My informant is the mother of a USC student. She is an immigrant from Cameroon and came to America with her husband and son before giving birth to their daughter.
“In my culture it is believed that a woman who has no children is considered wicked, a man, and worthless. If she is married and childless, she will be divorced and asked to return her dowry to her husband. From what we know today, infertility could be from the man. Yet, yet all the blame goes to the woman, but back then, it was only the woman. The belief is that the wickedness comes in because gods would not bless a bad person and children, children are the most cherished gift to a women. So she would be shown without a child and no man is supposed to love a woman who could produce no heir. Next to a woman without children is one who has only one child—especially if it is a girl child—or has all girls. Women are blamed for not being able to produce an heir since most believe that only the boys should inherit the family s fortune. The irony here, is that, these same people who prefer boys stand to benefit when a girl gets married through the bride price and dowry.”
Analysis: My informant learned these cultural beliefs from relatives and extended family while living in Cameroon. This piece of cultural knowledge gives a very clear picture of the gender lines and distinctions within Cameroonian culture. From even this small amount of verbal exchange the listener gets an immediate and clear understanding that Cameroon is a patriarchal country that places incredible pressure on the women to live up to the standards of men. It is also interesting to note that in many cases after having moved from Cameroon to America these beliefs do not hold as much weight. My informant’s daughter, who is a close friend of mine, acknowledges her cultural beliefs, but does not hold the belief that the importance of women should be placed underneath that of a man. This gives the impression that cultural folklore has a much stronger meaning when the folklore is being spread in an area where the majority of people hold those same beliefs.
My informant learned this saying from an old television show that he used to watch. This saying has become part of his daily speech. Almost every conversation he has includes his saying “boys will be boys” to the point that the person he is talking to is extremely puzzled. He says it in situations in which they saying makes no logical sense, hence the confusion of the person he’s talking to.
My informant likes this saying for the irony and confusion. He knows that it doesn’t make sense when he says it because he says it at the most random times. When he says it, it somehow relates back to the conversation, but not necessarily. It leaves people speechless because they don’t know how to respond.
For my informant, “boys will be boys” provides him with a sense of nostalgia because it reminds him of watching television as a child. Because he learned the saying from watching a television show, the saying reminds him of childhood and the fun times he had as a child.
My interpretation of “boys will be boys” is quite different from his. In his case, he says it for the sake of saying it. I believe this saying represents how boys act, and many people interpret it this way as well. This saying is a way of asserting that boys are stupid and immature. Boys can act like complete idiots. This saying is just a more polite way of explaining how boys can be. I think that this saying is very useful in life when talking about boys. It isn’t as harsh as saying how boys act. By saying “boys will be boys,” people know what someone means without saying something in a blunt manner.
The following is a riddle my informant told to me:
A man and his son were driving down an icy road. When they took a corner, the car flipped. After a while, two ambulances came, one took the father to a hospital in the west, the other took the son to an hospital in the east. The nurses rushed the son into surgery, because he was losing a lot of blood. The doctor entered, and after looking at the boy exclaimed: ” I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!” How can this be?
Answer: The doctor is the boy’s mother
My informant told me that he tells this riddle often at parties or to his kids’ friends. Half of the time people guess the answer right away, but the other half of the time it completely stumps them.
When I first heard this riddle from my informant I could not figure it out. I thought it had to do with the sun rising, or another meaning of the word: “son”. As it turns out, it just reflected how the term “doctor” is still associated more with men than with women. I believe that this riddle is important because it pokes fun at the sexism of American society.