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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

File Under Inaccurate

Published by cck at 10:10 PM

In an effort to do more things for me, I headed to the Florida Museum of History today. According to local legend, their Brown Bag Break series are not to be missed. It was a gorgeous day as I scurried from my busy office, excited to meet a friend and hear an interesting topic: Life and Times of Women in Tallahassee During the Civil War.

You know me, I love Southern history. And talking about women during the Civil War? I was stoked. I had never visited the Museum, never heard the historian and I was meeting a friend. How perfect? Right? RIGHT?

Y'all, I realize I can't trace my heritage to Lee's family tree. And I didn't actually use the word "y'all" until a stay in Hartsville, SC in early high school. But I know a little about the Civil War. I know a smidge about the feminism perspective in history. And I know when someone should stick to playing with their barbies.

Instead of a historian, we had a lady reenactor. One who questioned whether Citadel Cadets were involved with the whole Fort Sumter firecracker. One who flatly claimed women in the south never wore makeup. And one who couldn't answer any sort of question about women "below a certain means."

You may be wondering why I have my hoop skirt all twisted up. And there are a few things I feel snippy about and paying five dollars for parking is one of them. However, I'm upset about how - once again - women are marginalized. Instead of learning how to back up of the phrase steel magnolia, we heard about how women always (ALWAYS, y'all) wore gloves. We heard about how women "didn't work." We heard about ribbon bonnets. Thankfully, she didn't have a lot of information to share, since everything (EVERYTHING, y'all) was inaccurate. Well, maybe not about the ribbon bonnets.

Maybe my expectations were a little too high. Not the first time, won't be the last. However, I'm totally turned off by the museum (fail, people, fail).

I'll close with my all-time favorite quote about Southern Women from the estimable Florence King, from her collection of essays Southern Ladies & Gentlemen:

Novelists prefer complex women for their protagonists, which is why the Southern woman has been the heroine of so many more novels than her Northern sister. The cult of Southern womanhood endowed her with at least five totally different images and asked her to be good enough to adopt all of them. She is required to be frigid, passionate, sweet, bitchy and scatterbrained - all at the same time. Her problems spring from the fact that she succeeds.


RBF said...

You should be angry at yourself and not the lady you saw at the museum. Your expectations should have been lower for someone from South Carolina. You should know better than to expect knowledge of true southern ladies from a state that never has been part of the South. Sherman knew this during the Civil War when he didn't even bother taking over Tallahassee.

Hawkmistress said...

Hey RBF - northern Florida is basically southern Georgia in a lot of ways. (I won't deny that the further south you go in Florida, however, the further 'north' you get.)

I wish I'd known about it - I'm in the middle of an American Women's History course right now! Besides, it would probably have been fun to heckle her. J told me you refrained - you're nicer than I am!