Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Proverbs About Women From Around the World

Mineke Schipper discusses her new book published this April by Yale University Press. Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet is an interdisciplinary work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Room 10383, Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

- A wife is like a blanket: cover yourself, it irritates you; cast it aside, you feel cold. (Ashanti, Ghana)
- The name of the father is the secret of the mother. (Creole, Jamaica)
- A woman who knows Latin will never find a husband nor come to a good end. (All over Europe)
- A woman without a husband is a palm without dates. (Arabic)
- A woman's beauty makes fish sink and wild geese fall from the sky.  (Chinese)
- Wives and shoes are better when old. (Japanese)

Mineke Schipper discusses her new book, Never Marry A Woman with Big Feet, published this April by Yale University Press. This work is of general comparative interdisciplinary interest. According to Schipper, “All women have in common the shape of their bodies and their bodily functions. In cultures all over the world, sex and gender issues have been expressed in proverbs, the world's smallest literary genre—a genre which has been popular, prestigious and quite influential in most cultures. Mineke Schipper has collected and studied more than 15 000 proverbs and sayings about women from all continents. In her research and forthcoming book she has examined the various themes those proverbs are most frequently dealing with: women's bodies, their beauty and beautifying practices, and their various phases of life—from girls and brides to wives, widows, mothers and grandmothers; and also, no less numerous, with basics of life, such as love, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, work, verbal talents and power. In spite of the differences among cultures, those numerous tiny texts reveal some intriguingly common patterns in ideas about women transmitted from generation to generation in hundreds of languages across the globe, thus providing us with an intriguing cultural history of humankind. Now that globalisation and migration interact with local realities in many ways, positively and negatively, it becomes highly rewarding to re-examine those various traditions together. How far have we progressed along the road of cosmopolitan citizenship? In order to define where we want to go, and where we do not want to go, as men and women today, we first of all need to know where we come from.“

Mineke Schipper is professor of Intercultural Literary Studies at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands.  She is the author of numerous books including Imagining Insiders. Africa and the Question of Belonging (1999) and Unheard Words. Women and Literature in Africa, The Arab World, Asia, The Caribbean, and Latin America (1985). She has also published two novels.

'Generations of feminists will mine this book for epigrams for their own books, but they will also use it to establish a cross-cultural base for their ideas about the female body, beauty, phases of life, love, sex, work, and power.  Folklorists will borrow its brilliant taxonomies, a major advance on Stith Thompson, and no one who casually picks it up will be able to put it down, as gems of inspired sayings, bon mots, zany jokes, and insightful analyses leap out of every page.' --Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago

Parking is available in lot #3 for $7.

Cost : Free and open to the public

James S. Coleman African Studies Center

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center