The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

February 20, 2011

Fiddle-dee-disempowerment — Why every feminist should watch the movie SOUTHERN BELLE

Last week at the Oxford film festival, I saw the scariest film I had seen in a good, long while.  The monster that re-emerged from its crypt was not a slime-covered zombie, exactly.  The thing that made me afraid of things that go bump in the night was not a decaying ghoul.  She was wearing a hoop skirt, a corset, and she was about sixteen years old, very cute, in fact.  My horror was not due to her so much as the people who were using her image to try to take away twenty-first century women’s sense of their own rights and leadership potential.

This girl is beautifully dressed for her disempowerment lessons

Makewright Films, run by two outstanding documentarians, Kathy Conkwright and Mary Makley, documented without apostrophe, for no comment is really necessary, the 1861 Anthenaeum Girls’ School in Columbia, Tennessee, where the antebellum South attempts to rise again, at least the version of it that a man who is clearly at odds with twenty-first century uppity Yankee women like me, founder and historical revisionist Mark Orman has concocted.

The sad thing is that the actual Anthenaeum Girls’ School in Columbia, Tennessee in the actual year of 1861 (not the undead reenactment version) was a place that was exploring the possibility of conferring empowering educations to young ladies of the South.  The actual place, shut down some time after shots were fired at Fort Sumter, was a four-year college for young women — this at a time when women’s post-secondary education was a very new thing in this country, North and South.  However, Mark Orman, with the conspiracy of several older women, is painting a version of that academy’s past that has no historical foundation.  Rather, he gives a speech where he claims to twenty-first century high school girls that the war was over states rights (a view recently decried yet again by credible historians in The Washington Post as recently as this past week) and not slavery, that a greater percentage of freed negroes who remained South owned slaves than did white people in the South, which even if it proved to be true would in no way justify the institution of slavery.  He even draws on Paul’s epistle’s exhortation, “Slaves, obey your masters,” as a God-sanctification of the institution as it was practiced in Tennessee in 1861.  Let me tell you what I REALLY think, in that offensive Yankee way I have — Mark Orman’s views are repellent, they stem from a clear insecurity about real women’s agency in our current society, and if I were not a Christian (who by the way, would never own slaves or think God wanted me to), I would be out looking for him to kick his ass right now, preferably in front of a bunch of men who would laugh at him later for being beat up by a girl.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I have spent a year in the New South — and believe me, brother and sister Yankees, it is not like a black-and-white film strip with fire hoses plowing down scared African-American students praying on courthouse steps.  It is a place of vibrant questioning and repositioning, not always smoothly, but always toward a better place.  New Southerners are optimistic, progressive, intellectual, curious, and excited about new possibilities in their region and beyond.  Guys like Mark Orman are part of a South that New Southerners reject.

Again, I say don’t misunderstand me.  Look at this blog — you’ll see a hundred references to Gone with the Wind, a seminal document for Southern Culture.  However, at the 1861 Anthaneum Girls’ School, they tell the young women who come there to participate in what can only be loosely called a reenactment that Southern ladies are not allowed in hoop skirts  to behave as Scarlett O’Hara.  Instead, they exhort them to behave like Melanie Wilkes.  Even if I were the most racially and gender-issue insensitive teenage girl bitten by the fashion bug of 1861, I would drop my bustle and get out of the hoop skirt right then — because Scarlett is awesome, and Melanie is mealy-mouthed.

Once they have laid the foundation of  a false construction of racial issues in the South, they then proceed with their primary project — that of teaching twenty-first century girls that being a lady means being self-effacing, having no right to decide to move even from one part of a room to another without a proper escort, that it means never standing up to a bully in any direct manner.

