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Gender and Ballads

Hester 16 Mar 03 - 12:03 PM
Allan C. 16 Mar 03 - 02:40 PM
sadie damascus 16 Mar 03 - 03:07 PM
Felipa 16 Mar 03 - 03:48 PM
Hester 17 Mar 03 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,Russ 17 Mar 03 - 10:36 AM
Stilly River Sage 17 Mar 03 - 10:45 AM
Mrrzy 17 Mar 03 - 11:12 AM
IanC 17 Mar 03 - 11:21 AM
Rapparee 17 Mar 03 - 11:23 AM
Joe_F 17 Mar 03 - 06:24 PM
GUEST 27 Apr 03 - 08:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Apr 03 - 09:20 PM
GUEST 27 Apr 03 - 09:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Apr 03 - 06:33 AM
Ebbie 28 Apr 03 - 02:46 PM
sharyn 28 Apr 03 - 11:12 PM
GUEST 29 Apr 03 - 12:40 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 29 Apr 03 - 01:02 AM
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Subject: Gender and Ballads
From: Hester
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 12:03 PM

Hi,

I've been listening to "Anne Briggs: A Collection" this week, and I've noticed how many of the ballads that she sings deal with unplanned pregnancy and seem to be very much from a woman's point of view.

Would these songs have traditionally been sung mainly by women?

Would they likely have been written by women?

And could anyone suggest a good academic survey of the cultural history of the ballads?

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Allan C.
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 02:40 PM

For what it may be worth, I can give you my unqualified thoughts on the first two issues; but can't recommend a resource for the third one.

Historically, it is an unfortunate truth that unwanted pregnancies were thought to be purely the woman's problem unless there was a question of ascendancy to a high position or wealth. It was simply not something the male partner would have wanted to sing about in either case. Because of this I would certainly think the songs would have originated from women and would have been sung by women.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: sadie damascus
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 03:07 PM

I have done traditional ballad workshops on "Sassy Lasses"--ballads about women who turn the tables on their persecutors, save the day, win bets, etc. Some examples are "The Broomfield Hill," "Tam Lin," "The Crafty Maid's Policy,", "The Baffled Knight," "The Outlandish Knight," "Maid on the Shore," "The Laird of Drum," etc.

But pregnancy, unexpected or not, looms high among women's events, whether because it was fairly continual in the days before modern forms of birth control, or because it was such an issue involving women's marriage, health, legitimacy, class, sometimes safety or even murder when her pregnancy negatively impacted some male related to or involved with her. All prophecies involve a god or hero to be borne as an infant by some woman, and, if it is to be abandoned or fostered or hidden until maturity so the prophecy can be enacted, then to be given by her or taken from her in a manner befitting the oracle, which makes for good mythology and folksingin'.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Felipa
Date: 16 Mar 03 - 03:48 PM

It is quite common to have an introductory verse in which the singer says s/he spied or overheard a woman lamenting. That would indicate that a man could sing the song telling of a woman's plight.

there are a couple of academic studies of the songs of women who dressed up as sailors and soldiers (these songs sometimes were based on true stories), but that's a different category isn't it? And I'm sure there must be anthropological studies of men and women's roles and repetoires in singing in different societies.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Hester
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 10:04 AM

Hi Allan, Sadie & Felipa:

Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

Cheers, Hester


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 10:36 AM

I am familiar only with the American Applachian ballad tradition. In my experience, whatever their source, the unplanned pregnancy ballads are as likely to be sung by males as females. Women might have the edge as far as recorded output goes, but I am thinking of live "renditions" (not always "performances").


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 10:45 AM

I'm sure there are some academic sources, such as journals and databases, that serve the music and folklore scholars in academia. I'll take a look around later today.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Mrrzy
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 11:12 AM

Maybe it depends on whether he kills her for getting pregnant or not? Most of the ones I know are murder ballads...


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: IanC
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 11:21 AM

Russ

I'm inclined to agree.

My experience of English traditional singers, both indirect and direct, suggests that they didn't (don't) share the reluctance, exhibited in folk clubs etc., to sing songs from the point of view of the othe gender.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Rapparee
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 11:23 AM

It seems to me that ballads about unplanned pregnancy are usually written from the woman's POV. ("...I wish my baby it was born/And smilin' on his daddy's knee/And me poor girl to be dead and gone/With the long green grass/Blowin' over me....")

From the man's POV it seems to be a reason for murder, a joke/threat ("...behind the door/her father kept a shotgun..."), or he arrives too late ("...he found her hanging from a rope...").


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Joe_F
Date: 17 Mar 03 - 06:24 PM

In particular I have wondered about "The Reel of Stumpie". On the face of it it is from the woman's point of view, and pretty terrifying; but I have sometimes had the vile suspicion that men sang it & *laughed* at it.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 08:38 PM

Well, even if Hester is gone, there should be mention made in this thread of these pages on women's folk music:

Gerri Gribi's Women's Folk Music Page

And her Women's Resources page:

Gerri Gribi's Women's Music Resources Page

Here is another excellent resource:

Social Protest in Women's Music and Art Page

Too bad Hester was driven from this forum for taking a stand against racism here.

For contemporary women's music, this is a great resource:

Harmony Ridge Music - dedicated to female singer-songwriters

Here is a handful of academic sources on women's folk music:

Women in Folk Music page of Duke University Libraries

At the very bottom of this extraordinary page of links on women's labor history, one can find the lyrics to a handful of women's labor songs:

Women's Labor History page with lyrics


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 09:20 PM

A useful set of links there. So thaks to whoever dug them out.

(But to say "Hester was driven from this forum for taking a stand against racism here" is in fact a pretty considerable distortion. And if anyone is curious about this, click on her name next to one of her posts on this thread, and up come a whole set of links to all the posts she'd made.)


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 09:26 PM

I see you are doing your usual guest stalking here McGrath. I can tell you really give a shit about this subject, after all you've made so many worthy contributions to the forum on it over the years--including this one.

Why not take your lame flame warrior ass back on over to the Let's Hang Hester LEAVING thread?


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 06:33 AM

And fortunately now it appears Hester has decided to stick around, which is good.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: Ebbie
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 02:46 PM

But Guest is leaving- s/he said so on another thread. And I believe everything Guest says. :)


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: sharyn
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 11:12 PM

When I was a folklore graduate student (ages ago) I wrote a thesis on metaphors used to describe love and lovers in Anglo-American folksongs. As part of my research I looked at who sang what. There were no clear divisions or alliances between the point-of-view of the protagonist and the gender of those who had sung or would sing the song. Many times a male singer would sing some "woman's song" because he got it from his grandmother or aunt or mother.

We should not assume that only women wrote or sang about pregnancy, wanted or unwanted. Men, after all, have mothers, sisters, daughters, for whom this may be an issue. And, of course, there are incest ballads.


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 12:40 AM

There are also ballads sung from the point of view of a man who abandoned/murdered the woman they got pregnant, just as there are ballads sung from a woman's perspective of same (including some where the woman sings from beyond the grave, as a cautionary tale to others).


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Subject: RE: Gender and Ballads
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 01:02 AM

Good observation Hester

You have obviously noted that the noun used is BALLads.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Nope - there ain't room for poofters in folk music - we are speaking of men, real men, with big BALLads worthy to sing the tales of a nation with big BALLads.


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