Enjoy my photo essay by clicking here: I Love the South Through My Stomach
As we can see on that picture that I attached, the southern states have the highest rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). It caught my eye when I first moved to the South from the North Europe in 2009. I saw the signs in clinics showing very high percentage of STDs compared to the northern states. At first, I was not very sure why the South is dealing with such problems. Since we got in more deeper discussions about the South in our Sociology of the South class, I learned many aspects that made me realize why the South has such bad reputations. First, I never knew about the yellow fever epidemics and the sickle cell anemia until now. Memphis, and also many other southern states dealt with horrible spares of yellow fever. It killed tremendous amount of people. Furthermore, Memphis was actually very attractive place for the immigrants, for example, from Germany, or Ireland, who after the yellow fever hit the city, fled away to other cities. I believe Memphis could have been a great city if all of those immigrants would have stayed here. It would have made the city more multicultural; moreover, foreigners would have brought in more money and the high percentages of STDs that the city faces today could have been prevented. The city could have been similar to Atlanta. Unfortunately, it went different way and Memphis had to deal with many negative problems that affect the city until today.
The sickle cell anemia and yellow fever are not the big issues no more, now Memphis and the South deals with the STDs. The numbers are very high among minority groups. The African-Americans have almost 50% higher chlamydia rate than whites do. I believe the main reasons are poor access to the healthcare, and poor educational lessons provided to young people at school or at home. Since the South is more religious, I believe many schools and parents do not talk about sexual life very often. I remember back in Estonia, we had a class where we learned about diseases, prevention of pregnancy, and how to avoid certain issues. The South is more religious; nevertheless, people have to be more educated about the sexual diseases in order to prevent long-term effects. Also, the people in the South has lower incomes. People do not have the access to health care and will not be able to get cured properly. Another issue is still the high percentage of rural people, and also illegal immigrants who do not believe or are not able to go to regular check-ups.
To sum up, I believe it is sad that Memphis and the South are still looked at as filthy and dirty. The South should fight very hard against those issues to prevent negative images that other states and countries give them. If the outsiders do not see that the South at least gives an good effort to fight against it, a lot of people from other states and countries will not come here and things will never get better then. There are many positive aspects about the South that should be more known to the whole world other than STDs and other diseases that make the South look bad.
This article was very shocking to me. Not only is Tennessee the ranked fifth in the country for women being killed in a domestic dispute, but also some of the other states in the top ten are: Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The news article claims that our southern culture can be to blame for this. The writers do not go into much detail about what in particular it is in our culture that produces such high domestic violence rates. One reason that I believe could be a factor is that many men in the South think that women are their property. It was a normal to believe this during the Civil War, but this belief should be long gone by now. In the 21st century, it is crazy that some people still have the mind-set that they can actually OWN another person. My guess is that men are taught this as young boys; from generation to generation they see how their fathers and grandfathers treat their wives. But aren’t they also taught to be “southern gentlemen” and to never lay their hands on a woman, no matter what? I have heard “men” (or should I say boys) state things such as: women should keep their mouths shut, they should not talk back, but only speak when spoken to, and that they only belong in the kitchen (as if women only have a role in the home and no where else). It is almost like some men in the South are closet abusers, they will act like they are the perfect southern gentleman, but in reality, they treat their wives as the opposite: cruel, harsh, demanding, and harm them physically as well as emotionally.
Also, some men in the South can be more physically aggressive because they think they have the right to honor and respect. Women in the South are less likely to come forward with domestic violence issues. They don’t want people to know that their husband beats them behind closed doors. In the South, women especially want their friends, families, co-workers, and even acquaintances to think that they have the perfect relationship/marriage. Because many women in the South are housewives, they might feel like they cannot make it without their husband, even if he is abusive, they need him in order to survive. We also have to think about the fact that the South is home of the “Bible Belt” and many women think that they cannot leave their husbands because, according to the Bible, divorce is wrong and women need to submit to and respect their husbands. Although many forget that the Bible also says for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church: which definitely means that if they believe and live by the Bible, husbands should not harm their wives physically or emotionally.
Domestic violence is also displayed in movies about southern culture, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. It is hard to watch as Frank slaps his wife, Ruth, and then pushes her down the stairs. This movie takes place in Alabama, which is the second highest state for domestic violence deaths. (Here is the clip where Ruth leaves Frank. If you have never seen the movie, it’s awesome!) In class, we briefly discussed the movie and book Gone With The Wind. I recently re-watched the film and was shocked to see how even the typical, independent and strong “southern belle,” Scarlet O’Hara, was a victim of marital rape. I had never really noticed the meaning of the scene until after talking about the movie in class. It is common for a person in the South to know a victim of domestic violence or even to know someone who was killed in a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence is not something to be overlooked. I believe that men and women should be aware of this terrible problem of domestic violence in the South and in our culture.
After watching this ESPN commercial about the University of Alabama, I recognized many familiar aspects about the South. As we discussed in class, the South is big on sports, this particular commercial is a good example of it. Schools like the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, and the Auburn University, spend and make tremendous amount of money because of the their sports teams. Many of the big college sports school are located in a small city and the main reason why they are known for are their football or basketball team. Furthermore, Southerners love to be prideful of their team. They wear special sports gear, and put their college team’s stickers on their cars, they love to tailgate, and talk bad about another team. In general, America is big on sports. I am from Estonia, it is a tiny country in the North Europe, I never experience anything like this before. Such thing as college sports do not exist in Europe. It was very interesting to experience something like that in here. Many schools have their common slogans, for example, Ole Miss uses “HottyTotty,” Bama uses “Roll Tide.” I seems to me like Southerns want to have specific identity that they are known by. They are prideful of their location, college, and sports team. It is similar to their history when Southerners wanted to be different from the North and have their own Southern identity. I, as a outside observer from Europe, have realized that Southerners are much more prideful about the fact that they are from here or live here than people from the North.
Moreover, as we can see on this YouTube clip, Bama fans are from different race, age, and class groups. I think it is great illustration how sports unite people. For example, older white man, and younger black guy walk by each other in one of the Tuscaloosa’s gas stations are greeting each other by saying “Roll Tide.” I guess it is bigger than saying “Hello,” or “Good Bye” in Alabama. People’s skin color does not matter at all, as long as they are supporting the same team, there do not exist no racial boundaries.
Another very Southern thing that caught my eye was the word “Y’all.” When the white mom drops off her children and says, “Roll Tide Y’all” it is as Southern as it can be. Also, the white man at the end says, ” Y’all did not even know…” The language that people use in the South is different from the North. Word “y’all” is one of those examples that almost every southerner uses. Of course, after being here for 4 years, I use it as well!
To sum up, the YouTube clip illustrates the Southern people and their culture pretty well by just showing a commercial about the University of Alabama. It is an great example to show that people’s skin color, nor their age or occupation do not matter in sports. The fans of the southern college sports teams are like one big happy family who laugh and cry together over winning and losing!