Understand that the girls who attend this so-called school are marvelous young women — one was there poignantly looking for a trace of her deceased mother, whom she had seen in a period costume photo taken at Dollywood.  Another was clearly bitten by the aforementioned fashion bug, and with the complicity of her mother, she had a million outfits that were spectacular — making her the belle of any Edith Head Hollywood production set in the Old South.  Another girl, who won a prize for being the best lady of the term, was bright, lovely, kind to others, beautiful in old-world terms (think not slutty-looking), and mentioned a desire to climb the corporate ladder, but she had decided she wanted to do it — she actually said it — without equal rights.  If I were a relative of  hers, I’d be staging an intervention right now.  The last, and possibly the most disturbing story of the whole film, was a rather geeky girl who had tons of personality, lots of opinions.  The film leaves her looking more poised and grown-up, but she says that she has  learned that a lady is someone who doesn’t stand out — she is a part of the background, only part, as she put it, of the big picture.

That’s why I’d go to Tennessee, but for the love of Jesus, and beat that fat Mark Orman to a pulp if I hadn’t made a promise to God to behave in a manner not more ladylike but more Jesus-like — for that girl, the one whose character he apparently crushed.

Why do I take this so personally?  Because, I, too, received without irony the disempowerment lecture that these girls received.

When I was in eighth grade, I attended a girls’ school — Castilleja School for Girls.  On Founder’s Day, back in the 1980s, the year I was in eighth grade, they made us listen to a lecture from the vice president of the alumni association.  She told us in no uncertain terms that ladies  do not pursue careers and marriages — that the few most spinsterly among us might just need a career, but those of us with the slightest feminine charm should go trolling for a rich husband whose career we would support with our intellectual efforts and whose children we would raise without seeking something that credited us apart from this family unit.  Even in eighth grade, some of the girls there had already begun trolling, with their mothers egging them on.

This vice president of the alumni association was eloquent — I remember most distinctly something she said, even today.  She said that any woman who had ever protested or fought in any indirect way for her rights, including the right to vote was “a wingless valkyrie of questionable sexual orientation.”

What a vivid turn of phrase!  Clearly, she had done well in English before she quit thinking for herself.

I remember, at age 13, sitting there, in the front row (because I had arrived almost late), realizing that I had just seen it all spelled out for me.  On one side of an insuperable barrier — there were the ladies, like the woman with the face lift and the slicked-back bun in front of me, talking, insulting my grandmother and great-grandmother and mother, who were all pioneering heroines for women’s rights.  On the other side of the barrier — there were my ancestresses and women in viking garb, singing  but not flying, Marlene Dietrich, who had already impressed me with her powerful, pan-sexual ethos sizzling on the screen in fishnets in black and white, and other women, complicated, maybe not all happy.  However, at least they were not pretending to be happy like the women on the other side, the ladylike side, of the barrier. These wingless women were apparently talking in loud tones about things they really cared about, not like the Castilleja’s mother’s club, that pretended to like each other but stabbed each other in the back while wiping their vampirically lipsticked mouths with monogrammed napkins when any of  the others of them would leave the lunch table — yes, I had heard them, too.  I knew whose party I wanted to be invited to — it wasn’t the smug supper club.  It was the wingless valkyrie rave.

I thank Castilleja School for Girls for trying unsuccessfully to disempower me for the twenty-first century.  It clarified a bundle of things.

I left the next year and went to public school in no small part because of this speech.

I thank the makers of Makewright films for clarifying things, too.  I have never  been prouder of my ancestors who fought with the Yankees against slavery.  I have never been prouder of myself for speaking loudly, having opinions and demanding that others who may not find  them palatable hear them, for getting arrested for women’s rights and for the end of Apartheid.  I know which side of the barrier between Old South and New South on which I belong, and that Mason-Dixon Line I will never cross unarmed.

Every feminist should watch this film.  The fight isn’t over.  The grapes of wrath are still in the field waiting to be trampled.  If anyone wants to come trample them with me, let me know.

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33 Comments »

  1. Mark Orman of Columbia, TN is involved in a lawsuit filed by a student at Columbia Central High School over gender discrimination. This man, in my opinion, does NOT care for the female gender at all.

