The article is devoted to the images of Kalmyk women in the social roles of mother, wife, daughter-in-law, grandmother, mother-in-law and daughter. Kalmyk proverbs and sayings are used as reference material, since, being chunks of language developed in ancient times, they have reflected the ethnic vision of femininity. The article shows that paroemia reflects patriarchal insight into a lower status of a woman as contrary to that of a man, outlining her role within the family framework, although society recognizes the merits of a woman as a continuer of the human kind. In proverbs and sayings, a woman in the role of mother and grandmother has a positive assessment, whereas a woman in the role of stepmother and mother-in-law is negatively evaluated. Daughter is considered as a temporary member of the family, who after getting married becomes a member of her husband’s family; she is regarded as a free labor source in her new family. In Kalmyk linguistic culture a woman is endowed with communicative qualities (politeness, reverence, modesty), while her mental and organizational skills are not highly appreciated. Politeness and modesty are considered the greatest advantage of a Kalmyk woman. Paroemia most often gives a woman a negative characteristic. The exception is mother and grandmother who are given a uniquely positive assessment. They are endowed with the best human and feminine traits including kindness, patience, ability to work hard and wisdom. The androcentrism of Kalmyk environment manifests itself in the images of women and the assessments of their roles.
Keywords: The Kalmyksparoemiawoman’s imagesfemininity
In each society, there is a specific interpretation of “masculinity” and “femininity”, since the notions of “masculinity” and “femininity” reflect ethnic features of linguistic culture, in particular the world view related to gender characteristics. To understand gender-sensitive representations, it is necessary to study typical images delivered by linguaculture, which are formed primarily under the influence of social structure and the family as its basic unit.
Historical and ethnographic literature (Bühler, 1846; Erdniev, 1985; Zhitetsky, 1893; Avliev, 2012) suggests that traditional Kalmyk society was arranged in conformity with the strict gender principle, i.e. male-female dichotomy under the masculine primacy, as reflected in the proverb “
Gender was vividly embodied in the custom of
The paper is concerned with the women’s images, embodying the Kalmyk visions of femininity. As a matter of fact, some aspects of the topic were covered in Mongolism, though (Bitkeeva, 1976; Shalkhakov, 1982; Aalto, 1961; Zhalsanova, 2009; Badmaeva, 2008; Dashiyeva, 2011; Enkhtsetseg, 2010, etc.), the images of men and women as a reflection of the Kalmyk idea of masculinity and femininity have not been the subject of special scientific research yet. This determines the novelty and relevance of the paper.
Purpose of the Study
The paper aims to study the women’s images represented in folklore (based on proverbs and sayings), which conveys the ethnic idea of how Kalmyks understand femininity in a concise but comprehensive form.
The research of women’s images as Kalmyk ideas of femininity is methodologically based on the principle of consistency, which consists in a holistic overview of a set of characteristics, typical of a person, in one image or another, as a representative of a certain ethnic group and gender. The analysis of language material is determined by the objectives of study. The analysis and interpretation of linguistic materials were performed through statistical, comparative, descriptive and linguacultural methods. The evaluation of materials addressing the specificity of the Kalmyk linguistic culture, an integrated approach was used based on the comparison of scientific data available in linguistics. Kalmyks proverbs and sayings about a woman, extracted by continuous sampling from the most complete and authoritative source (Todaeva, 2007), were used as language material.
According to the Kalmyks, the mission of a person is to establish a family, and marriage is a necessary stage in a person’s life. Marriage, along with all preceding events, is one of the most important milestones in human life. According to the Kalmyk family ethics, each person should start a family, seek and find a spouse, because the life of a lonely person is worse than that of a stray dog
The life of a traditional Kalmyk family was strictly organized; there was a certain range of household chores defined for each member. Thus, women were responsible for doing the housework and feeding households, while men were in charge of household management (cattle grazing, preparing woods, livestock food, drinking water, and other kinds of hard work). Owing to the gender-sensitive distribution of duties, a range of regular tasks were gradually assigned to children, which they obviously adopted in their own newly-born families. With respect to moral and ethical qualities developed in a family, modesty, obedience and respect were instilled from birth into girls, while rigor, responsibility and demanding – into boys. These qualities are necessary when men and women perform different social functions, and it is these qualities that society expects from its members.
