Tag Archives: women

Auntie Cockroach and Mr. Mouse

Once upon a time under the beautiful blue sky there lived a cockroach named Khale Suske. She had become tired of being alone and thought it would be nice to come out of her nest and see the world. She got up and made a pair of red shoes for herself out of garlic skin. She put on clothes made of onion skin. With a glance and a wink she left her nest. She walked and walked and walked until she arrived at the grocer’s shop. The grocer was sitting behind his scale. As soon he saw Khale Suske he asked,
“Khale Suske, where are you going?”
Khale suske replied, “What is Khale Suske? I am better than a flower.”
“Who is Khale Suske? I have such delicate wings.”
Surprised the grocer said,
“Then what should I say?”
Khale Suske said, “Say something nice. Say, ‘Khale Suske: Red Shoes, Onion Clothes.
Where are you going?’”
So the grocer said, “Khale Suske Red Shoes, Onion Clothes. Where are you going?”
Khale Suske said, “I am going to Hamedan, I want to find a husband for Ramezan
I should eat wheat bread and not be a bother to anyone.”
The grocer said, “Khale Suske, Red Shoes. Will you become my wife? Will you become my beautiful bride?”
Khale Suske said, “If I become your wife, If I become your companion. When we argue, what will you hit me with?”
The grocer said, “With this stone weight from my scale!”
Khale Suske said, “No no no! I will not become the grocer’s wife If I do, I will be killed!”
She said this, tightened her scarf and continued on her journey. She walked and walked and walked until she arrived at the door of the quiltmaker. The quiltmaker was stirring cotton with a long wooden stick to bring out dirt and sand from the cotton, and with the clean, soft cotton he would make beautiful quilts. As soon as he saw Khale Suske he said, “Khale Suske, where are you going?”
Khale suske replied,
“What is Khale Suske? I am better than a flower.”
“Who is Khale Suske? I have such delicate wings.”
The quiltmaker said, “Then what should I say?”
Khale Suske said, “Say something nice. Say, ‘Khale Suske Red Shoes, Onion Clothes
Where are you going?’”
So the quiltmaker said, “Khale Suske Red Shoes, Onion Clothes Where are you going?”
Khale Suske said, “I am going to Hamedan, I want to find a husband for Ramezan I should eat wheat bread and not be a bother to anyone.”
The quiltmaker said, “Khale Suske Red Shoes. Will you become my wife? Will you become my beautiful bride?”
Khale Suske said, “If I become your wife, if I become your companion, when we argue, what will you hit me with?”
The quiltmaker said, “with my cotton stirring stick!”
Khale Suske said, “no no no! I will not become the quiltmaker’s wife! If I do, I will be killed!” She said this, tightened her scarf and quickly hurried on her way. She walked and walked and walked until she arrived at the palace where Mr. Mouse lived. He was a clean and tidy mouse that had a small but beautiful nest in the prince’s kitchen. Mr. Mouse’s little ears were white. His tiny eyes sparkled, and he was wagging his soft, little tail. Mr. Mouse was in the middle of taking wheat to his nest so that he would be comfortable during the cold winter. As soon as he saw
Khale Suske he politely moved closer, greeted her and said,
“My my my!
Red Shoes, Onion Clothes
Where are you going?”
Khale Suske was very pleased by the polite and sweet words of Mr. Mouse. She said coyly,
“I am going to Hamedan,
I want to find a husband for Ramezan
I should eat wheat bread and not be a bother to anyone.”
Mr. Mouse said,
“Khale Qeizi
Miss Red Shoes
Will you become my wife?
Will you become my beautiful bride?”
Khale Suske said,
“Why shouldn’t I?
However, If I become your wife,
If I become your companion
When we argue, what will you hit me with?”
Mr. Mouse said,
“But no! Why should we argue?
If you become my wife,
If you become my companion,
I will caress you with my soft little tail!”
Khale Suske, who was very impressed by the little mouse, smiled and said,
“Yes yes yes!
I will become your wife
I will become your companion
I will become the mother of your children
I will become your loyal spouse!”
Khale Suske and Mr. Mouse threw a grand wedding party. They invited all the Cockroaches and Mice of the prince’s castle. Late at night, they all went to the kitchen. All brought delicious food and the mice found several walnut and pistachio shells to use as drums. It was a splendid celebration! The mice played their instruments and the roaches opened their wings and danced. The party went on until sunrise. Afterwards, Mr. Mouse took Khale Suske to his nest and they started their lives together. In the morning, when the cooks came to the kitchen, none of them knew what had gone on the night before. During the day, Mr. Mouse would go to the kitchen and pick-up the rice, beans, chick-peas, and other things that the cooks would drop, and he would bring them back to their nest with his teeth. Khale Suske would clean house, and prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they would always eat together. One day, Khale Suske went to a riverbank near the palace so she could wash her clothes. Suddenly she
slipped and fell into the water. She screamed and began to splash about so she wouldn’t drown. At the same time, one of the prince’s horsemen was passing by and stopped to give his horse water. As soon as Khale Suske’s eyes fell upon him she yelled,
“Ahoy horseman! Horseman!
Because you are going to the castle
Tell Mr. Mouse,
Khale Suske is in the water
Red Shoes is in the water
If you arrive late she will die!
Your heart will become sad!”
The horseman looked up, he didn’t see anyone. He looked down, he
didn’t see anyone. He listened again and he heard a tiny and quiet
voice say,
“Ahoy horseman!
Horseman!
Because you are going to the castle
Tell Mr. Mouse,
Khale Suske is in the water
Red Shoes is in the water
If you arrive late she will die!
Your heart will become sad!”
The rider quickly mounted his horse and rode away. He arrived out of breath at the kitchen and told the story to the others. Everyone laughed at him. Mr. Mouse was in a corner of the room and heard everything. He turned pale and dropped everything he had in his hands. His little tail was shaking like a willow tree. He threw his hands to his head and cried,
“Ay Vay! The water is taking away my Khale Suske!”
Upset, he ran and ran. He ran fast like the wind! He ran and ran and ran until he arrived next to the stream. As soon as he saw Khale Suske his body shook even more. Very upset he said,
“Give your hand to me!
Come up out of the muck!”