    Comment by NOFriendofMarkOrman — April 4, 2011 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

    • Dear Intrigued reader,

      I am very grateful to you that you posted this remark. I wonder what you will think of the film. I’m sorry there was not much horseback riding or archery — both of those activities would have to some degree mitigated the training in powerlessness that the movie portrayed. It’s interesting that you mention that the girls who go to the camp do so after much “training” of this nature at home. I’m glad, most of all, that if the camp were trying to make you feel like acting like this kind of lady was a contemporary imperative, it failed to communicate that to you. I’m glad you’re the kind of southern belle who makes up her mind for herself. Blessings, — AB

      Comment by annebabson — July 28, 2011 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  2. I was actually a participant in this camp, class of 1861-N, and just heard of the airing of this documentary. After reading this review, I am very much looking forward to watching it as a 23 year old woman rather than a 16 year old girl. I originally went to the camp because my sister’s friend had two extra spots on the EXTENSIVE waiting list. The only reason I agreed was because I was under the impression that we would learn archery and horseback riding. Turns out, there was no archery and the horseback riding was a 1-minute sidesaddle stroll in the yard. My sister and I have shared many laughs over our “adventure” and I don’t think we will ever experience anything else quite like it. I never got the impression the teachers were trying to brainwash us, but perhaps I went into the camp with more of a “that was then but this is now” attitude. The camp seemed harmless and I don’t ever remember the teachers presenting the self-effacing attitudes as relevant in the 21st century, but I absolutely agree that it would be offensive to women if they were. As you mentioned, there is a montage of girls who attend this school and in my personal experience, it seemed that whatever sort of opinion each girl formed by attending the Athenaeum much of the foundation for it had already been laid at home.

    Comment by Intrigued Reader — July 28, 2011 @ 6:51 am | Reply

  3. […] a feminist blogger reviewed the PBS documentary Southern Belle. She was shaken to the […]

    Pingback by The Thinking Housewife › The Zombie Emerges from the Mist… in a Hoop Skirt — August 3, 2011 @ 3:03 pm | Reply

  4. This review is an attack on the Southern culture, and more hatred of manners or any attempt at refinement.

    Comment by Lydia Sherman — August 3, 2011 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

    • Any form of manners that require that a woman define herself as powerless is a form of oppression, not refinement. The people of the New South know this. Those people who are stuck in the racist and sexist thinking of the Old South at the very least have an obligation not to hobble the feet of the daughters of those who fought for the Confederacy. To honor one’s ancestors’ memory does not mean one should imitate their egregious errors, particularly if those errors are used as a way to prevent half the population from entering the mainstream of society in every walk of life today. I admire some Confederate ladies, usually those who picked up guns to defend their family farms and who kept food on the table despite shortages by inventing extraordinary new dishes — fried green tomatoes, rhubarb pie. The Scarlett O’Haras of the South had gumption. But the instructors in the school portrayed in SOUTHERN BELLE tell their charges to avoid being like her. Margaret Mitchell is rolling in her grave, and so are most of the Confederate dead.

      Comment by annebabson — August 3, 2011 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  5. You feel threatened because you’re insecure.

    Comment by Lydia31 — August 3, 2011 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

    • Dear Lydia 31,

      I can’t imagine what made you think that my willingness to decry a disempowering education for teenage girls that misrepresents their own history to them was a product of personal insecurity on my part. You know, if you were one of those people who thought that everybody just was jealous of you in high school because you were so popular, that might not have been true, either. People sometimes just take offense because something offends them.

      Comment by annebabson — August 3, 2011 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  6. The writer is going to be even more horrified to see the next generation of young women choosing the decorum and grace of the Old South over the slatternly despair of post-feminist Amerikwa. She will be positively mortified – and possibly grow faint! – at the sight of young men seeking out these women, and offering them everything they have.

    Amy Winehouse died for your sins.