Girlhood refers to an important stage in the life of a woman. During this period, a girl receives the necessary education, skills required for future family life. This is a short period of time full of carelessness, universal love, respect and care, because after marriage a girl must begin a difficult life full of exhausting work in a new social medium she is completely unfamiliar with. At the same time, this is a period of preparation for the main mission of a woman – to be mother and wife. Any society expects a girl to possess such qualities as modesty, kindness, thrift, diligence, health and respect for people.
A Kalmyk girl was raised by her mother from an early age. Education was built on labor and personal example. A girl from early childhood was engaged in the housework guided by her mother or grandmother. With a view to observing common decencies a girl must go to bed later, and wake up earlier than the others, as stated in the proverb: “
In society, a girl should behave pursuant to etiquette. She cannot contradict or express her opinion, she should show respect and reverence for elderly and men. Sincerity and respect are highly appreciated. The girl is loved and respected by the entire family. “None of the males could utter any indecent words if the girl can hear. The Kalmyks do not even dare to say or do something bad to her. Brothers are extremely polite and correct to their sisters, always being their advocates and assistants. Maternal grandparents and cousins treat the girl equally well. They take all measures to ensure that girls are always pleased with them”. This attitude arises from Kalmyk belief that a girl is a paragon of purity and virtue. In turn, a girl should look after her honor and that of her relatives, since it is believed that “
A Kalmyk girl does not attract attention by being physically fit. Admittedly, physical characteristics are not crucial but internal qualities are. According to the Kalmyks, modesty is an important trait of the girl’s character. A girl cannot be noisy and talkative, she should always be “neatly and decently dressed, an untidy girl will be criticized by everyone. Girls must be graceful, slim, with a fit belly. The smaller their waist, the more they satisfy the aesthetic sense of the Kalmyks”. The girl's clothes included a belt (History of Kalmykia, 2009, pp. 48) showing off the girl’s slim and lovely figure.
When making a match, the Kalmyks follow the rule: “
In accordance with Kalmyk customs, after marriage, daughter becomes a stranger for her family, as from that moment she belongs to her husband’s family. Any girl finds it difficult to sustain such attitude both physically when spatial links with her family are lost, and morally without the support of her beloved, being among people she does not know, closely monitored by her new relatives who believe that “
Kalmyk mindset, while acknowledging the institution of marriage, emphasizes the desirability for a woman to get married to a man she truly loves (“
Widows and widowers also got married because “
The largest number of Kalmyk proverbs and sayings are devoted to the social roles of wife and mother, considered as the most important among the roles intended for a woman. In proverbs, the wife is endowed with both positive and negative characteristics. The ability to keep the house is thought to the most important and desirable quality to reside in a wife. According to the Kalmyks, the well-being of the family depends on the wife: “
The image of an ideal wife can be found in proverbs and sayings. It is not physical description that seems to be of utter importance, but some practical skills, as well as human qualities. The values of lenience, thrift, and the contribution of the wife to the well-being of her family are positively evaluated. A great emphasis is placed on the conflict-free nature, which may affect the domestic harmony. A good wife is thought to be a woman who is busy all day being wholly occupied with the housework and is not bored with a monotonous, isolated life. Regarding her family life she is the one who follows her husband’s will, does not show her independence and has a docile nature. It is considered a great success for a man to have an obedient spouse as his wife: “
In paroemia, the main responsibility of a wife involves setting up home and raising children in accordance with societal moral principles. Succeeding in her duties is viewed as a great virtue of a woman. An unhappy alliance is considered as bad luck when a man gets a bad mistress: “
The idea that a married couple should tackle their family affairs themselves with no outsiders to meddle is highlighted in a number of proverbs. In general, the tendency to peaceful settlement of disputes resides in the Kalmyk communication culture (Esenova, 2015). Mother, as an educator to her children, first of all demonstrates non-conflict behavior, because “
Such values of a woman as commitment, protection and thought for her children and all members of the household are revealed in the image of mother. This thematic subgroup of proverbs tends to express different points of view. On the one hand, the heavy female burden associated with being a mother and raising children is broadcast through the image of mother as such. It is a matter of mother’s ongoing anxieties about her children throughout the entire life, regardless of their age, of her great responsibility for their fate. On the other hand, mother’s labor and her contribution to raising and educating children are evaluated through the children or the public. The impartiality should be stressed here. It is especially valuable that the evaluation is conveyed as a shared collective opinion: “
In the image of mother, a woman does not have any negative qualities; there is not a single proverb saying that the mother is quarrelsome, talkative, stupid, etc. Her behavior is not regarded wrong. According to K. Jung, “such qualities as maternal care and sympathy are strongly related to the archetype of mother; as with the magical power of a woman; wisdom and spiritual exaltation beyond the limits of reasoning, any human instinct or impulse; everything that is attributed to kindness, commitment or support, and encourages growth and fertility” (Jung, 1996, pp. 218).
