Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome to the South - Or, I'm Pretty Sure I'm Not a Feminist

I've wibbled back and forth over what to name this post, or even if I should write it. But here we go anyway.

I'm from the South, born and raised. And it's not like I lived in Big Cities or anything. We're talking little towns where everyone knows everyone else and we all know each others business.

I grew up the way I grew up, and this is what seems normal to me. Yes, I went through a long period where I hated men and just basically wished they would all die. But I've never called myself a feminist. There are certain attitudes, certain behaviors that I expect from men and women - it's the way things are. Some of these things are not 'compatible' with 'feminism', as I've been told. I expect men to hold doors for me because I am a girl. I expect to be called 'ma'am' until we know each other well enough for you to use my first name. I am not insulted, however, when a Good Ol' Boy calls me 'hon' or 'sugah' or 'darlin' or some variation thereof. They're Good Ol' Boys, and that's what they do. I expect that, if a man wishes to date, he will approach the woman. No well raised Southern girl will ask a man out. It is just not done. That's for those Yankee women. I expect that, prior to marriage, a man will ask his girlfriends father (or available father figure, as applicable) for permission to ask her to marry him. Men get grooms cakes at weddings. Women call all men 'sir' unless they know each other well enough to use names. Women cook and do the dishes at big family get togethers. Period. After a big holiday meal, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, the men retire to the living room or patio or what have you and the women clean up and pack up. Stay out of the way, please. You'll only get in the way.

But all of that is cultural. I was raised in a certain culture and that's the norm for me. Anything else seems weird and wrong. We always talk about Yankees and how they're raised badly down here. They're always so loud and in a rush and harsh as compared to us Southerners who are sweet and genteel and know how things work.

Do I think women have the right to vote, to work outside the home and be paid equally to men who do the same jobs with the same experience? Yes. But I don't think that makes me a feminist. More of a humanist since I think that rights apply to people no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or anything else for that matter.


  1. LOL! Nice post. I know exactly what you mean. Every older lady (be she at church, a neighbor, whatever) was "Miss" and her first name. Our youth pastor's wife was Donna, so we all called her "Miss Donna". Her husband was "Mr Jack". : P Like you, I expect a man to be a gentleman and to treat me like a lady: open doors (be it a building or a car), etc.

    It's just a way of life. It's NORMAL, by my reckoning. (Yes, I do say "reckon", and I couldn't tell you the flack I've caught from my buddies because of it!) We take things slow and enjoy the ride rather than rush about trying to get to our destination. I wouldn't apply any label to that mindset but SOUTHERN. Feminist, blah blah, it really just doesn't apply.

    I, personally, am appalled if I go somewhere and they only have unsweet tea (or have sweet tea but it's poorly made - obviously not having been made by a Southerner). It scars the soul. ; D

    My grandmother was such a lady, and it kind of pains me to see how far away from being like her I am in a lot of respects. I wonder if that is because I was raised in Florida around my dad's redneck family, rather than near her in Georgia? I've noticed there is a difference between each state, too, not just regions of the country. Anyway, I did inherit her love of books and reading, so it's not such a bad deal. : )

  2. Yeah, I'm one of those rude Yankees. (Except I'm not loud. I'm all shy so I look polite.) This all sounds so weird to me, especially the "ma'am" and "sir." That's cool, though. Different cultures.

  3. Ha,ha! I loved this post so much! And Heather's comment was great! :-D

    Yeah, a lot of that is very familiar with me too. I'm a bit more lax than you on the first name thing especially if someone is around my age. I still remember when you and my 24 year old cousin were talking on that one Facebook thread and you called him "Mr. Truax." You're so polite. :)

    I don't mind being called "hon" and "sugah" either. Just today the Walmart greeter said "Hey, baby" in a sweet (not suggestive) way and I was OK with it.

    By the way, I still remember when Michael was about 2 or younger and someone saw him at the grocery store with me and greeted him. He said, "She call me 'sugah'" with a touch of humor in his voice. :)

    Oh, Heather, I say reckon too! I've heard it's more British so I think we get it from our British roots perhaps?? In high school a guy from PA would laugh when we'd say "reckon" or "yonder," but hey! We're in the South! :-)

    OK, I love this type of stuff. I've never considered myself a feminist either, Amber. Not until I started reading about Islam. Then I just changed, but I think like you stated in your final paragraph it's really about being a humanist more so. Loved this post! Did I say that already? :D

    I'm glad you decided to write it. I adore cultural tidbits. Maybe Sanil can write one about hers. :)

  4. Oh, "Sir" and "Ma'am" to everybody - especially if they're older than you or you've just met them. My mama would tan my hide if I didn't say it. : P I have a funny story about Sir/Ma'am as it relates to the Army I'm going to post on my blog. Maybe I can do some Army cultural observations for you, Susanne!

