In our southern version, you always treated women and girls respectfully. You let them shine. You highlighted them at social functions. They were an adornment, an artistically beautiful object to be admired and even showed off. And every woman had some beauty in her, maybe not your version or preference, but beautiful nonetheless. You protected them. You honored them. You opened the door for them. You treated them gently as a valued object that was fragile. You pushed their chair in at the dinner table when you were dining out. You flattered them, respecting their beauty. You treated every woman like a lady of good social status, assuming that they were. A man could even have a deep platonic love of a married woman, keeping her in an honored, unreachable place, flattering her publicly, essentially flirting with her, although in an approved manner. Being that we are all human, however, I would not be surprised to discover that some or even many of those “platonic” relationships stepped over the line, with everyone looking the other way as they did with other issues in this legalistic morality.
We know from history of the Old South that there were occasionally relationships between white males and black female slaves on the sly, probably more about lust than love. So people probably just got in the habit of looking the other way, with children told, “That’s just the way it is.” It was the original good old boy system. Additionally, I guess, in the eyes of men, there’s always been a dichotomy of values between viewing women as objects of lust versus honoring, valuing, and loving them in a more idealistic fashion. But in general, women were highly valued and honored in the Old South. Before my grandmother died in 2004, she told me a story one time that must have taken place during Reconstruction, immediately after the Civil War, about a relative of hers that was shot by the KKK for beating his wife. In its beginning, the KKK was not purely about enforcing the feudal caste system which kept blacks “in their place,” although the organization would become more racist in time, with lower status, poorer white men filling the ranks and worrying over losing their place in the caste system, which then led to the violence against blacks.
More on this tomorrow. I pray you have a blessed day.