You may think you know the fairy tales from your childhood by heart, but a Singaporean government-funded campaign is putting a whole new twist on the classics -- for the purpose of encouraging women to get married, have babies and grow the young Singaporean population.
The Singaporean Fairytale website features 15 updated fairy tales along with facts about fertility, marriage and pregnancy. And more than one of the fairy tales seems to shame women for waiting to or choosing not to have children. The story of The Golden Goose explicitly ties women's value to their fertility. It reads:
The Golden Goose was prized for her eggs / That shone light in brilliant gold / But there soon came a time she could make them no more / For her egg-making device was rusty and old
Other stories offer similar messages: The Fairy Godmother is mocked for being "a maiden some suspect past forty" with "ten cats" and no suitors -- the horror! -- and Alice (formerly of Wonderland) is "wild and reckless." A pop-up bubble warns readers that "the extended adolescence of twentysomethings today has a biological cost for women."
According to the campaign's website, a group of final year undergraduate students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information are behind the series of modern retellings of classic stories, but The Guardian reported that the campaign has government backing. These fairy tales were distributed on college campuses in the hopes that they would encourage young Singaporeans to have kids earlier rather than later.
The campaign is the latest in a series of efforts by the Singapore government to boost the country's low birth rates. Last August, "National Night" -- an initiative co-sponsored by Mentos -- which told citizens to "give birth to a nation" was created. Now Singapore is trying fairy tales.
Aside from being grossly condescending, these stories ignore the myriad valid reasons for young women to delay marriage and children -- and the fact that some women might not want either of those things. Instead of encouraging women to learn about the risks of having children at a later age, they just make women feel bad for pursuing things other than motherhood.
Guilting women might not be the most effective way to jumpstart population growth.
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