She’s a Lady

An introduction to my latest blog series

You might have heard me mention that I grew up as a slightly feral farm child a time or two. Well it bears repeating. I also grew up learning the ins and outs of Southern etiquette. I took a manners class, and I also went through the debutante process. It can occasionally feel strange to have both the tomboy and the ultra feminine rattling around in my brain and my habits. But I’ve noticed that it doesn’t always feel like there’s room for both. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to look into some of those quirks.

I have to be honest here, I’ve been hesitant to dig into topics that are perceived as only relevant to females. I’ve been vacillating because I feel like the second I go there my work will be solidified as “for women”, and I find being pigeonholed by my gender unbelievably frustrating. I went to a writers’ conference at the very beginning of my career (ten whole months ago) and there was a panel discussion on why men don’t read female writers’ work (this conclusion was based on a Barna survey that I can’t put my hands on at the moment, but I’ll keep looking for it!). The discussion talked about book cover art, topics, amount of books each gender reads, and the effects that these variables can have on who picks up what book.

So, I have stayed away from writing about “women’s issues” up until now. I want to explore topics that are deeply relevant to being a human, not just the female or male experience. I believe that while our basic experiences may be different, if we dig down, we can find connections, relatability, and understanding. I also believe that it benefits us deeply to read the stories of people who do not share our experiences and to listen to what they have to say.

Take, for example, Born A Crime, Trevor Noah’s memoir. I did not grow up as the son of mixed-race parents in apartheid South Africa and then become a famous comedian and late night TV host. I could not personally relate to many of the stories experientially. And yet, I was drawn into his stories and his experiences, partially because he is a compelling, hilarious, and eloquent storyteller, but also because he lived and felt those experiences as a human. I know basically what it is to feel fear and delight and rejection and awkwardness, and so I felt those things along with him. And so, I feel that I know him in a weird way, even though we have never met. I mean, I saw him in the waiting room at my doctor’s office once. Don’t worry, I played it super cool, and by that I mean that I completely froze up and avoided eye contact at all costs.

And so I hope to write these stories, not with a “Hey girl hey” voice, but as a human made in the image of God first. I hope to ask questions that engage both male and female readers and encourage us all to dig past a superficial understanding of “girly” and “manly”. I’m going to take a week each to look at things like romantic comedies, make up, handwriting, and more. If I decide to keep going with this series, part 2 will dig into some more meat and potatoes dispositional traits… time will tell. It would be a more in depth discussion that would cover gender roles, misogyny, and race, so I obviously would prefer to approach these topics with care and wisdom. I’ll keep you posted.

My favorite way to come up with new blog ideas is to listen and observe others, but also to dig deep into my own inclinations and judgments and ask, “Huh, why did I react like that?” This series is about exploring why I think things like make up and high heels have anything to do with whether or not I am a real woman. Why is that the message I’m absorbing? Why am I so obsessed with comparing my interior self to other women’s exteriors? So I’m inviting you into my wrestling and my questioning, not because my way of being a woman is better than anyone else’s, but rather to add to a conversation that has been going on since what seems like the beginning of time.

I’d love to hear y’all’s feedback along the way! Feel free to comment on the blogs or send me a message via the “contact me” page.

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Barbara Hotelling
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Barbara Hotelling

Well, Miss Mary B…. you’re right that we’ve been struggling with these ideas forever and especially in my lifetime. I grew up a bit rebellious of the southern rules. I nicknamed them the “Greensboro rules”. Having the right clothes and Weejuns were important to me in fitting into a society where I felt accepted but not integrated. I was definitely a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I played musical instruments, begged to take Latin (my mother had to speak to the counselor to make that happen) and were it not for close friends who accepted me… Read more »