Tag Archives: gender

White Formals During Graduation

Background: The informant is a 75 year old female. She grew up in Illinois, attending both high school and college in the state. She graduated from high school in 1962.

Context: When driving in the car, the talk of college graduation arose. Eventually, the conversation shifted to the informant talking about her own graduation a long time ago.

Text:

MC: When I graduated high school, in 1962, girls were supposed to wear white formals and the boys wore a dress suit.

Me: Did you carry anything?

MC: Yes, we carried a large bouquet of a dozen red roses. I really wish I still had pictures from back then. I hope I didn’t throw out the wrong album by accident, as that sometimes happens.

Me: So, just to clarify, they were formal dresses?

MC: Yes, I had to wear gloves. Now, these were floor-length formals. They were very beautiful, and my school did this every single year. I am not sure if they still follow the tradition, though. It has been a while since I have looked them up.

Analysis:

Informant: The informant looked back on the tradition fondly, exemplified by how she wished she could look back at it. It was an extremely proud moment for her and the unique dress code made it stand out in her memory.

Mine: White graduation dresses have been a tradition in America for a long time, since about the 1800s. Both high school aged and college aged students might wear white for their graduation. A different spin on it is the need to wear formals and to carry a bouquet of red roses. The vibe of graduation seems more similar to a prom than a graduation. Roses typically symbolize love, and perhaps by carrying them, it showcases the love the girls have for their school. White, meanwhile, is a color of purity. The need for girls to wear white and carry roses encapsulates the era of the 1950’s and 60’s, and now that the roses and the formals have been discarded, it shows a more modern woman who is going to wear a variety of different dresses and not stay confined to a single space.

An Indian Pre-Cremation

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.

N: At funerals or… wakes, before the cremation, we all wear white. The body is washed and then put on the pyre. Once the body is, is put on the pyre, the two biggest toes are tied together, and all… like the nose, the ears, all orifices are stuffed, and you put haldi (turmeric) on the forehead of a woman, and vibuti (ash) on the forehead if it’s a man, and a garland of flowers (marigold) is put around their neck. Then, the eldest son of that person, as part of the ritual and to signify departure of the soul, what he does is take an earthen pot, fills it up with water. That pot, that water is supposed to signify life. The earthen pot is full of life. He takes one circle around the pyre and then, at the beginning of the second circle, he drops it from his right shoulder where he had held it, to the ground. The earthen pot breaks, the water flows out, and that is supposed to… that is to signify the person is… his life, his spirit has left him. Then only can the pyre be lit. 

I: What if the person does not have a son? 

N: Then the daughter does it if permitted within that, within their family or community’s customs and she wants to, or the next of kin, closest male relative does it. The ritual is to signify departure of life from that body, so it can get reincarnated again. 

Analysis:

As the informant states, this particular ritual with the earthen pot is to signify and aid the departure of life from this body, and I think this is especially important to consider while taking into account the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Therefore, this is not only to help the life out of one body, that in itself helps it into the next. The toes are tied, probably because of rigor mortis and sudden jerks, and the orifices are sealed because bodies have a tendency to bloat up. When it comes to the question about the eldest son, I wanted to ask that because I was aware that oftentimes, women weren’t really allowed to be an active part of funeral processions, and I was curious to know how that has changed as time has passed. There is no one solid answer, because in some families and communities, women are allowed to carry out the rituals, but in others, it is still seriously frowned upon, and in other-others, it is just initially discouraged.

Gender predictions

Background: Informant is a Mexican-American mother of 3. Her knowledge of this gender prediction comes from her mother.

Main Piece:

Informant: When I was pregnant with my second child, everyone told me I was having another boy. They said my stomach was “carrying low”, which is an indicator of a boy. My mom really believed that I was having a boy, but I was certain I was having a girl so my mom told me to try some gender predictions.

Interviewer: What kind of gender predictions?

Informant: She told me I should first, try and see if my son was more attached to me, because if he was then that is suppose to mean I am having a girl. Another prediction she told me was to grab a thin strand of hair and loop it through my wedding ring, and hold to over my palm. If the ring started to circle it means a girl, and if it swings side to side then it means boy.

Interviewer: So did the gender predictions predict boy or girl? Were they right?

Informant: They both pointed to signs of a baby girl. They were right, but I don’t really think they are accurate. I really just had a gut feeling I was having a girl and did the gender predictions for fun.

Context: Interviewer asked informant about gender myths.

Thoughts: Gender predictions do not seem something to take too serious. They seem like, harmless fun games to do. Especially with modern technology their is fast and easy ways to actually find out the gender. I think gender predictions shouldn’t be trusted for accuracy.

Kissing your elbow

Text

INFORMANT: My dad use to always tell me that if you could kiss your elbow it would turn you into the opposite gender.

 

Background

The informant actually believed this myth to be true when he was little. He originally learned it from his dad but heard it again from his classmates.He found the myth entertaining and said it gave him this belief that there is some sort of magic in the world. He notes that he was scared of becoming a girl and therefore scared of kissing elbow.

 

Context

The informant grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and is currently in his early 50s, living in Dallas, Texas.

 

Thoughts

This myth plays into the childhood disdain for the opposite gender. This “boys rule and girls drool” mentality makes the idea that there is a way to turn into the option gender a very scary one. Additionally, a child growing up in the south in this time would be very unfamiliar with the transgender community, so the concept of changing genders did seem magical and strange. The aspects made the myth very entertaining for the informant and his friends.

 

Sex Taboo in Rural Mexico

“I have some… some things about my culture and my village, and umm… we were a 9 girls at home. So… sex was umm… nobody can talk about sex. And then, uhh… My mom… how mothers protect their daughters, not to be pregnant and not to be with boys before marriage, she always said to us, ‘don’t touch your body. Because if you touch your breasts, it will damage. So just be careful not to touch it, and also when you take a shower, don’t wash your private parts, because they can get sick.’

 

So that way, we don’t touch our private parts. So… It was a taboo, nobody wants to speak about that.”

 

And was that a common thing, did everybody tell their daughters that?

 

“I think so, I think so. I think it was like that. So no girls got pregnant. No girls got uhh… got a sex before after marriage. So, sometimes, we think if you give a kiss to a boy, to your boyfriend, you will get pregnant. So not even wants to kiss a boys. It… It was kind of a… umm… we grow up, all the girls in our village, and nobody talk about sex. We all just tried to avoid that, and if somebody wants to tell us about sex, our parents, my mother and our parents, said, ‘Run from there! Because this is no good, God doesn’t wants that.’

 

So… Everybody behaved really well with that! [laughs]”

 

Analysis: Taboos are very interesting folk beliefs, and that is very much the case even here. What is interesting to note, however, is the notion of value applied to the body of a woman and its ties to physical purity. In other words, the less a woman had experienced in the realm of sexuality, the more valuable she was assumedly perceived to be. Given the parent-to-child transmission of the norm and the reliance on God, this taboo on sex and understanding the female body could very well be a cultural norm and rudimentary form of birth control passed down from generation to generation in order to preserve the honor and finances of families. It is also worth noting that, using the informant’s family as a hypothetical typical family, the size of the family after marriage is much larger than most families in the United States, implying that more effective birth control may not be available, thus necessitating the narrative.