Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 17:29:09 -0600
From: Kat Rose Kat.Rose[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SPOT.COLORADO.EDU
Subject: barefoot and pregnant
Rick Blom said:
Barefoot is a symbol of poverty, but it is only part of the message.
...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...that it originated in the South.
The whole of the message...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. Pregnant is happy and busy, barefoot is being unable
to run away.
...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.
1. These are direct quotes from my father and grandfather and their
friends. The context was always, and usually blatantly, keeping
women under control and "in their place."
2. My father's family came from the Pennsylvania hill country,
somewhere in the Oil City area; they were of a lower
3. Exactly. In spades.
4. Those I heard use the phrase couldn't have cared less about any
woman's happiness. Pregnant was also under control and unable
to run away. It also served as a sign of ownership, a marking
of territory. Conversations that included "barefoot and pregnant"
also often included the expressions "knock her up" and "knock her
upside the head," both used with gestures and tone of voice that
gave them a violent connotation.
5. For these men, the "right" to keep "their" women under control
through emotional, financial, and sexual means was openly coupled
with the right to control them with physical dominance, threats,
6. Thank-you, Rick, for your concern. This phrase is not harmless.
It is certainly not cute to any woman living with a man who
practices it, and people who use it casually are perpetuating
an attitude and behaviors that are dangerous and destructive to
Stepping down from the soapbox...
[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] -- ---
Kat Rose Kat.Rose[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]spot.Colorado.edu
My words, my rights, my responsibility