In my opinion, the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast is a romanticized hostage situation, where the Beast is a narcissistic sociopath, while the Beauty is his vulnerable hostage who is losing touch with reality and “falling in love” with her captor to survive a deeply traumatizing ordeal.
Moreover, the very act of romanticizing a fundamentally disturbing account of a woman’s abduction, subjugation and unlawful imprisonment into a pretty fairy tale to teach girls compassion and kindness towards monsters, seems to be a manifestation of a Stockhom syndrome in itself, perhaps to facilitate survivial in a world of systematic abuse and violence against women.
Do men threaten women's survival? Woman's survival is threatened by men in many different ways. A few examples include femicide, rape, and wife abuse. Graham(1994) points out the following statistics:
4/5 murdered women are killed by men
Between 1/3 and 1/2 of these women were married to their murderers
Only 10% of male murder victims are murdered by their wives
Husbands are 6-7 times more likely to initiate violence which leads to murder. (pg. 71)
Abusers, Terrorists and Captors very often are not just the average person. In many cases he or she is an isolated and inadequate individual who comes from a troubled family background which is likely to have contained a form of abuse. One quarter are described as having suffered early parental loss and one third condemned in a juvenile court. Characteristics commonly found include narcissistic borderline personalities, defensive grandiosity, exaggerated self-absorption, low self-esteem, and little regard for the feeling of others.
In 1974, 19 year old Patricia "Patti" Hearst was abducted in California by a guerilla group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army (or SLA). Her captors beat her, raped her and held her in a closet. Over her 17 month captivity she became a sympathizer with the group's cause, even participating in a bank robbery with them, for which she later spent 2 years in prison. Source: PBS "American Experience" Article.
This story was very widely read in the news, not only because Patricia Hearst was a millionaire heir, but her guilt or lack thereof was a hot topic for debate. Some sympathesized with her and believed she could not be held accountable for her actions. Others believed her responsible for her own actions. The degree of psychological manipulation and, thereafter, the degree of autonomy a victim possesses, is a definite stage for study in Stockholm Syndrome.
The third factor is how dependent the hostage is on their captors for survival. If hostages are threatened with guns or if the captor controls survival essentials such as the distribution of food and water and access to the toilet, then the captive's vulnerability is intensified. The final factor is how isolated the hostage feels from authority figures and how dissociated they feel from their life in the world outside. This is manifested in a belief that they have been rejected by those is a position to help them and therefore they are drawn into the disillusionment felt by their captors.
The first factor is the intensity of the experience, how extreme it is. The second factor is the duration of the experience. During the first four days, the chance of developing the syndrome increases dramatically as time passes.
Although a universally accepted definition of Stockholm Syndrome does not exist, Kuleshnyk (1984) proposed that the syndrome is present if one or more of the following feelings is observed: (1) positive feelings by the captive toward his or her captor; (2) negative feelings by the captive toward the police and authorities trying to win his or her release; and (3) positive feelings by the captor toward his or her captive.
Most of human history has been played out in hunter-gatherer societies in which abductions, particularly of women and their dependent children, must have been a very common occurrence. Thus, it is possible to envisage that the capture-bonding psychological response exhibited by Kristin Ehnemark, Patty Hearst, and countless others is not just an ego defense, but also an adaptive trait that promotes survival in times of war and strife.
This psychological phenomenon is so common that it acquired its own label: “Stockholm Syndrome,” named after an incident that occurred in Stockholm, Sweden. On August 23rd, 1974, two men carrying machine guns entered a bank. They held three women and one man hostage for several days. By the end of this ordeal, surprisingly, the victims took the side of their captors.
In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, essentially mistaking a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness.
The story of the hostage who comes by turns to identify with the captor is one of the oldest ever told. Tales of unsullied Puritan maidens kidnapped by Indians only to end up "going native" were staples of early American literature. The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, which describes the ordeal of a minister's wife held for eleven weeks by Narragansett Indians during King Philip's War in 1676, was among the first such narratives, and it was enormously popular when it was published in Boston in 1682.