What it means to be a woman in the south

Stiff dress, painted smile. Ladylike facade.

Silence is the mark of a lady, I bite my tongue so hard I taste copper.

Wolf whistles, guard up. Never walk alone.

Eye contact is a dangerous thing; I clutch my keys. They dig into my flesh.

Quiet voice, gentle ways. Meek disposition.

A difficult woman will never make a good wife. She makes herself so small she wonders that there is any of her left. A fragmented soul.

Head down, voice shaking. Broken drywall.

It is a woman’s place to obey her husband. The children hide under the dining room table. A game but no one is laughing.

Torn dress, shattered eyes. Spoiled goods.

No man will want a girl who couldn’t keep her legs closed. She can still feel his blood beneath her fingernails. She fought but that won’t matter, the judge stares with cold eyes.

This is what it means to be a woman in the South.

Taught to be wives before we could fathom anything else, there is nothing else for us to be. Good Southern woman.

Sent to cotillions before our first period, taught to make a home before we are taught to drive a car. Neat and tidy.

Debutante balls come before college degrees- an entrance to society. Dressed in virginal white and paraded like cattle. Sold to the highest bidder. The man who touched me at my uncle’s wake. “Beautiful girl,” he croons “pretty thing,”


Abortion is a sin, though the men in the suits will never have a child forced on them. Murder.

Female pleasure is taboo, but male pleasure is taught in sex ed. An education system built to break you. Submission.

Maternal instincts are prized, and women who feel differently are unnatural. Anathema.

Expected to become wives and mothers at birth, her future is decided. Good girl.

Mouth closed, eyes wide, knees shut until marriage. Bible belt.

This is what it still means to be a woman in the South.


Anna Swearingen


Anna Swearingen is a young, aspiring writer. Though she primarily writes from her own experiences, she wishes to give a voice to the previously unheard. She is grateful to Not Very Quiet for this opportunity.

© 2021