Also: "A whistling woman and a crowing hen are both abominations to the lord" and "A whistling girl and a crowing hen are sure to come to some bad end."

My grandmother would say this to me, so at first I thought it had to be a part of her stuffy Southern Baptist ideas. But I did a little google searching and discovered it was also an Irish proverb: "A whistling woman and a crowing hen will bring no luck to the house they are in." Or in London in the 18th century: "A whistling woman and a crowing hen, Are neither good for God nor men'. " and "A whistling woman and a crowing hen, Will frighten the Devil out of his den." In Nova Scotia this notion can be found in a few folk songs. So what is wrong with whistling women? I can see how a crowing hen would be upsetting. Most of the time roosters crow, a crowing hen would be rather odd-- but why is whistling considered, well... masculine?

I started thinking about an old theatre superstition: never whistle in a theatre this one goes back to the 17th century in London when sailors often ran the ropes and rigging in theaters when they got sick of the sea. Sailors used whistles to alert each other of falling objects. So whistling in a theatre could have caused chaos and delayed the opening by breaking the set.

Since sailors whistle, perhaps it was seen as a "carefree and loose" (like sailors) -- these have never been socially acceptable traits for a woman (especially a woman who is in your home, as opposed to one who's in your motel...)

Whistling is also fairly "lower class" –poor men had nothing to play song on so they used the mouth-flute of the whistle to make their songs.

Maybe it is the kiss-like puckering of the whistle. (are whistles seductive?")

When Hens Begin To Crow is the title of a study by Sylvia Tamale of gender and politics in Uganda. In fact it seems that many feminists have taken up the cause of reversing the whistling metaphor. In Uganda and in the American South crowing hens must be killed right away or they will bring bad luck. Is the proverb sexist?

Maybe women are meant to hum? (humming men always seemed suspicious to me)

Even after reading everything I could find on the subject I still don't know why whistling is thought of as masculine. But I hope I've at least opened a few doors so that we can solve this mystery.

When I lived in Jamaica for a year I didn't realize I was getting funny looks when I whistled, until one day when a plumber came to my house. As he worked I went about my daily chores and soon started to whistle. He said: "Crowing cocks & whistling women are an abomination to the Lord" and told me it was from the bible. I had been raised in a strict church and heard many negative things against women, but never this! I dug out my bible, whipped through the concordance & could find NO reference to whistling women!!!

I've done some research on line and the best explaination I can find is in the following:

The proverb this gentleman quoted was probably a distortion of "A whistling woman and a crowing hen, Are neither good for God nor men".

After reading the womenfolklore pdf I'd say ALL of the proverbs about whistling women fall into one or both of the following categories:

  1. hens lay eggs & cocks crow, so when a hen crows she is ignoring her place in nature & trying to take on that of a her masculine counterpart's - thus going against nature, upsetting nature's balance, etc
  2. Whistling women and crowing hens are both feminine noise-makers who are drawing attention to themselves.

So, whether she is trying to take on a man's role or simply drawing attention to herself, the bottom line of these proverbs is that women should act lady-like. I can't answer the curious question of why whistling is seen as masculine (all the above points seem logical to me), but in the analysis of these common proverbs, I don't think it really matters. Throughout most of our history, most society's have had unwritten rules about women's behaviour and one that seems to have survived is that it is unlady like for women to have and voice ideas. I think THAT would be a great thng to research! Why is it that men continually try to silence women???

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