Khale Suske replied,
“No no no!
My delicate crystal hand will break!”
Mr. Mouse said,
“Give your foot to me!
Come up out of the muck!”
Khale Suske replied,
“No no no!
My delicate crystal foot will break!”
Mr. Mouse said,
“Then what should I do?
What can I do?
It’s not possible for me to save you!”
Khale Suske told Mr. Mouse,
“Go to the green grocer. Get a carrot.
Nibble it to make stairs. Then
bring it here and put it in the water so
that, step by step, I can up out
of danger!”
Mr. Mouse ran to the green grocer and said,
“My Khale Suske is in the water!
My little Red Shoes is in the water!
If I arrive late, she will die!
My heart will become sad!”
He then asked for a large carrot so that he could make a ladder. The green grocer was very distressed by Mr. Mouse’s story and right away he separated a long and straight carrot and gave it to the little mouse. Mr. Mouse ran as fast as he could back towards the stream. He ran and ran and ran until he arrived next to the water. He quickly nibbled the carrot to make stairs. He then placed it in the water. Khale Suske struggled and very slowly she walked up the carrot ladder and then fell on the ground. Poor Khale Suske was soaking wet. She was coughing non-stop and shivering. Mr. Mouse dried the water on Khale Suske’s body with his soft tail. Then he took her to his nest and placed her in a warm and
soft bed. He covered her face and said,
“Now that you are not
feeling well, I will
prepare you a hot soup!”
As soon as Khale Suske fell asleep, Mr. Mouse left the nest. He ran and ran and ran until he arrived at the door of the grocer. Mr. Mouse told him what had happened and explained that he wanted to prepare hot soup for Khale Suske. The grocer gave him a spinach leaf, a leek stalk, and a bunch of parsley, a small spoon of olive oil, a spoonful of rice, four lentils, some peas, and a pinch of salt. Mr. Mouse thanked him and returned home. He poured everything into a small pot. He then placed two rocks together to make an oven. He picked up a small, dry branch that had fallen on the ground and with his small, sharp teeth, chopped it and placed it between the rocks. He lit the wood and placed the pot of soup on the oven. A short time had passed and he said to himself, “Now I must stir the
pot”. He picked up a small branch to stir it, but as soon he put his head over the pot, he slipped and fell into the soup. Khale Suske realized a long time
had passed since she had heard from Mr. Mouse. With a trembling voice she said,
“Mr. Mouse, my dear
Come sit next to me”
Mr. Mouse didn’t reply. Again she said,
“Mr. Mouse, my dear
Come sit next to me”
Again there was nothing. She became worried. She got up and slowly walked to the soup. When Khale Suske saw Mr. Mouse splashing about she threw her hands to her head and cried,
“Vay! Look at my Mr. Mouse!
One head, two little ears! Look!
Don’t let him die!
My heart would become sad!”
Then, she quickly poured a small dish of water that was next to the oven on the soup to cool it. Next, she went to the neighbor mice and cockroaches nests for help. The mice and cockroaches came and lifted the pot from the
stove. Then, they pulled Mr. Mouse out of the soup. The neighbors then ran and brought whatever food and remedies they had, and for several days they took care of Khale Suske and Mr. Mouse until they both were well. Mr. Mouse and Khale Suske knew what kind of great friends they had and they lived happily ever after.

