It is a weird time to be alive, much less trying to write a book about "how I learned to be female, feminine, and white". That's the theme of Que sera, sera, in a nutshell, and if you thought that considering that intersection of identities in the spring of 2020 would be easy, let me explain why you're wrong.
- Our earliest lessons began before we started kindergarten. In the book, I begin the story with how adults not only dressed us (because I am a dress historian first and foremost) but also saw us, spoke to us, and treated us from the moment we were born.
- The early lessons they taught were almost entirely nonverbal. This makes it hard for a researcher to find evidence of the teachings themselves, much less how we, as the pupils, absorbed and internalized them.
- We have been learning and unlearning about sex, gender, and race all of our lives. While we hope that new learning might help us replace outdated information and false beliefs, I am highly skeptical that this actually happens. It's more likely that we have more layers than a Smith Island cake (up to 15, if you want to skip the recipe.)
After I saw this, I started paying attention to the depiction of Southern girls and Southern culture in the magazine, and there it was. Southern "belles" were consistently depicted as more feminine than the rest of us: the pinnacle of delicate, romantic, ladylike womanhood. (Don't worry, I will be sharing more examples.)
...more pervasive and subtle than the actions of explicit white nationalists. White supremacy describes the culture we live in, a culture that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal.