Friday, August 14, 2009

Southern Accents and Attraction [Guest Post]

Please enjoy today's guest post from a feminist blogger I recently started reading: RMJ (aka Rachel McCarthy James) writes about feminism and stuff at Deeply Problematic.

A post over at The Jaded Hippy has some interesting thoughts on racism in sexual attraction:

In a racist, sexist society can our sexual attractions ever be value neutral? Is it REALLY just a "preference" when white people aren't attracted to people of other races?

My conclusion? No, not really.

Knowing what I know now about society, social indoctrination, whiteness, etc. I can no longer think it's a coincidence that white men tend to be the ones I find most sexually attractive.
This post made me consider my own pattern of attraction (which is not particularly static), specifically my fondness of Southern accents. It's something that I've recently but intensely developed, and it poses an odd contradiction: it's not exactly race-based, but it is a response to my identification with the patriarchy and my need to fit in to the (shallow) South, where I recently came to live.

In focusing part of my attraction on speech patterns, I'm regurgitating the dominant paradigm of my current surroundings: men around me and the man I'm with speak this way. Southern accents are reinforced as positive and desirable, a mark of masculinity and honesty:

And I can't any longer ignore that these traits also, though not tied to skin color (what most commonly think of as THE racial indicator) are most certainly tied to dominant narratives about "real men" and that those narratives are strongly informed by whiteness.
However, it's not as simple as this problematic identification. A Southern accent is a disempowering feature: it causes the speaker to be seen as uneducated, unintelligent, and dull-witted. One study found that a Southern accent increased a job applicant's chances of being passed over or paid less. A few years ago, I held this view - it was one thing that I didn't particularly like about my partner (whose Southern accent is very strong) upon getting to know him. This was not a reflection of J, but a reflection of my more recent life in the Midwest: as I am now conditioned by the patriarchy to appreciate Southern accents, I was then conditioned to reject them.

(There's also the question of the blue-collar exotic, but I won't get into that here.)

It's kind of a moot point. Since I'm happy in my relationship with an accented man, I'm not going to try to make any shifts. But I'll certainly be a little more critical the next time I'm watching Lost and become entranced by Sawyer.

Related posts:
Perception and Reaction to Racism Not Equal
Continuum of Acceptance
Tony's Take on Racism in the KC Area [Guest Post]

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