This story, like the kids version that Arya heard during his bedtime, exalts the virtues of generosity and compassion, especially in the end when the neighbors (mice and cockroaches) band together to help Mr. Mouse. The grocer also gives Mr. Mouse a carrot and vegetables to make the broth with. However, this version which can be found online as a PDF at http://www.lohrasb.com/images/Khale_Suske.pdf, also brings up the issue of women’s rights and issues. At the beginning, Khale Suske goes around to each suitor and asks them what they will beat her with during arguments, for her, a beating is to be expected from her husband and the only thing she can do to improve her living situation is to choose the husband who would beat her with the least harmful item.

Khale Suske is mentioned in the Oral Literature of Iranian Languages: Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi, Ossetic; Persian and Tajik: Companion Volume II: History of Persian Literature A, Vol XVIII.

Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Groom

1. The first time the son-in-law comes to his mother-in-law’s house,  the women in her family fill his mouth with sweets, and he can’t refuse.

2. The Son-in-law will also have to pick out his new wife from amongst all the women in her family (and servants). They will all cover their faces with their veils and group together. The new husband must recognize his bride by her hands and figure; if he picks her out, he gets to spend the night at her side. Otherwise, he has to sleep outside under the stars.

Just like for the bride, the marriage period is a liminal period of transition that needs to be eased. Teh groom is now responsible for his wife and is joining a new family.Unlike the bride’s experience though, the groom is not being tested like the bride for his courage, strength, intelligence, etc. This is probably a carry over form the dowry tradition, back in old days (and to this day in villages and conservative communities) the bride’s family would pay the groom’s family to marry their daughter. Thus, the groom’s family would put her to the test to make sure she was “worth the money” so to speak. Now, the dowry system is uncommon, but the practice of testing the new wife remains.

Women Day

My informant told me of a holiday that his family celebrated. The following is a transcript of our interview:

 

“informant: Every year on March 8th, we celebrate Women Day. Its from Ukraine, where my family is from. Basically men get the important women in their lives (wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters, etc) flowers. Like valentines day but you just honor women. Our family does more than flowers though; gifts to show our appreciation for women. It is pretty big over in Europe, like if you don’t celebrate it as a man you’re the biggest piece of shit. It is very important over there to celebrate women.”

 

My informant  reveres the holiday, and says honoring women is important to his family and their culture, claiming they are all brought up as “momma’s boys.”

 

This holiday empowers a underprivileged group (women do not share equal rights with men in many places). Thus, the outrage towards men who don’t celebrate it aimed towards their insensitivity and disregard for the female gender. This celebrates the female identity, reinforcing women’s identities.

 

An article on this can be found on wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women’s_Day

Cure for Menstrual Cramps – Bananas

“My mom always told me to eat bananas when I’m cramping”

My informant told me about this cure when I asked her for advice concerning my own menstrual cramps.  She went further on to explain that when she was a young girl, she noticed that her mother was constantly buying bananas even though her mom hated the taste of bananas.  One day, she finally asked her mom why she kept on buying bananas.  she told my informant that her mother, my informant’s grandmother, had told her that the bananas help to remove cramps.

After hearing about this method from my informant, I actually ate a banana, and to my surprise, the cramping stopped.  At first, I believed that this was possibly the result of the placebo effect since my friend had assured me it would work.  However, after conducting research on the matter, it turns out that bananas contain a high amount of potassium, and potassium has been medically known to reduce muscle cramps.  This case is a great example of folklore medicine finding scientific backing and turning into a form of published media.

