Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 17:29:09 -0600


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."[1] I suspect...that it originated in the South.[2]

The whole of the about control.[3] 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.[4] 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.[6]


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

socioeconomic class.

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,

and violence.

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

many women.

Stepping down from the soapbox...



My words, my rights, my responsibility