Everywhere the people I met were extremely interested in the topic of women and proverbs. Obviously, the ideas expressed in proverbs over the centuries and around the world provoke tensions between the traditional gender echoes humming in our heads and our own ideas about human rights for both men and women in today’s world. Although most proverbs about women represent male interests, women have, willingly or unwillingly, agreed to the dominant perspective, as the interests and loyalties in women’s lives have mostly been connected with the men in their lives. Being in a position of economic dependence, it is likely that in the past innumerable women throughout the world must have believed that, given the circumstances, the only option open to them was to cultivate a position of desired commodity as the one and only means of gaining influence and power. And even now many women continue to believe that this is their only option.
Today, in many cultures, proverbs are gradually abandoned for adverts and commercial slogans, and no longer part of daily conversation as they used to be in the past. Nevertheless, their messages echo in our minds. Consciously or subconsciously, we still seem to feel pressured into ‘traditional’ behaviour without even questioning why.
Even though there are encouraging changes, there are also continuities along the lines of age old hierarchical legacies. The ways in which we relate to each other as men and women, publicly and privately, reflect to a large extent the proverbial messages of what male and female behaviour ought to be like. We have imitated and internalised customs following the example of others around us. But getting back to the proverbs makes us aware not only of the impact they still have, but also of the ways in which we can change our lives as men and women today.