I never thought I had very much of a southern accent until recently. Living in San Francisco this past summer was a huge learning experience for me and one of the many things that I learned was that I do, in fact, have a pretty prominent Southern accent. This was made known to me by almost every new person I met. I could not count on both of my hands and feet how many times I heard some form of the phrase, ” I love your accent, it’s so cute!” At first, I took these comments as compliments, and then it got old. The more I began to think about what these people were saying the more aggravated I got. I have heard this narrative from many other people in their descriptions of travels they have had outside of the South. Many people outside of the South view it almost like a child, as if we can not take care of ourselves and need to be cared for. Maybe it is silly, but I feel that by saying a person’s southern accent is cute, it is almost as if they are equating that person with being child-like. To me, this compliment became more and more of an insult every time I heard it. I would prefer to hear anything other than cute, when it comes to my southern accent.
This narrative speaks to a bigger problem in our society and that is the dumbing down of southern people in popular culture. More often than not you will hear about the South in some sort of negative light. Duck Dynasty for example, a show on A&E , is about a family who made their fortune off of selling duck calls. Instead of being portrayed as intelligent businessmen and women, they are portrayed as backwoods rednecks who do not have any sense. While the Robertson family has been able to expand their brand with this television show, I believe that it does them a great disservice. Another show that plays up to the “dumb Southern” stereotype is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a show about a family from the rural Georgia. If you have ever seen the show, you know exactly what I am talking about. This family seems to be completely uncivilized and just down right stupid. While the show is definitely entertaining, it only furthers the stereotype that southerners are slow and stupid. This stereotype is not all bad, there are many people out there who have been able to build their brand around the stereotype, however, the image of the south should also include its positive attributes.
Being Southern is something that I have always been proud of. I feel that as southerners we do ourselves a great disservice by just thanking people when they tell us we have cute accents. Granted I’m not quite sure what else we would say, but the point is that there needs to be more positive conversation about the amazing things that are happening in the South.