Some Conversation Starters, on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, and in the South, our beliefs, myths, and narratives about women and womanhood are widely discussed and debated. Below is a brief list of three readings and one video that should spark discussions about women and their roles in Southern society and culture.

“Myth of Southern Belle Hard to Overcome,” an editorial in the Florida Sun-Sentinel, January 24, 1986 

“Some myths take to this juggling act better than others. So far, one of the most resilient is the myth of the Southern belle – a woman who is born and bred in any Southern state and inherits a variety of antebellum attributes, real and imagined.”

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks, published in 1996, reprinted in 1997

Description: “Stitching together girlhood memories with the finest threads of innocence, feminist intellectual bell hooks presents a powerfully intimate account of growing up in the South.”

“Debutantes” by Cameron Freeman Napier in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 4: Myth, Manners, and Memory, edited by Charles Reagan Wilson, published in 2006

“The social institution known as the debutante season is certainly not a peculiarly southern (or even American) phenomenon, but in the face of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, it exhibited more tenacity and vitality in Dixie than elsewhere in the United States or in Great Britain, where the custom began. A number of factors help explain the custom’s popularity: the South’s pride in its womanhood, a tendency to keep women on a pedestal, a conservative clinging to venerable institutions, the persistence of social distinctions by status, and a belief in a Cavalier heritage.”

How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War History on Vox, published October 25, 2017

“It was a campaign to portray Confederate leaders and soldiers as heroic, and it targeted the minds and identities of children growing up in the South so they would develop a personal attachment to the Confederate cause.”

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