Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet

Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet

Mineke Schipper




Paperback with flaps



In Stock


Share On

(Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789386702883 | 456 pp | November 2017)


The Sena tribe in Malawi and Mozambique have a proverb: ‘Never marry a wife with bigger feet than your own.’ The Chinese have an astonishingly similar message. And in Telugu, too, prospective husbands are warned away from women with long feet.

In cultures all over the globe, sex and gender issues have been expressed in proverbs—the world’s smallest literary genre. This irresistible book provides revealing insights into the female condition across centuries and continents. The hundreds of proverbs compiled here also perpetuate contrasting views of men and women—men are inexorable tyrants, as well as insecure, fearful beings or easily seduced lovers while women are lamentable victims, and yet extremely powerful. These contradictions are exposed directly and surreptitiously in the examples collated here, speaking to all of us.

Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet collates the experiences of women through proverbs from 245 languages, both culturally and physically—women’s bodies as a whole, and each body part; their beautification, ageing and death. The vivid and earthy proverbs also reflect the phases of life—from girl to bride, to wife or co-wife, from mother to mother-in-law, widow and grandmother; the joys and sorrows of love, sex and childbearing; women’s work, their talents, and their power. They delineate the feminine ideal and vilify her fear-inducing counterpart—the talented, intelligent, powerful, defiant or occult woman.

Mineke Schipper’s stylish critical anthology is an entertaining rough guide showing us how far both sexes have progressed, through the timeless yet ever-evolving nature of cultural sayings and proverbs from every corner of the world.


‘ one who casually picks up [Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet] will be able to put it down, as gems of inspired sayings, bon mots, zany jokes and insightful analyses leap out of every page.’
—Wendy Doniger, author of The Hindus and The Ring of Truth

'An extremely interesting book. A fine contribution to the cosmopolitan conversation that ought to come about with globalization.'
—K. Anthony Appiah, Princeton University

‘Fascinating. An engrossing book.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘Schipper's prose is light, fast-paced and witty, and her analysis of what lies behind the proverbs is completely gripping.’
—Daily Telegraph

a lively and sharply pointed book…. Feminist authors and teachers will be analyzing and gratefully quoting her material for at least a generation.’
National Post, Canada

‘…enthralling, amusing and alarming in equal measures.’
—Conscience Magazine

You may also like

About the author

Mineke Schipper

Mineke Schipper is Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Literary Studies at the University of Leiden. She taught at the Université Libre du Congo and has held visiting professorships in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and China. She has a Royal Order of Knighthood for ‘building intercultural bridges nationally and internationally, inside and outside the academy’ from […]

View profile