There's something about southern movies that I appreciate. "Steel Magnolias." "Fried Green Tomatoes." "Gone with the Wind." To a lesser degree, "Elizabethtown." And in a different venue, but deliciously delightful, TNT's television show "The Closer." All of these carry an abundance of reflection on the mystique of The Southern Lady. What I enjoyed before I moved to The South, I now relish with intense fervor.
Friends may contest that last sentence. My husband insists that Kentucky is not The South, and I know quite well that the True South in many minds is the same as the Deep South. But I am convinced that you don't have to travel kudzu-laden highways to get a taste of Southern Living, as the ubiquitous magazine down here is named.
Southern gender roles, role reversals, the "iron fist in the velvet glove" - all these things distill topics on the national spectrum in a unique, charming, and often food-laden way. Perhaps Hillary could've convinced a few more primaries her way if she had embodied the southern woman more - but she did not translate the way her husband did. She translated Wellesley, she translated west coast or east coast - but not southern. And the South wields a lot of power.
Southern hospitality is notorious. Perhaps less well known is that the South carries with it an old-world policy unfamiliar, in some instances, to northerners: the southern lady will offer hospitality to her sworn enemy, sometimes almost as a matter of pride. The true southerner will welcome you and make you feel at home - but beware: southern women can welcome you to the table with one hand, and stab you in the back with the other. But is it stabbing in the back if it's simply considered rude to be - well - rude outright? The custom dictates hospitality be offered, and that is religiously offered. Just don't always take the content of a Southern Lady's word as the last word - take her tone (true, indeed, for all women?)
This may make the southern woman sound less than friendly. That's not my intent: I like southern women. They just operate very, very differently than women from Minnesota, or New York state, or Oregon.
And so we come to the real crux: a new book arrives on shelves this September, and if gas weren't four bucks a gallon, I'd buy you all a copy. "Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church" was written by Nancy Beach. This quote grabbed me and melted into the back of my mind like an M&M forgotten on a carseat in the summer. Don't ask.
"No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching. Every gift you have came from the hand of a loving Father who crafted you." Some of you will cringe at referencing God via a male term. Some of you will shift uneasily because you just read a sentence about God giving women the gift of leadership. Good, for you both. Trinitarian language is apt, personal, and biblical. And ladies, your ovaries are not a liability. It is not a liability to be you. It is a gift.
So whether you're southern, or northern, or Himalayan, ladies, you can lead - if you're gifted for it. And we will hope and pray for churches and people around you to be hospitable and gracious, like any good southerner.