A Kalmyk mother embraces the best human and female qualities. It is not fortuitous to find in the paraoemia the statement that the maternal function is the main female role, and motherhood is the main mission of a woman. Her main value is fertility. The proverb figuratively says that a woman who gave birth to 9 sons is sitting solemnly in a big house: “
A few proverbs are devoted to the daughter’s role, since Kalmyk daughter is considered a temporary member of her family; after marriage she leaves her parents’ house and becomes a member of another family. The proverbs depict the heavy burden of daughter in her new family. In Kalmyk proverbs, the image of daughter-in-law is ambiguous. On the one hand, she should behave respectfully towards her husband’s relatives (“
The Kalmyks consider procreation as an important human mission pursued through the entire life. The son is considered a transmitter of his father’s family, while a daughter is the continuer of the human kind. It may be no accident that the Kalmyks consider “
Few proverbs are devoted to the image of spinster. They speak about a heavy burden carried by a single woman: “
Stepmother in Kalmyk proverbs and sayings is assessed as negative, because she fails to be compared with birth mother in the depth and sincerity of feelings. She is cold with non-native children: “
In the Kalmyk language there are just a few proverbs about the widow. The fact is that the Kalmyks used to practice Levirate marriage, the custom decreeing a dead man's brother to be the preferred marriage partner of the widow. Levirate marriage was one of the ways to continue the clan of the deceased. They say that the widow goes to her husband's brother: “
In the Kalmyk linguistic culture, mother-in-law is portrayed as a woman whose mood can turn on a dime: “
Kalmyk proverbs and sayings depict the image of an elderly woman who, despite having lost her social and physical adequacy, enjoys well-deserved respect and reverence in society. Kalmyk grandmother is highly valued in society. It is a tribute to her role in raising children and transferring folk wisdom and life philosophy. In paroemia, the failure to repay the maternal virtue is conveyed: “
A woman in the Kalmyk linguistic culture is endowed with communicative qualities (politeness, reverence, modesty), whereas her mental and organizational skills are not highly appreciated. Politeness and modesty are considered the greatest values of a Kalmyk woman. In this regard, paroemia most often gives a woman a negative characteristic. The exception is mother and grandmother who are given a uniquely positive assessment. They are endowed with the best human and feminine traits including kindness, patience, ability to work hard and wisdom. Mother’s role to be a continuer of the human kind is particularly emphasized. In the Kalmyk view, a wife should combine a variety of qualities: housekeeping skills (dexterity, housekeeping, ability to work hard, economy), communicative qualities (obedience, respectfulness, calmness, friendliness, non-conflict nature), moral qualities (kindness, responsiveness, compassion, warmth), pedagogical skills (the ability to get on well with children, cultivate the best human qualities in them). Equally important is the ability to establish calm atmosphere and well-being in the family and to assist her husband. The remaining social roles of women can have either negative (for example, mother-in-law), or both positive and negative (for example, widow, mother-in-law) assessment..
The research is carried out within the framework of the grant of the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Foundation (Project No.16-24-03002)
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29 March 2019
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Esenova, G. B., Sarangayeva, J. N., Kharchevnikova, R. P., & Esenova, T. S. (2019). Woman’s Image As A Reflection Of Femininity In Kalmyk Linguaculture. In D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 58. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 481-489). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.03.02.55