USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘safety’
Folk Beliefs
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Legends
Narrative
Protection

Bears and Menstruation

My mother grew up in rural California. She spent a lot of her time outside and hiking. When she was a Girl Scout, she heard that when you are on your period you should avoid going in the great outdoors.

JE:”I always heard growing up that it wasn’t safe to hike or go camping while you were on your period. Apparently bears and other predatory animals can smell it and are more likely to attack. When I was growing up, two women were killed by a bear and the rumor was that it was because one (or both) of the women were menstruating.”

Me: Who told you this?

JE: My Girl Scout Leader was the most distinct person I can remember. There were some men at my church who wouldn’t let their daughters (my friends) because they thought that women should not hike, camp or even venture into the back county during their periods because it will attract predators who will come and eat them. This cautionary advice goes for women around the world. ”

Analysis: I researched the validity of this superstition, and it holds little scientific evidence. The superstition has a strong hold on people because it’s a pretty visceral- blood, gruesome attacks, young girls, etc. To me, however, it seems like a fear of bears morphed into an unfounded belief. At one point, this was perhaps a good way to keep young girls from exerting themselves in the woods when their families believed women should be at home. The stereotype only reinforces the idea that women are not as suited to survival in the wilderness as men.

For the Yellowstone Bearman’s advice on this folk belief, see:

http://www.yellowstone-bearman.com/menstruation_data.html

Legends

Beware the Parking Garage

“Whenever your car has been parked and you haven’t been right next to it. Before you get closed to your car, you need to kneel down and look under the car to make sure there is no one underneath it.”

The informant interrupted herself saying:

“That does sound crazy doesn’t it. (laughs) But it isn’t crazy.  I really believe it.  I think its true”

The informant continued.

“You do this because there have been cases of people hiding under people’s cars, slashing their Achilles tendon with a knife and then robbing them or sometimes doing harm like raping them or grand theft auto. And you have to be especially careful as a woman.”

The informant learned this from a friend who had heard of real cases in Memphis, TN.  She asserted the truth of her friend because “she’s a real attorney.”  Her friend had told her that it happened in enclosed parking or high rise parking, not so much out in the open.  The informant said that she would tell this to my daughters and anyone really going into an underground parking structure with their car.  They really need to be careful.   “I always park in an open area because it’s harder to hide in an open area.  I don’t want anything to happen to anyone but especially my daughters.  I find women more vulnerable than men.”

I think the legend, regardless of how true it may be, arose from people’s fear of being trapped alone and defenseless in a parking structure.  Under the car is dark just like under a bed.  This fear of someone hiding under a car is the grown up version of fearing monsters under the bed.

Folk speech
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Texas Ranch Safety

“When I go to my, my dad’s ranch. In southwest Texas. It’s about 45 miles from the, from the border to Mexico. Um, and when I bring, uh, when I bring friends down there, to the ranch. He’s huge on safety. Because of rattlesnakes that are out there, and coyotes, and just other animals, and sharp plants that can, that’ll be, detrimental to your health. So he brings all my friends together, and he like, makes us be silent. And he goes, ‘Alright boys, I want you to know, that in all these 800 acres, anything out there can either bite ya, sting ya, prick ya, or even kill ya. And he basically scares all my friends before we, we go out.”

The speech the source’s father makes changes, except for the one saying that is always constant. “Alright boys, I want you to know…” Click here for an audio clip of that saying.

To me it’s important to note a piece of irony with this safety speech, because a big part of Texas ranch culture is shooting guns.

“He, he warns us about the plants and animals, and then we go, shooting animals with guns”.

 

As someone who lived in Texas for ten years, to me this really just reflects Texas culture, especially West Texas. It shows a profound respect for the environment, while at the same time maintaining the idea that Texans have a right to shoot everything in it.

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