DARE TO ASK: Are women in the South subservient?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I have not lived in the Deep South long and wonder if it is a Southern thing
for a wife to wait hand and foot on her husband. Many husbands act like they
cannot do a thing for themselves.
Margaret, 44, Albany, Ga.
My mother's side hails from South Carolina, and they consider themselves the
furthest thing from "feminists." They think such women are likely Northerners
and more secular than Southern women. This treatment stems more from deference
and respect than from patronizing their men.
My momma started out doting, but after my daddy took off she raised me that I
didn't need a man to survive and that he can wait on his dang self. My first
marriage didn't work out for that very reason. He was too traditional. One night
at dinner his dad told me to get him more tea. I told him I didn't do that for
his son so I wasn't doing it for him. There are still many young girls raised to
Leslie, 28, Walnut Ridge, Ark.
I was once the Southern wife who waited on the husband hand and foot ... and
got no respect in return. I am about to remarry, to a wonderful man. I am glad
to have experienced this beforehand. Now I know how to appreciate a man willing
to meet in the middle -- not stand on the sidelines and cheer me on for another
glass of tea.
Jeannie, 25, Grenada, Miss.
Man, this tea-on-demand thing seems to be the pinnacle of accommodation in
the South. We wonder if Northern husbands at least have the sense to ask their
wives for a beer before mentioning the driveway needs snow-blowing.
But really, Southern women tending to their hubbies isn't about losing
self-respect, says Ronda Rich of Gainesville, Ga., author of What Southern Women
Know (Perigee). It's about clinging to traditional hospitality, while being a
"If there's equal give and take, there's absolutely nothing wrong with
mending his socks. My mother gave my daddy coffee in bed every day, but he made
sure the bills got paid and repaired the house."
And by treating a man well, "We get whatever we want. It's a subtle way of
being head of the house."
Rich says she's amazed at women who see all this as degrading.
"It's not a compromise of my independence to do something nice for the man I
love. If you had a houseguest who wanted a bowl of ice cream, you'd get it. It's
part of our nurturing."
Is there a line in that Georgia clay?
"Well I don't kiss his muddy boots ... or pick up his dropped towels. That's
lack of respect. You draw the line with men who don't give back."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.