Redefining Conception

Yeah, I don’t remember like all the things she talked about but, just the one point I remember was how she redefined the behavior and the egg – conception. Because we’re always taught in school that like – the common knowledge or whatever is that the egg is passively waiting, doing nothing and the sperm like actively compete to enter the egg. I mean, it follows gender stereotypes of women being passive and men being active and men competing to get the girl or whatever, you know. It’s stupid. So she redefined it that by saying that actually the egg opens, which is an action. The egg opens for the sperm it wants to contribute it genes. (laughs) Well, I think that’s pretty cool. And the she used that as like an analogy for our relationships and choice in relationships. It makes it really clear, that story among many, how well-ingrained those beliefs about what women are like and what men are like. It’s so unconscious. Everyone’s just like, ‘oh yeah, well the sperm compete to enter the egg. I mean, everyone knows that.’ People don’t even think about how that’s conforming to gender stereotypes. And also, people think that the idea that sperm are competing to enter the egg – people think of that as biological fact. It’s like accepted as science. Which makes it unequivocal. Whereas actually, it’s an interpretation and it’s a gendered interpretation. She was drawing our attention to that. I learned this at a full moon ritual put on by Mujeres de Maize in Los Angeles.

My informant is pretty explanatory on the significance of this conception story. I found it particularly meaningful because it does challenge what we are typically taught about the most quintessence examples of how biological femaleness and maleness interact. This retelling dismisses the concept of women naturally being submissive or being supposed to act submissive. It’s surprising how concepts like that become so ingrained within us without us even being consciously aware of them, which was why I, and other women as well, found the story so eye-opening and empowering at the same time.

It is bad luck for women to be on a boat.

Women are not allowed on board on commercial fishing boats

The most common superstition is that women are bad luck on commercial fishing boats.  “It is bad luck to have any women on board unless she is a really good cook.” My informant stated that is really the only reason to break the rule. My informant stated that one time a fisherman’s girlfriend was on board for a trip and one of the fisherman sustained a broken ankle; the woman was blamed for this incident. My informant was told about this as the captain brought his wife aboard once, and the boat actually hit the sand, the captain’s wife was soon blamed for this.

My informant stated that this superstition basically spread throughout lineage and cannot really explain the cause of this superstition. He also stated that his boss cannot focus when his wife is onboard, and thus he compares it to bringing your wife to work everyday. This is interestingly only on commercial fishing boats. Another incident where this folklore became prevalent was on the television show, The Deadliest Catch. There was a story about how there was a problem with some of on-site women producers being on the commercial fishing boat.

My analysis of this would be that sailors and fisherman call their boats a “she” or “her,” thus the only woman that should be in their life while they are at sea, should be their boat.

Italian women’s hair length

My informant told me about the customs of italian women in relation to their hair length:

“Native women tend to avoid cutting their hair. This is a female concern men do not seem to give a damn. I recalled your great grandmother (Santa’s)  friends, how slowly they got used to American ways and cut their hair. Your grandmother and I used to laugh how they all found an excuse  for shortening their hair usually lamenting that arthritis made it impossible to comb it long. Long hair was part of their system of belief.  And they felt the necessity to find an excuse for their sin.”

My informant told me that his wife kept her hair long, just like her family would have liked back in Italy.

Again, the connection between Italian customs/superstitions and religion shows through in my informant’s use of the word “sin” in relation for women cutting their hair. Even little customs like hair length is tied back to belief.

“A woman is a cob of maize for any mouth that has its teeth”

The first time my informant head this metaphor was in the first few months of his residency in Congo.  He had just started his missionary work, his reason for moving from the United States, and when he’d be walking from place to place, he would hear groups of men laughing together and they would often recite this folk metaphor.

My informant explained that the women in Congo were not respected, and this metaphor speaks to that sentiment.  He said the proverb means that a woman has no rights, and that any man can claim a woman, for marriage or sex (mostly), as long as they desire to do so.

In areas of Congo, maize is grown by farmers and is common in their diets.  To eat maize, one must simply make use of their teeth.  As accessible maize is to one’s diet, a woman is just as available to satisfy a male’s desires.  It is upon this comparison that the metaphor is established.

As my informant continued his work in Africa, he tried to quell this popular opinion towards women.  However, while he was able to share the benefits of valuing women and giving them rights, only a few actually put these ideas into practice.  Other than these individuals, this folk metaphor remains popular to the majority of males in the country and women continue to be shown little to no esteem.

Annotation: The African proverb can also be found in Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy, Heinemann; Reissue edition, 1991