HYPOAGENCY – This is what taking the initiative looks like – Dating and “The Crow and Her Seagull Slaves”


This is a school play recounting the Puget Sound story “The Crow and her Seagull Slaves” presented by middle school students studying Dxʷləšúcid (Lushootseed), their ancestral language.* It’s long but worth the time it takes to watch it.

The Crow is looking for a husband and has her seagull slaves row her up to the shore in place after place, assessing various suitors, rejecting them one after the other and then finally settling on one. (Notice that the actors dropped the translation of the last suitor, the one Crow finally accepts, and I can’t figure what animal it turned out to be.)

Note that Crow does not enthrone herself in a bar surrounded by a protective bevy of freinds daring all the pathetic little men there to approach her and await her judgment. Her suitors approach, but only after she has approached them. Her suitors are free not to respond to her approach and she is free to turn any of them down.

In all the agony over the dating script in America, and apparently the same holds true across the Anglosphere, men complain how they have the most difficult side of the dating interaction, how they have the burden of making the approach, however shy they may be personally, not to mention bearing all the expense; how they bear all the risk of rejection and sometimes sneering humiliation – only to have women reply that they have tried to be the ones taking the initiaitve, they really have, but it’s so haaaard, they try and only to have men reject them, at least the [few] times they tried before they got discouraged. And the men shake their heads and turn away, seeing how pointless the discussion is doomed to be…..

Well, here’s an example that shows dating scripts don’t have to be so dysfunctional.


*Schools on both the Tulalip and Puyallup Reservations on the Puget Sound in Washington State have very vigorous language programs and the Tulalips run the very interesting website this story was cited from – well worth a look if you like languages. Check out the segments on local seafood, human objectsfamily relationships, one on basic pleasantries, one on “where your father works” and the one about frying some potatoes.

Jim Doyle
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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="3733 http://www.genderratic.com/?p=3733">7 comments</span>

  • I recently saw the movie Brave, which also has an element of courtship in it. The heroine, a pretty teenage Scottish princess with huge curly red hair, is presented with three suitors from whom she must choose a husband. None of them is particularly appealing to her, so she pitches a fit and runs off into the woods to make the bad decision that starts the real plot moving. Perhaps it’s all the gender issues I’ve been reading up on, particularly from the men’s rights perspective, that prevented me from feeling too much sympathy for her, but I really had trouble seeing her side.

    She’s a princess. She’s beautiful. The worst part of her life is how her mother bosses her around and frowns on her horseback riding and archery practice (but, you’ll notice, still allows it) and then tells her she has to marry a prince from one of the other three clans in the area, and none of them is even cute, let alone hot, OMG.

    None of those boys has any choice at all but to compete for the hand of this one girl they haven’t even talked to yet. If they win, they have to marry her, if they lose they go home, presumably somewhat shamefully. They don’t even get to show off their real talents because she picks archery (her strength) for the competition.

    Now the girl is not portrayed as wholly good; her insistence that she wasn’t to blame for her bad decision isn’t meant to be convincing, either to the audience or the other characters. But I didn’t pick up any indication that her desire for freedom from her cushy life–I mean…oppression–was supposed to seem unjustified. She is in fact the only one in the situation with any choice; even her parents are simply following the agreement set down years before when the clans made a peace pact. But since she doesn’t get to consider the tall, beefy shirtless warrior, just the short, pudgy prince standing behind him, she is oppressed. She’s going to be queen no matter what, but she’s the one who’s stifled and restricted.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • re Brave: At least at the end of the movie, she is able to free up choice for everyone, not just princesses. And I don’t know if that character would even choose a beefy guy; she seemed uninterested in a relationship at all.

  • Theodmann, what you are describbing, the woman refusing suitors and choosing her own, is a standard trope in early Irish (and therfore Scottish) literature. Here’s my discussion of a major example:

    There is more to this. There is another standard trope, that of women approaching a warrior for sex and having to negotiate with him, usually with the promise of bearing a son from him. The assumption was that he wasn’t really interested, for any number of reasons. It is the exact reverse of our usual bar scene pick up script.

  • Doesn’t one of the princes in Brave speak some old regional language without subtitles, in which he constantly says that he doesn’t want to get married and thinks the whole competition is silly?

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