Sexes: Feminist Folk and Fairy Tales

A collection that turns the fables—and fits the movement The story of Cinderella, which appeared in 9th century China, has been buffeted for ages by friend and foe alike.

It was stripped of its violence in the 17th century, criticized in the 18th as unfair to stepmothers and sentimentalized by Disney in the 20th. Now Cinderella, and most of the major fairy tales, have attracted a set of critics who deride them as sexist.

Feminists argue that the clever and strong women in folk and fairy tales are almost always hags, witches or deranged stepmothers. The heroines, says Author Ethel Johnston Phelps, "are...