1. Text (folk metaphor)
My informant heard this phrase often from her grandmother. They were born and raised in the south, Louisiana specifically, before moving to Texas. She recalls an old saying that states that you don’t let your boyfriend or husband carry your purse for that mean he’s “hen-pecked.” She further elaborated on how hen-pecked often referred to when a man “is not the head of household”, but the woman is and “as a woman, you have taken his power from him.” She heard this when she was a child growing up as a black woman in the south during the 80s.
3. Analysis/YOUR interpretation
From my understanding of the phrase, it seems to be rooted in southern misogynistic beliefs. My informant was raised in a rural Texan community after her family moved from Louisiana. As someone who was born and also raised in Texas, I am aware of the stereotypes, traditions, and customs commonly associated. Being the head of the household typically entails the male figure is seen as the provider, masculine, and generally opposite of many stereotypical feminine traits associated with the women. So when a man holds his wife’s purse, these shared belief systems may consciously or subconsciously take hold resulting in narrow-minded beliefs. During the time my informant recalls these ideologies, hegemonic masculinity in the black community was apparent. Hegemonic masculinity at its core refers to the belief that men’s position in society remains dominant. This is often seen as the social pressures men have faced of being expected to depict a perfect “expression” of masculinity. The term hen-pecked means not seen as masculine but seen as subservient to one’s wife and therefore not upholding the hegemonic masculine standards. This is an oikotype of the original meaning. Hen-pecked originally came from the way hens are constantly pecking at the ground for food and the way a wife or girlfriend may nag at her significant other resulting in the man complying with the wife. It seems the term became used more generally not only referring to the woman pecking/nagging their partner, but anything done by the man which could be seen as subservient to women.