Wednesday, July 20, 2005

For My Own Sanity, I Have to Stop Reading

Okay, so I'm not from the South, originally--you're stuck with me now, fuckers!--but I am from someplace nearly as bad--the country. And, in the rural Midwest (i.e. "the country"), we listen to a lot of country music, just as you folks do down here. It's one of the reasons that I find Nashville a wonderful place to enact my man-emasculating, baby-eating, witch-crafting, Satanic-orgy-having, smug-superior-driving, liberal, feminist agenda. The weather's nice, if a little warm, and it reminds me of home. So, I can't help but being a little put out by the story about Faith Hill in Let us, together, unmask its many problems (and come back to the subjugation of all men at a later date). The story starts out with a flip but understandable exploration of Hill's new look. It makes the troubling assumption that there's something very "country" (i.e. Southern) about having your hair its natural color and curly and wearing jeans and a baseball cap and a t-shirt, which immediately lets the reader know that this author has never seen actual women from Dallas, or even Nashville. As much as this troubles me, it points to something I continually notice. Much writing by non-Southerners about the South is not about the South but about the South. The South is group of states below the Mason-Dixon line that is mostly hot and humid in the summer and full of good food all year round. It is not, once you get to know people, much different from other states that have large agricultural bases, but are trying to entice more industry to the area. It has the same problems with racism, sexism, and idiocy as every other place I've lived. The South is a place that you can find only in people's imaginations, full of scary rednecks and Klan rallies and blatant racism and virginal white women and slave labor and Confederate generals and illiterate drunken fools and idiots who vote only based on their fears of outsiders; the important thing to understand about the South is that it's magic. The South is magic in that as long as it exists, the rest of the country has no problems. Is there racism in New York City? No worries. It's not as bad as it is in the South. You've got yahoos shooting day laborers? You should see what they do to illegals in the South. I could go on, but I think you see how this works. The South is a geographical region that you can live in or visit. The South is a fantasy land and a boogyman that the rest of the country uses to frighten its children and feel better about itself. Potts, the author of this article, does her Southern readers a favor by letting us know that this is not an actual article about an artform with its commercial center in a Southern city, but that this is an article about the scary, scary South right up front by putting forth this bizarre notion that Southern women and female country music stars don't want to be glamorous like emaciated Canadians do (never mind that we have our very own tiny Canadian--Shania Twain). The weirdest thing about the South is that it grows and shrinks to fit the needs of whoever's talking about it. Potts, for instance, claims that Hill is changing her look in great part to respond to the growing redneck culture as represented by Gretchen Wilson, and Potts claims that "Redneck culture has been edging toward a major comeback for a while, and it has seeped way beyond the Southern states." Well, Potts, no shit. If an Illinois girl--Wilson--is who a Mississippi girl--Hill--is responding to and Wilson is your example of a redneck, then redneck culture must not be so easily Southern. But, ah, dear reader, Wilson can be Southern because the South can include places above the Mason-Dixon line, if you need it to in order to make your point. But an interesting question is, what does Potts need the South for? There's a lot of meat here in the way Hill is presenting herself in response to Wilson (if, indeed, that is what's going on) and probably a lot of interesting rural versus urban stuff going on as well. What does she need the boogyman for? She says, at one point: "Country is caught up in the rise of red-state culture -- a shift that has the heartland feeling a little superior these days." and then at another point, "Still, all the steel guitars and homespun homilies in Tennessee can't assuage a lurking sense in much of America that the world is a crazy mixed-up place that will never be as ordered as we'd like." Ah, and here, dear friends, is both where we see the size of her South and what the boogyman is for. Her South is every state that went for Bush (Welcome, Wyoming, to the New South!). Her South is full of unsophisticated rubes who like NASCAR and simple, down-home values and who are sitting around gloating about Bush. Doesn't the South know that it's only the literate middle and upper class folks who vote Democrat and who read Salon that are supposed to go around feeling superior to folks?


Anonymous The Yellow Brand Hammer Co. said...

You write real pretty.

You need a cable access show.

7/20/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Shoot, I hear they give them things to anyone.

7/20/2005 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

haha cable tv.

wow that's gotten me in some trouble recently.

great post, b. nothing says credibility like fair-mindedness in the face of bigots on one's own side of the liberal-conservative fence.

7/20/2005 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Sam Chevre said...

Where does she get the idea that country is a REFUGE from a mixed-up world? I’ve always loved country because it’s such a REFLECTION of a mixed-up world—as Toby Leith’s song puts it, “These Are Songs About Me”. Country isn’t simplistic happymusic—it’s a remarkably dark genre, with lots and lots of songs where bad things happen for good reason (Papa Loved Mama, Move It on Over) or bad reason (Fancy Don’t Let Me Down, Delta Dawn) or no reason at all (That’s My House, Sixteen Tons). And that’s a feature of both traditional and pop country; Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton have unhappy songs; so do Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks.

7/20/2005 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like writers have always used the South as a synonym for rural. But mostly only if they're using it in a bad way. If rural is to be favored in their story, it's "down-home Midwestern values" and images of Nebraskan corn fields are used. But I'm a native (urban now, but formerly rural) Tennessean so I may be biased.

I'd watch a Tiny Cat Pants show (I'd be checking out B the whole time, but feeling guilty about after yesterday's discussion).

W (no relation)

7/20/2005 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...


If I'm ever on TV, you go right ahead and ogle away. Just rest assured that, If I catch you doing it, I'm totally devoting a whole entry to mocking you.

7/20/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger _Summer_ said...

Woohoo! Great piece'a'writing.

But, I'm only a rural-ag-land-dwelling midwesterner. What do I know?

7/20/2005 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I am from the South too and saw some truth in the Salon article. The Republicans are pushing a myth but soon they will realize that that dog don't hunt.

7/21/2005 01:51:00 AM  

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