Feminism | Posted by Bridget C. on 08/12/2013

Southern Belle or Southern Hell?

Charlotte La Bouff of "The Princess and the Frog"

Growing up, I always had the benefit of playing sports and hanging out with boys. It was great until around seventh grade. Then girls and boys separated. We didn’t play sports together during recess, PE was divided by gender, and we didn’t even sit together at lunch most days. The worst part was the teachers. Every time I dared to sit without my legs glued shut, ate quickly, or made a crude joke, I was quickly reminded to “act like a lady.” I went from a tomboy to a dainty, “ewh dirt!” exclaiming, knee-length skirt wearing teenager within a year. I hated myself for two years trying to become the lady that my community desired.

This was to be expected though. I live in the Bible Belt. All girls are expected to be social, charming, Jesus lovin’, lady-like southern belles. Every young girl is expected to be like Charlotte La Bouff from Disney’s version of “The Princess and the Frog.”

We’re supposed to say “Oh, Darling! Bless her heart!” when a girl does something we don’t agree with. We’re supposed to love Jesus, sweet tea, and the SEC. We should have class and grace, but we should also be entertaining.

There is also a certain appearance that you must undertake. Stereotypes of Southern women tend to include ridiculously humongous dresses, white gloves, and a hat complete with a frilly umbrella to help fight the ninety something degree heat. The dress and umbrella may have gone out of fashion — nowadays, she’s probably wearing a Lily Pulitzer dress and pearls — but only the clothes have changed. Big blonde hair, pearls, and monogrammed sandals (if you’re not wearing heels) are all required.

It may not sound like the worst fate ever, but trying to fit into this mold was hell. Because beyond what southern women are supposed to look like, the bottom line is that the idea of what a classy woman in the south looks and acts like hasn’t changed for an extremely long time.

This doesn’t exactly make much sense to me. If times have changed so much since the 1800s, why are us girls expected to stay the same? We shouldn’t have to follow the “It’s always better to overdress rule.” We shouldn’t have to search for a southern gentleman to do everything for us. I don’t want to behave like it’s the 1800s — I want to live in the 21st century. Why shouldn’t I? Why is adapting to modern day society frowned upon down here? I understand respecting tradition, but I think respecting the desires of women and teenage girls should come before that. If we can’t respect women fully, we might as well throw on our Antebellum dresses. But from now on I, for one, will be wearing my t-shirt, running shorts, and converse.

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  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 6:02 pm, August 16th, 2013

    This isn’t specific to the southern women’s community – I think this is how women are treated everywhere, forced to adhere to societal standards that are long outdated. It is extremely unfair. But that’s why we have feminism, to combat it!

  • Noa @ at 5:29 pm, September 16th, 2013

    Heck yeah it’s specific to the South! I live in Indiana- Indianapolis that is, the blue dot in a red state- and I can feel the misogyny of the South all the way from here. It’s part of the stereotype of prejudice and oppression in that part of the US, and I’m sad to see it’s still relevant. Simultaneously I’m pretty glad I don’t live there though :/

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