Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 07:15:35 -0400


Subject: Re: Barefoot and Pregnant

On another list we are idly wondering about the origin and history of=20

"barefoot and pregnant". Any ideas?

Barefoot is a definite symbol of poverty, or lack of money. They idea is

that the woman stays at home not earning money of her own.

Jason Wilke


Barefoot is a symbol of poverty, but it is only part of the message. I have

been hearing this expression since I was a teenager. It pops up wherever

the "boys" get together and the talk turns to women, especially one who has

acted in an uppity manner. It is almost always used as a form of

braggadocio - "I keep my old lady barefoot and pregnant", or as a form of

advice - "What you've got to do with that little gal is keep her barefoot

and pregnant." I suspect, because of the nature of the expression and the

background of the people I have heard using it, that it originated in the


The whole of the message it imparts is about control. To keep a

woman barefoot and pregnant means to keep her busy, to demand sexual

compliance, and to deprive her of the resources needed to change the

situation or to leave. Pregannt is happy and busy, barefoot is being unable

to run away.

The expression is almost always used in discussions when one of the

males is complaining about his wife's/girlfriend's behavior. Usually she is

being demanding, complains, nags, or otherwise wants the guy to do

something he doesn't want to. The message may be a bit more subtle as well.

It is not acceptable, even among less civilized men, to suggest to your

buddy that the solution is to go home and slap the woman around until she

comes to her senses. But by urging the man to take total control of the

relationship and to set the guidelines for behavior, it probably does, at

least subconciously, legitimize more agressive attempts to impose one's


My concern is the casual way this sort of expression is accepted as

just one of those good old boyisms that we seem to be so tolerant of as a

society, as if because they were cute they were harmless.

Sorry about the length. This is my first post and after lurking

here for a while it is apparent that the more experienced one gets, the

more focused the message.

Rick Blom