My favourite business writer Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi and Saatchi and author of the inspirational Love Marks, discusses why stories can be so transformational in his book Sisimo:
1. Great stories touch us. They connect with our own desires and experiences and what we care about.
2. Great stories are contagious. The itch to pass on a great story is almost unbearable. Stories have to be shared.
3. Great stories are cloaked in credibility. They make practical sense, intuitive sense, emotional sense.
4. Great stories connect with the emotions. Genuine, compelling emotion drives every story.
5. Great stories surprise and delight. They are infinitely capable of the unexpected. It’s not just about novelty and revelations but also creativity and emotional truth.
6. Great stories have context. Whether it’s a fairy tale or a business lesson, stories weave facts and events together so we understand their larger meanings.
7. Great stories are fast workers. They get in ahead of our rationalizations and logic with their own compelling truth.
8. Great stories are crafted. We all like stories to be recounted with skill and effort.
9. Great stories make us laugh. Humor disarms us and opens us up to new ideas.
10. Great stories teach us to be smart. Through great stories we learn to spot disinformation in an instant. Shoddy stories reinforce prejudice and hide the truth.
11. Great stories introduce us to great characters; people we want to spend time with.
12. Great stories open us up to other worlds. Welcome to the world of the imagination, to new geographies, to new realities.”
I think it is sad that society has stopped telling great stories to our teenagers. They respond brilliantly to a tale well told.
One of the most disturbing fairytales of all that seems to contain compelling truths for our girls is that of the little mermaid. Our words have enormous power, yet what did the mermaid decide to sacrifice to get her man? Her voice – her words. And her fins – body mutilation. When all this still doesn’t work and she cannot win the Prince’s love, Ariel throws herself into the sea. Heartbroken. No happy ending.
What will our girls do in the quest to be more beautiful? More loved? More?
A quarter of teenage girls in Australia say they would get plastic surgery if they could, and two per cent have already gone under the knife. Almost 60 per cent wanted to be lighter on the scales. Many silence their inner turmoil and pretend they are happy whilst behind closed doors they binge drink, self harm, play at being “mean girls” and bully others…
The Fairy Godmothers must act. Older women have to step up and act as guides and role models, girls cannot be what they cannot see. Where would Cinderella have been without her Fairy Godmother, Sleeping Beauty without the kind fairies who tried to protect her, and Dorothy without Glynda the good fairy?
Don’t buy into the myth that older women have nothing to offer. The media perpetuates the quest for youthful perfection. Older women are virtually invisible and either taken off air when their use by date expires (which happens when they are mid-thirties) or sent off for surgery.
Women need to be more supportive of each other regardless of age. We’re all battling with the same dragons. We all have moments when we look despairingly into the mirror and ask, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”
There is great power in the collective female voice. Will we give power to the negative, to the compare and despair game? Or will we choose a different song? Our “Sleeping Beauty” workshop opens with the powerful song “Wake Me Up” by Evanescence. The lyrics include ” Wake me up inside (I can’t wake up) Wake me up inside (save me) …speak sentences, sing again. I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems. Got to open my eyes to everything. Bring me to life…”
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Let’s all open our eyes. Let’s create new realities for our Princesses and for ourselves.
Let’s create our own Happy Ever After.
P.S. I worked with the girls from All Saints Grammar yesterday and reading through their feedback comments this morning I was reminded yet again of how powerful great stories are, and of the urgent need for Fairy Godmothers! Take 5 minutes and read through their comments – what beautiful, honest words.
I found the girls extraordinary – so many hugs, so many smiles.