    Comment by Eric Fowler — August 3, 2011 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

    • Dear Eric,

      I am confused by your reference to Amy Winehouse as Jesus — I clearly state here that I am a believer in Jesus, and I do not mention Amy Winehouse. As for young women choosing their own lives, that never upsets me, if in fact it is an informed choice. I hope, though, that the women who choose to be Old South-focused instead of New South-focused do so for reasons that are more specific to their own needs, rather than to render themselves palatable to somebody else, including these imaginarily generous young men you mention. Where are these guys? I note that the divorce rate is not lower in the South than it is in the North. I also note that men are as likely down South to not pay their child support as they are up North.

      If I saw more evidence of material security for women who choose traditional roles down here, perhaps I would be more inclined to see this as a valid cultural lifestyle choice, but the feminization of poverty is rendered all the more acute in the rural South by high divorce rates and non-support of children. That said, people are free to choose what they like, but lying to teenage girls about who they are and what they can become is a sin, and Amy Winehouse didn’t die for it. I just pointed it out here.

      AB

      P.S. — Feminists don’t grow faint. Corsets make women get only 90% of the oxygen they need, and that, with the impressive heat, caused such swooning as actually took place in the antebellum South, not femininity or feminism.

      Comment by annebabson — August 3, 2011 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  7. funny that lady Lydia didn’t link to her blog. perhaps she didn’t want to spread the word about summer squash spray painted pink and dipped in glitter.

    Comment by personal failure — August 3, 2011 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

    • Dear Personal Failure,

      I just checked out your blog. You’re a good writer.

      As a Christian, I really can’t wrap my mind around your blog’s name, though. Do you live down South? Do people burn crosses in your front yard when they learn the name of your blog?

      Seriously, though — you write really well and should publish stuff elsewhere if you don’t already.

      In solidarity,

      AB

      Comment by annebabson — August 4, 2011 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  8. Dear Anne – I’m happy to read your words – glad you are bringing a bit of north to the south and a better understanding of the south to those of us up north. The north misses you up here – at least I do. Smiling.

    Comment by beth Robinson — August 4, 2011 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  9. As a total outsider from Europe who has lived in the South now for over 20 years I am aware of these old ways. People here still seem sore about having lost the war ( or as they call it here ” the War of Northern Aggression” or my personal favorite ” That Recent Unpleasantness”) 150 years ago and would gladly still use confederate money. My husband is actually a descendant of Jefferson Davis. I am fascinated and appalled at the idea of such indoctrination disguised as a summer camp for young girls. What I am most appalled at is the idea of Mark Orman who seems to think you can just pretend there was no slavery and that everything was hunky dory in those days if only those darn Yankees had left them alone. Furthermore it is the creep factor which grew exponentially the longer I watched this weird man walk around in priest garb dispensing wisdom that greatly disturbed me. He seems to be a latently gay man with an alibi wife who is oblivious to her husbands orientation. I have seen this a lot here in the deep south ( Tennessee). Men just do not have the guts to be openly gay. This film is disturbing to any woman who dares to believe that her rights are equal to those of a man ( shocking, I know…). I would never allow my daughter to be part of such a farce!

    Comment by Angela Davis — November 18, 2011 @ 6:26 am | Reply

  10. I can understand how you felt after watching the show, but if you won’t even make an effort to understand the south back then, the you miss the whole point of the war and perhaps the show. To many people back then both from the north and south, it was just the way it was. That doesn’t make it right, just as it wasn’t right not the let women vote, but if you don’t make the attempt to understand the mindset then you can never understand the reasons or the lessons of the war. It wasn’t just as simple as slavery there were many economic and social differences between the North and the South, in fact Lincoln didn’t free all the slaves only persons held as slaves within the rebellious states were freed, it did not free slaves held in Maryland and Kentucky and others, so how was it a slavery issue when he didn’t free all the slaves. Doesn’t that make his freeing of the slave more of a punishment for those states who rebelled, rather than the right thing to do?

