Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from around the World

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In cultures all over the globe, sex and gender issues have been expressed in proverbs, the world's smallest literary genre. This fascinating book provides revealing insights into the female condition across centuries and continents, as recorded in thousands of vivid and earthy proverbs about women. Mineke Schipper analyzes similarities, differences, and contradictions in the cultural norms about gender expressed in thousands of proverbs she has found from over 150 countries. Grouping the sayings into such categories as the female body, love, sex, childbirth, and female power, she finds shared patterns in ideas about women (and how men see them).
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this collection of proverbs from more than 150 countries, Schipper (intercultural literary studies, Univ. of Leiden, the Netherlands) powerfully illustrates similarities in how diverse cultural groups view women. The thousands of proverbs create a composite portrait of women as wives, mothers, and objects of desire. Be they from Japan ("Wives and shoes are better when old") or Jamaica ("The name of the father is the secret of the mother"), these proverbs are restrictive in nature, prescribing, without a wide margin of tolerance, what the female appearance, work roles, and personality traits should be. Schipper constantly calls into question who is responsible for this portrayal and interprets the proverbs through a feminist lens. The only quibble is that the book is organized thematically and not also chronologically, which would have helped readers trace whether this portrait of women has evolved over time. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Maria Kochis, California State Univ., Sacramento Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Times Literary Supplement

"A fascinating analysis of more than 15,000 proverbs. . . . Engrossing."

— Carolyne Larrington

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300102499
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2004
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Mineke Schipper is professor of intercultural literary studies at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. She is the author of many books, including Imagining Insiders: Africa and the Question of Belonging, and Unheard Words: Women and Literature in Africa, the Arab World, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.


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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
The Mother of All Sciences 1
Proverbs and Their Impact 8
1 The Female Body 18
From Head to Foot 18
Beauty and Beautifying 51
The Female Body Anthology 68
2 Phases of Life 93
Girls, Daughters, Brides 93
Wives, Co-Wives, Widows 108
Mothers and Mothers-in-Law 129
Phases of Life Anthology 159
3 Basics of Life 204
Love 204
Sex 217
Fertility, Pregnancy, Childbirth 230
Basics of Life Anthology 242
4 Female Power 266
Verbal Talent 267
Work 270
Knowledge 287
Witchcraft and Other Occult Forces 295
Countermeasures 304
Violence 311
Female Power Anthology 320
5 Messages of Images 350
Women as Objects 351
Gendered Places and Spaces 364
Messages of Images Anthology 375
Epilogue: Proverbial Imaginations in an Age of Globalization 387
Endnotes 393
Languages, Cultures and Countries 402
Bibliography 406
Index 415
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