Saturday, September 02, 2006


GenderGappers 2006 – 036


One of the more fascinating things observed over the years both from history and personal observation is the ritual of hand shaking and permutations thereof.

We read that the custom may have started, in effect, to disarm each man as they came close to each other since neither would be able to reach for his sword if his hand was clasped by a stranger or his enemy.

Actually the early handshakes were really wrist or arm shakes as the lower arm was grasped. But who really knows if this was consistent throughout the world at that time. We mostly go by the art and writings of certain area historians.

Certainly there is some evidence of secret religious societies having a coded way of shaking hands to discover anyone who pretended to be a member. It persists to this day in the Masons and Knights of Columbus just to name two.

Women have never been involved in handshaking to any extent. Early on the noblest born extended her hand for a man to respectfully kiss or press his lips against in lieu of shaking.

Most women, however, just got the back of men’s hand and no respect at all. This has changed slightly in more modern times but it seems women are supposed to submit to a cheek kiss when introduced to or greeting a man now-a -days.

In recent times some of the old-time ritual handshakes and new-time gang ritual from street to sports have become openly practiced and imitated by many. These have gone through a myriad of changes.

Especially interesting are the non-shaking ones such as the knuckle touch, the fist thump and the elbow poke. If there is distance between the two then the finger point comes into play.

Before those became popular the handshake was replaced by the ritual slapping of the palm of the other’s hand, which was returned. There are many variations of this, the “give me 5” delivered at different points in space.

So as different parts of the body come to be used it was inevitable that the macho chest slam would emerge. Here the new version of “high 5” is the whole body of both men jumping up and in to slam their chests against each other.

Despite the huge entertainment value of these boyish games, they have in the past and do in the future, bond men together as an entity separate and apart, whether as a gender, an athletic team, a military unit or a gang.
Tradition is preserved as well.

Even though some women’s sport teams may emulate these handshakes, they do not have the force of tradition since women are not allowed a tradition.

Remember the World Champion women’s soccer kick a few years back that won the cup? Tradition was that the kicker removes his shirt but when the woman kicker took her shirt off, she and her team were chastised by most of the country, its sporting groups and of course the media.

Lack of one’s own tradition and denial of male sport traditions may be one of the reasons why CHICKS are paid 70 cents for every one dollar MEN are paid. o tempora, o mores: Alas for the times and the manners.
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