Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Newscaster who mistakenly assumes that, thanks to advance in societal roles, Iraqi wives now walk ahead of their husbands instead of behind them learns the truth: the change has come about so the women can check for landmines.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: We first spotted this particular version of a much older tale on the Internet in November, 2000.
During the Vietnam war, the story was presented as a joke about how the Vietnamese were handling the grim reality of living in a landmined country. In the early 1960s, the tale starred the Burmese who were said to be reacting to the threat of leftover WWII mines. During WWII our tale was told about British troops musing the change in the behavior of an unnamed desert people
A joke heard in 1975 employs the same theme as the original sexist legend but places it in a different setting:
A Canadian lad goes to visit his cousin in the Deep South. One afternoon they're out hiking alongside a river when they spot a boat driven by a white man go by. A black man is waterskiing behind the boat.A 2004 updating of the "land mines" tale reverses its thrust in that what appears to the Western journalist to be acquiescence to an sexist custom proves, upon further examination, to be the opposite:
"Wow!" says the Canadian lad. "I guess what I heard about race relations down here was all wet — look at that fellow taking his black friend waterskiing."
The southern cousin just shakes his head at the Canadian's naivete. "T'ain't waterskiing. He's trolling for alligators."
[Collected on the Internet, 2004]Barbara "sometimes a step backward is actually a step forward" Mikkelson
Women gladly walk behind their husbands in Afghanistan?
Barbara Walters of 60 Minutes (USA) did a story on gender roles in Kabul several years before the Afghan conflict.
She noted that women customarily walked about
She returned to Kabul recently and observed that women still walk behind their husbands, but now seem to walk even further back and are happy with the old custom.
Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, "Why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you used to try and....change?"
"Land mines," said the woman.
Last updated: 29 March 2007
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