When I blog, I try to strike a balance between light-hearted frivolity and discussion of serious topics about which I feel passionately. I do this for two reasons, first because I think that a blog devoted solely to either extreme would become tiresome after a while, and because Southern women (like women everywhere) have to navigate both worlds all the time, so I want my blog to represent us accurately. We often find ourselves laughing hysterically at a funeral or crying at a baby shower, and while either of those may feel wildly inappropriate someplace else, in the South, it’s just how it is.
I find that, in general, some people are pretty eager to dismiss Southerners as stupid, and I don’t think that pinning down the cause of that is as easy as rewinding to the Civil Rights Movement and pressing the play button. I hate that part of my home state’s history, but I’m still proud of the progress made since then, and the ongoing struggle and those that are fighting through it. I’ve tried to figure out just what it is about Southerners, and Southern women in particular, that makes people feel so entitled to judge us. Is it the big hair and the heels and the bright lipstick? Is it the accent in general, or maybe that we regularly use words like “sugar” and “honey” when referring to humans? Does it just drive everybody insane at the grocery store when we talk about “sacks” and “buggies” instead of “bags” and carts”?
Now, I have a friend who would agree with Suzanne Sugarbaker – that women who aren’t Southern are just jealous of women who are, and this jealousy accounts for their rudeness. I’m not really convinced that’s true, but at the same time, I do often feel like I have to overcome some preconceived bias before people will listen to me. Yes, it’s true that we take football just as seriously as we take church on Easter morning, and yes, when it comes right down to it, we are probably even more serious what we wear to either occasion. This is not about some misplaced sense of priority, although I think lots of people would make that accusation. The smartest and kindest women I know, without exception, are Southern, and for me, “smart” and “kind” are the highest compliments that exist.
Perhaps I’m just hypersensitive because I work in law, which punishes femininity and rewards severity. I admit that my natural response to conflict used to be softer, but after six years of constant confrontation, I’m harsher now – partly because I’m more sure of myself and my decisions, but also because harsh works and soft wastes time. Although I know lots of female lawyers who strive to be more like their masculine counterparts, I actually try very hard every single day to be more like my grandmother. And I guess that at the end of the day, that’s the point that I’m trying ever so circuitously to make: Southern women are soft and feminine and still effective, and I’m really, really trying to be more aware of that in my everyday life.