    Can you say for sure that at least some people in the South in 1861 wouldn’t have said the same things that Mark Orman put forth? No matter how repugnant his words are, and they are repugnant don’t get me wrong, But even a small glimmer of what MIGHT have been the attitudes and the reason they justified the war to themselves gives us a little more understanding of the war. And I’m betting you can find many of the same justifications for many of the terror attracts we see today all over the world. I hope that the girls involved will look deeper into the issues, and not just take his word and his “percentages”. The war was far more complex then just slavery. And just maybe this show gave us a little peek of just how complex the reasons were.

    Comment by rwee — February 7, 2012 @ 4:12 am | Reply

    • Dear Richard,

      My point is that the school itself is a revisionist view of history and in fact is not historically accurate. Rather, it fulfills a current political agenda that uses a falsified image of past female roles in Southern society — The school where it is held, after all, was a school that provided a higher education to Southern women in a variety of academic and professional areas, not merely a finishing school — in order to achieve a current political agenda, one that requires a false view of what used to be.

      I want to be clear — Mark Orman’s iteration of the South might have existed in the mouth of one Southerner in 1861, but the very setting, a school for women, and the captive audience of otherwise uniformed teenagers over whom he holds the role of beadle does not allow for a contextualization that would actually inform Southern women of their true and complex heritage. He tells a false story in order to achieve a contemporary agenda. Celebration of Southern womanhood is entirely possible. An honest look at South ought to demand the truth.

      I personally think that Southerners would benefit from a real look at their real past and would find many things of which they might be proud. This school, and I use that term loosely here, does not provide such an examination.

      Anne Babson

      Comment by annebabson — February 7, 2012 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  11. I was in third grade at Columbia Academy in’87-’88. I was taught by Mrs. Barker. Mr. Mark Orman interceded with my mother and told her what Mrs. Barker was doing to me. I still don’t remember anything really, but I owe my life to him. He saved me from more abuse.

    Comment by Samantha Derryberry Jung — February 18, 2012 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

    • Dear Samantha,

      Allow me to tell you how sorry you ever experienced abuse of any kind. I am very glad that Mr. Orman helped you escape abuse. I admit that the only impression I can possibly have of the man is based on what I saw in the film here. You make me have a different idea of him than the film did. Thank you for writing to let me know my impressions were based on incomplete information.

      AB

      Comment by annebabson — February 18, 2012 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

  12. does the southerner’s want the Jim Crow era back???

    Comment by lovereaction — March 20, 2012 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  13. The fact that this scared you and your “wannabe” intellectual views, I find hilarious! “Oh no! My interpretation of how things should be might not be universal & applauded by everybody! Whaaaa whaaa!” Hahahaha! Give me a break! You are so stupid & a typical moronic fem-bot who is incapable of seeing a broader view of the world. Take your tunnel vision elsewhere. The idea of this camp is extremely interesting. I would hate to see it removed because of idiots like you that want to shove your views down everybody’s throat! This is just a week long thing & sorry, they don’t teach that the girl starts doing flying kicks in hoop skirts & beating up men to service your fragile feminist ego. Clearly you don’t understand any of this & like a child refuse to admit your lack of understanding.

    Comment by Sally McDougal — June 1, 2013 @ 8:47 am | Reply

    • Sally, I will march down the street for the right of adult women to wear hoop skirts if they like, but I abhor the agenda of historically revisionistic, creepy middle-aged men and their cowed botoxing minions to misinform and disempower teenage girls. You want to wear a corset that deprives you of 10 percent of the oxygen that we uncorseted people receive? That’s your right. You want to lie to girls about the region’s past and the potential of their futures? Expect a fight from me. The Old South will not rise again, but the New South, with all its complexities and uncloseted skeletons, its glorious literature and dynamic politics — that South that makes room for the personalities of uppity women and unshackled peoples of every kind, that South is magnificent and well worth celebrating. I hope we both find a way to thrive here without oppressing anybody, especially young people who deserve the whole truth and much encouragement from us.

