Fairy tales (The dark side)

Author: Alice Jones

Fairy tales: The dark side

Alice Jones
1 July 2021

Jones, A. C. (2021). Fairy Tales: The Dark Side. (An essay in partial fulfilment for the Master of Visual Arts degree at the Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand).


This dissertation comprises the written component of a research project undertaken by Alice Jones which examined the portrayal and treatment of women in fairy tales as it relates to the treatment of women in contemporary New Zealand. Fairy tales often reflect the experiences and preoccupations of women, especially women of a marriageable age. Jones’ position is that the way women are viewed and portrayed historically is reflected in their social status and wellbeing in the present.

Part of the investigation involved researching and analysing relevant fairy tales from various aspects, including historical and feminist considerations. The work of theorists such as Jack Zipes, Marina Warner, Andrea Dworkin, and Clarissa Pinkola Este̒s provided evidence of the relevance of fairy tales to the lives of contemporary women. Jones also researched two aspects of abuse faced by women in contemporary New Zealand: intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. Research in The Homicide Report and in police records show that one in three New Zealand women experience intimate partner violence and one in four experience sexual assault.

Two fairy tales formed the basis for Jones’ research and inspiration for her artwork. “Bluebeard”, by Charles Perrault, describes the tale of a murderous husband and was chosen for its relevance to the subject of intimate partner violence. Different versions of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale provided insight into the issue of sexual assault.

Additional research involved examining the work of feminist artists who used fairy tales for inspiration, for instance, Kiki Smith, Paula Rego, and Sally Smart. Jones’ textile work utilised quilting techniques in keeping with a tradition of women artists using textile’s historic association with women as a means of highlighting feminist issues. Women artists have made quilts both as art and as feminist symbols in order to address social injustice, as explained in The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker.

Further to these artists, Jones’ researched work by textile artists, including Faith Ringgold, Bisa Butler, and Chawne Kimber. Their work provided inspiration through both their textile methods and their focus on feminist and other social matters, such as racism or rape. The artworks made by Jones, based on the fairy tales, “Bluebeard” and “Sleeping Beauty”, are a feminist response to intimate partner violence, and to sexual assault against women in contemporary New Zealand.

Keywords: textiles, feminism, fairy tales, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, New Zealand

Alice Jones's supervisors were Victoria Bell and Jane Venis.


This abstract is available under a Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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