From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Barefoot and pregnant” is a phrase most commonly associated with the controversial idea that women should not work outside the home and should have many children during their reproductive years. It has several other meanings as well. It is a figure of speech.
The phrase “barefoot and pregnant” was probably first used sometime in the late 1940s. An article from 1949 states, “By early 1949, TWA was—in the words of its new president, Ralph S. Damon—both ‘barefoot and pregnant.'” Its usage may date as early as the 1910’s. An article published in 1958 states the phrase was first used by a “Dr. Hertzler” 40 years earlier. “Some forty years ago, Dr. Hertzler advanced a hypothesis which young women of today seem bent on proving correct. ‘The only way to keep a woman happy,’ he said, ‘is to keep her barefoot and pregnant.'”
A common assumption is that the expression relates to housewives not leaving the home, and thus not needing shoes. Indeed in the sex discrimination case of Volovsek v. Wisconsin Dept. of Agric., No. 02-2074 (7th Cir. September 18, 2003), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a woman who allegedly overheard her manager using the phrase could take her case to a jury. However, the court also dismissed the remaining claims on summary judgment with respect to both discrimination and retaliation against DATCP for lack of evidence.
Feminists often cite the phrase in a negative context.
The Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women annually awards a Barefoot and Pregnant Award “to persons in the community who have done the most to perpetuate outmoded images of women and who have refused to recognize that women are, in fact, human beings.”
Shinine Antony wrote a collection of short stories entitled Barefoot and Pregnant and later said in a 2002 interview, “Barefoot And Pregnant is a phrase that pokes fun at chauvinists who want their women barefoot (so that they are unable to socialize) and pregnant (helpless). This follows the general image of society in which women are merely objects.”
Some feminists associate “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” with the phrase “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” (translated “children, kitchen, church”), which the Germans under the German Empire and later used to describe a woman’s role in society. In Asian society, the equivalent phrase is, “good wives and wise mothers” (originally popularized in Meiji Japan).