      Comment by annebabson — June 1, 2013 @ 10:03 am | Reply

  14. Sweetie, it’s a week long summer camp. You were saying you use the word school loosely. It’s a camp, hello? They are not trying to teach young women to be subservient. As a matter of fact, the experience probably makes them appreciate the difference. If they want to learn about slavery, there are plenty of avenues to find out about it. What? did you want them to drag in some black girls to be slaves for a week to suit your standard? And if you have a problem with men, which is called misandry, (it’s every bit as disgusting as misogyny) that’s your own sickness. You are a total example of where feminism is actually sexism to the point of delusional ignorance. Most people like you are totally deluded and unaware of revisionist history to not know that the first slaves in America were white & not indentured servants. There white slaves in Africa before & leading up to the time of America too. Look it up, sweets, while your busy thinking how wonderful you are.

    Comment by Sally McDougal — June 1, 2013 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

    • Wow, Sally. You are full of venom, especially since I didn’t respond to your insulting first comment by putting you down. Calling me sweetie just makes you sound condescending and kind of Walmart-parking-lot-tacky. My point was never that we should reenact slavery. My point was precisely the opposite, that teaching girls they can’t act on their own and lying about slavery (and by the way, who lied to you that whites were owned as slaves in Africa prior to the Triangle Trade?) Perhaps you think the Jews were white who built the pyramids, but they were really of Middle Eastern extraction, hence rather brown. Abraham came from Ur in Babylon.) is oppressive, and we shouldn’t make kids feel like they can do less or that they are less. I don’t hate men, but I do hate sexism very much. I don’t even hate you, even though you have a nasty attitude. The one week camp is part of a much larger problem that contributes to the glass ceiling, political candidates blaming rape victims in the last election cycle, and the fact that your flame-mailing me instead of the people who really twisted you up into the angry person you seem to be.

      Do you think a girl should not want equal rights? That’s the message one of the girls in the film said she absorbed from one week there. She said it verbatim. I can’t understand how my seeing this as a horrible problem provokes you to such rage. God bless you, and I hope whoever really hurt you apologizes.

      Comment by annebabson — June 1, 2013 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

  15. Also, I do not live in the south anymore. I live in Los Angeles. However, I did go to school at MTSU and knew Mark Orman. What you are trying to claim about this person is absolute bullshit and you need to be told off for that. Seriously, you have no clue what you are talking about and just talking out of your butt. Yeah, you want a strong response from a woman, baby, deal with it . . . “Oh, wait it wasn’t supposed to be towards me for talking a bunch of smack, it was only those males . . .” Yeah, I know your type and I know them all too well. The good ole girl’s club is just as bad.

    Comment by Sally McDougal — June 1, 2013 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  16. On the white slaves thing, you need to do a bit more research, love.

    Comment by Sally McDougal — June 1, 2013 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

    • Ah, so you know Mark Orman, that explains why you have written these comments. I like his courage sending you to fight his battles. I guess that’s what they call manhood in Tennessee. Very brave of him. And you and he are both misguided and misinformed. I won’t stoop to your vulgarities. He picks on girls. He sends grown women to defend him. Fascinating.

      Comment by annebabson — June 1, 2013 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  17. I haven’t talked to Mark Orman in 12 years. I didn’t even know he had this camp going until this past month when I tried to see if he is on Facebook. He does not pick on girls and in fact has two daughters. I love your extreme misandry attempt to discredit him though. It fits right along with your sexism that you’ve been expressing all the way back your stupid blog posting. You are a jerk, plain and simple. You didn’t have to use vulgarities to let people know what an asshole you are.

