This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.

Contribute Thoughts | Search Serendip for Other Papers | Serendip Home Page

Women, Sport, and Film - Spring 2005 StudentPapers On Serendip

Dare to Yodel!

Talia Squires

A young girl growing up in a conservative Bavarian town, starts going to folk dancing classes along with all the other children of her age when she's about six. There the girls get put into their pretty Dirndls and pigtails and learn to spin about like a top, while the boys pull on their Lederhosen and learn to yodel and slap dance. Greta always thought that the yodeling and jumping about looked like much more fun than endlessly spinning. It wasn't that she was bad at twirling around a dance floor with some young buck in Lederhosen guiding her away from dangers like walls and other people, it was simply that she found it tedious. Then there were the parades. They always started with the adults in two straight lines, men on one side of the street women on the other, everyone of course in their traditional regalia. Then came the young adults, same gender separation and ordered by height. Lastly came the children, once again arranged by gender and height. As they were only walking down the street, it really didn't make much of a difference if you were a boy or a girl. To the casual observer it would seem to be nothing more than to lines of young children dressed up walking down the street, but Greta knew what separated her from the boys. She couldn't give out a little yodel when impulse moved her. Marching along she would hear the occasional yell coming up from the opposite line and burn with the yearning to follow suit, but young ladies don't yell out like that, it isn't right, or traditional.

Thus it went on every week spinning around, every few weekend walking in her line with the other girls. She would stay late after her folk classes and watch on enviously as the boys in Lederhosen leaped about slapping their knees, feet, hands and thighs. They would work our their intricate patterns with great energy and much stomping and noise. How Greta longed to stomp and leap and make noise. She watched the older boys and they competed for jobs and the local inns doing exhibition slap dancing. There were very few exhibition dancing jobs for anything other than slap dancing. A few lucky girls got to twirl at hotels, but the boys were just so much flashier and more exciting. She thought with a pang how much fun it would be to work at one of those smokey inns leaping about and making a racket for money. But girls are supposed to be quiet and pretty and not wear Lederhosen.

In secret Greta would practice her slap dancing in a pair of her brother's old Lederhosen that she had taken from the attic. She leaped and yelled and clapped and stomped like there was no tomorrow, but she had no one with which to practice those intricate patterns. Once she had asked the boys and her teacher to let her join in, but she was always kindly sent back to the girls' side of the room. One day, when she was thirteen, Greta was chosen to lead the line of children, or rather to lead the female side of the line of children. She was old enough that her braids were now wrapped around her head in a complex crown and she had come to accept that she would never be an exhibition slap dancer. She started walking and heard the first ambitious yelp from a young boys towards the back of the line parallel to hers. She felt a sudden surge of jealousy. Why shouldn't she yodel as well. She was a Bavarian just like the rest of them and should be allowed to express the just as verbally as the rest. In the most crowded part of the parade route, in front of the old church, Greta let out a proud yell for the first time. The boy leading the line across from her shot her a surprised look, but kept walking. She could hear confused whispering in the line behind her and then heard a tentative yell come up from one of the children in her line. At that all the girls broke out in their best yodel as they marched proudly down the street.

I chose this topic, because as a young girl growing up in a conservative town in Bavaria, I always thought it unfair that they boys got all the fun traditions and the girls seemed to sit around and watch a lot. The young boys always seem so proud as they let out their squeaky little yodels as they march down the street during some saturday afternoon parade. It made them seem so much more alive then the picture perfect little girls walking down the street opposite them. Many of my friends attended folk classes every week and I remember us as little girls trying to slap dance like the exhibitionist dancers we saw at the local inns. It was interesting that these exhibitions were not really that touristy where I was, it was something for the locals and being chosen to do this was a great honor. It was something a lot of the boys aspired to, but the girls had no real equivalent. Everyone awed the seven year old girls trying to imitate their big brothers, but this imitation ended before they got much older.

I also noticed that as they get older the men got more involved in maintaining the traditions and the women got less interested. I cannot help but think that this is because after you are out of the cute pigtail phase there's really very little to do. All parades started with cannon firing, marching band, and the lines of people. They ended in bear tents with many competitions of manliness like rock lifting and much exhibition dancing. This was the most traditional community I ever lived in, but it seemed so exclusive that I'm frequently stunned that it has managed to maintain itself for this long. There are many girls like Greta, that are good at the spinning and Dirndl wearing, but also bored by it. I thought the temptation to let out a little yodel while walking down the street must be overwhelming.

It is also important to me that Great believed at first that she was the only one who wanted to do something so "masculine" as jump around in leather pants and yodel. She believes to an extend that she will be ostracized for trying to be too manly should she really actively pursue her dreams. Everyone else is equally afraid of expressing their desires, so she doesn't really push to do what she wants. It isn't until she's leading the children that realizes, not only is she allowing herself be boxed in by arbitrary traditions, but that she doesn't need the approval of the seven year olds behind her to be happy. Of course her happy realization as the other start to join her is that like most children, those behind her, even though they are girls, want to make noise and yell and scream and jump about and stomp. By exposing herself she is allows the others to express their desires and maybe in some way change it.

| Course Home Page | Center for Science In Society | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994-2007 - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:51:22 CDT