  5. Susanne,

    It's done. And I thought up two more stories based off of the one I related. : P The Army is a neverending wealth of humor and ridiculi.

  6. Susanne - I don't think I would have much to say, though. I don't really know what Midwest culture is, I would just be posting in reaction to these things and why they're weird to me. Which I can do pretty easily in a short comment here.

    Ma'am and sir are really only said here in a sarcastic/joking way. I think actually maybe because they're seen as either old-fashioned or Southern. It sounds odd and not like our contemporary language. It's not a lack of respect, and I was taught that adults were always Mr/Ms/Mrs Lastname, my mom would be horrified if an adult told me to call them by just their first name and I actually did it. But to call someone "ma'am" would come across as if I was being a smart alec and might actually get me in trouble!

    I hate being called things like "hon" by people I don't know, especially men. I consider it harassment, whether the person thinks that's what they mean or not. I'll put up with it once, but ask them not to do it again, and if they don't listen, there's going to be a problem.

  7. Heather,

    Yes. I would *never* have called anyone older than me by their name. Not without the Miss or Mr. in front at the least. It's just polite!

    Reckon is a perfectly good word. :)

    The Southern way is the best.

    Ack! The *tea*! I totally forgot about that. Why would anyone make unsweet tea? WHY?!? *shudder*

  8. sanil,

    It's okay. I like you anyway. We'll just over look your Yankee-ness. ;-)

  9. Susanne,

    I still remember when you and my 24 year old cousin were talking on that one Facebook thread and you called him "Mr. Truax." You're so polite. :)

    I was brought up right. :p

    Heh. My best friends husband still calls me ma'am or Miss Amber. And they've been married for five years and together for closer to nine. :) He's a Good Ol' Boy. And (admittedly) I still call him sir or Mr. Kyle. But uh, we're both Southern. So there's that.

    Hey, I say reckon and yonder and all y'all. It's perfectly good Southern English. :D

  10. Unsweet tea is an abomination. I still don't get it. Some people may say they're on a diet or something and that's why they drink it. I will cut something else out of my diet and keep my sweet tea, especially in the summertime!

    And grits! Such beautiful, delicious stuff of life... and you can't get them in the North to save your life (except maaaaaybe at the grocery store if you're lucky). That's one thing I'm going to have my mom make when I go home next: cheese grits! Yum yum!

  11. Susanne shared this with me. :-)

    I'm a Southerner of the North Carolina variety. I didn't grow up saying Miss or Mr., but I've always said "ma'am", "sir", "reckon", "y'all" and so on. It just good manners.

    I'm definitely not a feminist. I'm very old-fashioned in my view of men and women's roles. I too believe that men should open doors for women, do the asking for dates, pay for the meal, etc.

    I would never drink unsweetened tea. Ick! I don't know how people can stand to drink bitter tea.

  12. Heather,

    Unsweet tea is an abomination.

    Yes, yes it is. I don't know why you would do that to a perfectly good tea. It's *awful*. It's horrific. It's *blegh*.

    And grits! Such beautiful, delicious stuff of life... and you can't get them in the North to save your life (except maaaaaybe at the grocery store if you're lucky). That's one thing I'm going to have my mom make when I go home next: cheese grits! Yum yum!

    *drools* Grits. It's like mother's milk, I swear. Fried grits. Yummy. I'm not sure I'd even try store grits if I had to. It might taint the memory...

  13. Nocturnal Queen,

    Hi! Susanne loves to share stuff. :)

    I've found that there's state to state differences in some particulars, like the Mr./Miss thing. But what doesn't vary is the ma'am and sir. The good manners have been drilled in so deep that it's automatic no matter where you are in the South.

    I drank unsweetened tea once when I was a kid. I didn't know they made tea that wasn't sweet and we were up north visiting relatives. It was *awful*. I wouldn't subject myself to that again for the world!


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