    Comment by Sally McDougal — June 1, 2013 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  18. film review

    Fiddle-dee-disempowerment – Why every feminist should watch the movie SOUTHERN BELLE | The Carpet Bagger’s Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

    Trackback by film review — August 25, 2014 @ 6:10 am | Reply

  19. Dear Feminist,
    I am a 17-year old Girl Senior. I just read your article, because I am looking forward to my trip to the 1861 Atheneum School for Girls. I am not a blogger or a writer, or anything special. But if you insist on putting your opinion out online, I will insist on putting mine.
    First off I am from Texas, but have lived a lot of other places. When I lived in New York I was deeply offended by the uncaring and unloving nature of “The Yankees” (as we call them in our home) There is no hospitality, there is no smile for the stranger passing by, and there is no general love of your neighbor as there is in the South. I felt so out of place waving to cars and passers-by on my walks and hugging my friends goodbye. So I will take the beautiful Southern Belle as my champion and the egotistic feminist as something that I despise.The South is my homeland and intend to carry on the tradition of the Southern Belle and if I get married (Please God) I will teach my daughters the same. Feminism is on its way out. It has had its time. The Lady is coming back. And why do you even care? Do you think your opinion matters so much? are you so blind to the fact that a girl wants to be who she is? She wants to be a girl. You want to be a man. Otherwise you wouldn’t try to be like one. And that is not equality that is just impersonation. Women are not equal to men; They are superior in their own way, and Men are not equal to women. And in turn they are superior to women in their own way. That’s what blind feminists don’t understand. They don’t understand that you cannot compare the two. You say you are a Christian, then why wouldn’t you believe that He created two genders for a reason? You simply cannot compare the two because they are polar opposites. And I know this probably won’t do you or anyone else a bit of good. But I hate to see innocent persons insulted by one who doesn’t have any authority on the subject and is to self-centered to keep her unwanted opinions to herself.
    God Bless you
    Clara Schutzman

    Comment by Clara — April 19, 2016 @ 10:34 am | Reply

    • Dear Miss Clara,

      I am glad you have responded to my post. I want to clarify that feminists neither reject the idea of womanhood nor wish to be men, as you put it. What we reject is the idea of a socially (not heavenly) defined womanhood that makes the gifts that God has given to individual women have to hide or to appear less than what they are. Things that we might include in this rejection are girls either staying out of competitions they can win or letting the boy win at tennis, as my aunts used to call it, clothes that restrict our movements more than men are restricted by their clothes, and educations that tacitly suggest to women that they are delicate where they are hardy, timid where they are bold, or helpless where they are capable. After all, if God makes us good at tennis, math, public speaking or warfare, why should we subvert the gifts we have been given?

      From your carefully worded letter, I know you have been made intelligent by God. Your argument is cogent in its rebuttal of mine. You are the kind of woman I would want to see run for political office one day, but the 1861 definition of womanhood given at the school you plan to attend would neither let you run nor let me vote. This is why I am angry at the school’s philosophy. Life is hard for all, and it is often harder for young women than for young men, who are victimized and belittled by a variety of events and forces. Why should there be anything that tells girls it is ladylike to deny themselves more than men are compelled by religion to self-sacrifice, to deny the gifts they have been given in anything but traditional feminine roles to the betterment of society? I believe in you, and I have never even met you. I don’t want someone to tell you that you can only serve God and our country in narrow ways when the ways God may have given you to serve might be wider than the sky over West Texas.

      Your letter conveys the impression that I hate the South. Indeed, I love the South, but I don’t love the myth of the South. I love the real historic womanhood of Southern women, who shot guns through their windows to defend their homes, who led hardscrabble existences without shame in order to fight to survive the aftermath of the Civil War, who wrote eloquently about their communities, who today join the army, the wrestling team, and maybe the sorority, too. I just have no respect for lies. The school, the actual school where you will visit was founded to provide young women opportunities to refine their minds, to see how wide the measure of their gifts might be. I reject a commemoration of that school that makes corseting anything like a centerpiece of that school’s mission. The memory of the actual women who attended that school deserve better, and so do you.

      I hope you will remember this interaction between us as you attend this school and will consider all you see there with your eyes wide open. If a young woman went there and experienced the training in passivity and silence that it offers with a notion of the gap between that training and what God has made her capable of achieving, she would receive an amazing education there in the sorrowful burdens placed on women for centuries.

