The Southern Woman

Korona Home Portrait Camera 8X10 Paper Negative

Why is it that Southern women are different? Is it perceived or reality?  The multitude of myths associated with all things Southern fascinate me. I am a victim of them, having spent my whole life in the South has left me no choice. It has shaped my identity and nurtured my sense of place. I wouldn’t want it any other way, I like the mixture of fable and stark reality that hangs in the humid air. It is wonderful fodder for someone with an artistic leaning. The Southern “belle” is an example of the mythology of the South. Did they exist? Sure. Do they still exist? I think a fake simulation of the role does. The idea of the “belle” has been propagated though literature and movies for 150 years now, it has been bastardized. We all know you cannot believe everything you read or see on the television (or the computer). Even my musings on the subject are just my opinion. However, historical research has shown that the women of the 19th century in the South were probably more cold and calculating than the myth grants them. The Southern gentry put the female on a pedestal; the myth proclaims the Southern belle was a demure flower, sweet as honeysuckle, and deferential. I believe this is what the gentry desired, but it has never been a reality. Southern women, at that time due to the society, did not have a strong public voice. They were in the background but held considerable influence in matters. They just had to make it look as if the man came up with all the ideas. When suffrage came to fruition, all women gained a public voice. Southern women took advantage of this to start changing the role they played. Perhaps this made the myth stronger, perhaps it became a way for men to reconcile the new role of women in society. When I think of “Southern women”, I can’t help but to feel they are different from women from other regions of the country. I’m a Southerner, therefore I have that pervasive feeling of regional pride. They are strong, smart, and totally in control. The reality of the Southern women is much more interesting to me than the myth. I believe, the reality is creating a new, more realistic myth.

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