This Southern Mama is Happy She's Not Raising Girls in the South
byChelsea Dane Edington*Jun 06, 2017
Photograph by Twenty20
my four-year old daughter received an illustrated children’s book titled “Gracie’s Gift” from an older, Southern relative. The story
is about a small girl who gets annoyed because her mother always wants to
put a bow in her hair. The mother explains that presents are wrapped in
bows—and as the daughter is a “gift from God,” the bow is a celebration of
Amazon, it has a 100% 5-Star rating, and here is one of the reviews with the
book could not have come at a more perfect time in my daughter's life. My
Madilyn Claire had decided that she was too big to wear bows in her hair
because she turned 7 years old. I think we may have squeezed another 3 years
into her wearing her bows just from her reading this book. Thank you for this
book. I think that all Southern born Momma's should read this book. I highly
The bow did not become a thing because God puts bows on
gift; God doesn't give presents wrapped in clever prints from Target.
was born and raised in the South and I know that the big, Southern-style hair
bow is about making your daughters look appropriately 'sweet' and
'feminine'. This book is the equivalent of emotional blackmail to make
sure the reader’s mother gets what she wants — the Southern version of an
Instagram-ready family. The bow did not become a thing because God puts bows on
gift; God doesn't give presents wrapped in clever prints from Target. The bow
is a thing because a group of bourgeois moms decided it was
cool and everyone else jumped in and stayed on that bow-laden bandwagon.
it was only for special occasions or Sundays, I’d happily play along. After all, it
is a mark of respect to dress properly for such events — not just to the institutions but to the people you care
about who respect them. But it’s not just
about the bow. As a young woman, I began
to question whether making me wear a foot of intricately tied grosgrain on my
head was a sign of respect or something much more manipulative.
is why I’m glad I’ve moved out of the South to raise my children, particularly
lived in several parts of the country, the South is more obsessed with the
appearance of its girls, rather than their independence, maturity or
well-being, than anywhere else. Some mothers insist on smocked dresses for
birthday parties, when shorts and a t-shirt, minus a cumbersome hem, would be
more appropriate. Some enforce ballet lessons just for the sake of the
sweet tutu. Encouraging girls to “be sweet”
rather than stand up for themselves is a practice I'm happy to not participate.
yes, I know some girls just like being girly. My daughter’s best friend
refuses to leave the house in anything but a dress. I know that some
girls won’t wear pants, and some girls only want to wear pink, and some girls
love ballet. Other girls have no interest in those things, and as moms we
should not only respect that, but celebrate it.
Just let them be who they want to be, and give them the space to figure
you’re saying to yourself, “You’re talking bows and dresses here! Relax!”
so. But according to RAINN (the largest national sexual assault hotline), 1 out of
every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in
her lifetime—how can we justify telling our girls that she has to do something
she doesn’t want, for no other reason than that we want her to?
of these Southern expectations—join the cheerleeding squad, get into the right
sorority, marry the right man—all start by forcing our girls to wear the bow.
If my daughter wants to be girly, I will buy her all the sequins and pearls she
wants but I’m not going to force her to do anything just to make me
happy. At least where I live now, well
north of the Mason-Dixon line, I know she won't feel that insidious pressure
from me or her community.
You might wonder what I did with the book. For
the record, I stashed Gracie’s Gift is in our attic.
While I may disagree with it, a gift is a gift—I appreciate the
effort, if not the premise, that went behind it. After all, as a good Southern girl, I wasn't raised to be rude.
*Editorial note: the writer name is a pseudonym. The mom who wrote this post wishes to remain anonymous.