      With respect, and in Christ, in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28),

      Anne Babson

      Comment by annebabson — April 19, 2016 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  20. Dear Anne,

    I believe that young ladies were not rejected to play sports and things of that sort, but simply not allowed to play with boys. Co-ed was just not approved of back then. As for being restricted by our clothing, I assume you are referring to the 1861 dress code for young ladies, but that was simply fashion, it has and would have evolved like anything else, without the feminist movement. But if you are referring to nowadays clothing, I should say that I have never worn a pair of my pants in my entire life. I wear dresses and skirts, and I assure you that that has never EVER stopped me from doing the things I enjoy such as horse back-riding, bicycling, running, playing tennis, or dancing (All things which I enjoy tremendously.) It doesn’t constrict my movement in the least.

    I would never consider a career (in the sense that you use it), unless it was something that had to do with a women’s duties, such as a teacher or a nurse, and even then I would give it up to care for my husband and my children, I believe it is my calling. Being a wife and mother is the most important career in creation. It is the also the hardest. It is bearing and raising up society’s next generation, there can be no greater duty for a women to perform than this, and I do not consider that a narrow way, as you put it, in serving God and my country. This school will prepare me to instill the lessons of beauty, etiquette, and elegance into my children, just as my mother and father did for me and my eleven brothers and sisters.

    I am sorry if I mistook your position as hating the South. Like you said many women did fight in the South, but how far, I wonder, would they and the rest of the Confederate army have gotten if it hadn’t been for the women who stayed behind to “tend to the hearth”, keep the home light burning, to feed, care and nurse the wounded soldiers, and to supply the army with provisions. Their bravery was as much if not greater than the women who left to fight. And these strong women are the ones I intend to emulate. We do not need equal rights to be vital to society and to God. You say that you hate lies, as do I, but there are always two sides to the story, and History is always written by the victors, and I wonder if they have told us the truth. I have strong reason to believe that they have not, just as you have a choice to believe it or not. And that is what feminism teaches isn’t it? Choice. So why do you want to impose on those who believe differently than you? It is just that: a question of belief and heritage.

    When I do go to the school I will keep my eyes opens as I do everywhere, but I believe I will only find serenity and peace of mind with what Mark Orman and his affiliates teach me and that I will take away many lessons to use for the rest of my life.

    Regards and God Bless
    Clara Schutzman

    Comment by Clara — April 19, 2016 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

    • Dear Clara,

      The majority of historians on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line consider Mr.Orman’s views revisionist, hence false, and if after you attend the school you are interested in reading more about this, I would gladly put you in touch with a Texan Christian historian I happen to know who would gladly discuss this with you further.

      If you are in a position never to need a career, you are privileged indeed. Most people of both sexes require one to survive economically. You are right that feminists believe in choice, and I would never tell you that you were not free to attend the school, only that I thought it a really bad idea. I don’t think staying at home to care for children is an invalid choice, only an economically and politically undervalued one, one that can make women’s lives harder to navigate if marriages become turbulent or husbands die, and one that leaves women wondering what on earth they might do next after the last child grows up. If you look at the Proverbs 31 woman, she runs a few cottage industry businesses as well as raising children, and “dainty” is not a word one might easily use to describe her in her dynamic and varied activities. I’m not certain Mr. Orman’s ideal southern belle could do all that woman does, and if she tried, he might not approve.

      In any case, keep your eyes open, and assess things for yourself. What you find there might surprise you. I would be interested to hear after you attend how you understand what I have written here.

      Blessings,

      Anne

      Comment by annebabson — April 19, 2016 @ 2:28 pm | Reply

      • I will be happy to get back to you after the session, unfortunately i just discovered that my retreat and this session will overlap so I have to decide which one to go to, but either way I will get back with you, but it may be next year that I will go
        Until then,
        Clara Schutzman

        Comment by Clara — April 19, 2016 @ 2:44 pm


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