About the title

The title Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet comes from a Sena proverb from Malawi and Mozambique. Other variants of this proverb exist in Telegu (India) and in Hebrew.

When I quoted the Sena proverb in Beijing, people smiled and said: ‘We have the same proverb, we say: A woman with long feet will end up alone in a room, meaning that she will never find a husband.’ And all over Europe there is the following proverb: A woman who knows Latin will never find a husband, nor come to a good end. Knowing Latin meant going to the university, becoming a learned person, in other words: growing big feet.

It is quite revealing that so many proverbs all over the world tend to sketch equal access to education and (private and public) roles as a most unwelcome or even nightmarish scenario. And if today we want to change that attitude, we need to address the apparently as omnipresent as irrational fears of women’s big feet, because those fears have led to all the restrictions in women’s lives that proverbs have reflected and repeated over the centuries.