Tag Archives: gender

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.


Debbie Cook and Linda Richter

Kingwood, Texas

March 11, 2012

Folklore Type: Folk Belief

Informant Bio: Debbie is my cousin and Linda is her mother and my aunt. Debbie grew up in Kingwood her whole life. She was a teacher for elementary and middle school, but will soon be a stay at home mom. Linda was a stay at home mom. They both are incredibly sarcastic and humorous. Debbie just had a baby.

Context: I had flown home for Spring Break the evening before we drove almost an hour to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank’s to see Carey, Debbie, and their new baby Ashley. As Ashley was amusing herself with some suspended toys, I asked Debbie what some of the things she got told when she was pregnant were.



D: Everybody at work; older women, in the elevator, strangers, would tell us all this stupid stuff. They said she was going to be a girl cause I was craving sweets instead of the savory. Girls ride high; boys ride low. There’s supposedly a test with a ring and a string and if it turns a certain way it determines the sex.

A. L: Women lose a part of their brain for every child they have.


Informant Analysis: They both saw the different beliefs as kind of stupid and untrue. People were just trying to be a part of what was going on.

Analysis: I think the part about people trying to be a part of Debbie’s pregnancy and interacting is probably true. The things that were said had a lot to do with figuring out the sex of the baby, and women losing their sanity while pregnant. Pregnancy is really hard. Debbie was especially sick. I think women like having the connection of giving birth with each other, and talking about those sayings or those experiences is a way to welcome a new member to the crazy mommy club.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012


After my younger sister and I were born, my mother wanted to know how tall we were going to be as adults.  My family is rather short so she was worried that we would have the same fate and not be very tall.  Her cousin was supposedly able to predict the adult height of a child.  All he needed to know was their length at a particular age, which was 5 months for girls and 8 months for boys.  My mother gave him all the information that he needed.  From his predictions he concluded that I was to be five foot three inches as and adult, and my sister was going to be five foot one inch as an adult.  These estimates were extremely accurate.  I am now five foot three and one half inches tall at age 18.  My sister is only fifteen and she is five feet.  She will most likely grow that extra inch that he predicted.

Not only did my mom’s cousin have these beliefs and make these types of predictions about children after they were born, but also during the prenatal stages.  He predicted that my mother was going to have a girl both times she was pregnant.  When my mother was pregnant, according to her cousin she was caring the baby weight in the front, verses in the legs, hips, and bottom.  If the mother is carrying the baby weight in the front is means that she will have baby girls.  Conversely, if the mother has gained her baby weight in the legs, hips, and bottom, she will have a baby boy.

We will never know if my mother’s cousin’s tricks and beliefs in knowing the adult height of a baby, and the gender of the fetus really work or if it was just a lucky guess.  However, my mom will swear by his words till this day.

Preventative Chinese Childhood Folkbelief “Genitals on Head”

My informant is second generation Chinese American female student. She grew up in Chongqing, China but moved to America when she was six and a half. After coming to America, she has moved around from Texas to California to Iowa and finally to Missouri. She mentioned the following childhood belief during a group study session when we were discussing our childhoods:

Informant: Ok, so, this was in kindergarten. Like…we had bathrooms where the boys and the girls went to the same bathroom and so like the thing was if you like looked at the other person’s genital area, you’re supposed to grow the thing on your forehead [laughter] and so if girls looked at a guy’s penis [giggles] they’ll have a penis grow on their head [laughter].

Collector (me): So did you believe in this? Where did you learn this?

Informant: No, I was in the bathroom when someone was talking about it and I overheard.

Collector: Why do you think this belief spread?

Informant: Um…I guess…probably parents told their kids not to do it and that’s how they were going to scare them.”

I consider this folklore homeopathic childhood magic in the sense that it carries the quality where “like attracts like”. In this case, looking at genitals of the other sex, causes one to grow said genitals on one’s head. And children, especially little girls (in my informant’s case), believing in this magic and unwilling to grow genitals on their heads, will try not to look at the genitals of the other sex. As my informant believes that Chinese parents told their children this folklore to scare them, this folklore is obvious in its preventive nature–stopping childhood sexual curiosity. In that nature, this folklore reaffirms the perhaps university and global belief that children are meant to be kept innocent, naive and sexless. Moreover, this folklore implies the gender/sex division of children as early as kindergarten, which seems to be an aspect of preventing sexual curiosity.

However, considering how the “scare effect” is achieved, the belief “don’t look or you’ll grow one on your forehead” doesn’t scare one unless that person is relatively familiar with what genitalia looks like. That is to say, the only reason a little girl wouldn’t want the male genitalia growing on her head would be because she knows what it looks like. So, this folklore also implicitly shows us that children might be familiar with or already exposed to the other sex’s characteristics in an period as early as kindergarten (or at least in China where this folklore originated from).

It also begs one to consider, if there was such a focus on sex/gender division and naivety, why were boys and girls made to go to the same bathroom at my informant’s school.