One cannot think of the south without the requisite thoughts of the typical Southern Belle. A Southern Belle - is derived from the French word 'belle,' which means 'beautiful' - and is an archetype for a young woman of the Old South's upper class. The quintessential Suthun debutante - again from the French word 'débutante' which means 'begin'. (Non, vraiment, je ne parle français, mais on pourrait penser alors quand cette lecture.*) Women such as the those found in "Steel Magnolias" and "Gone with the Wind" come to mind, most notably Scarlet O'hara. And if they don't, then you're doing something wrong...or you don't know what archetype means.
Sadly, finding one of these creatures, the typical Southern Belle, is as rare as finding an honest politician. Everyone says they've seen one, but no one can seem to remember where. Ok, I jest, and I'm sure in the upper echelon of Atlanta society, they still have debutante balls and Suthun Belles are presented to the world in style. Minus hoop skirts, I'm sure and as independent as Scarlett O'Hara herself. But more than an archetype (yes, I find a good big word and I stick with it), today's Southern Belle is more than that.
You see, today, as much as the definition of Southern Belle may come from the upper class, the term these days means any Southern Woman of Southern Heritage or Not. My wife is A Southern Belle (with requisite capital letters, or course!) She does not have a southern accent, and does not wear hoop skirts. She wears jeans and sweatshirts decorated in skulls. She's got skulls on most everything. She is the New Southern Belle - but not because of the skulls, but rather in spite of them.
The new Southern Belle is more Gretchen Wilson than Redneck Woman, More Reba than June and yet more Trisha than Patsy (and if you can know and compare those names, you're well on being a good ol' boy yerself!)
The New Southern Bell is redefining herself even as we speak. Here in the South, it's decidedly so and I for one, know better than to tell any one of them that they can't do that (especially my wife!) I'm sorta southern smart that way.
*No, really, I don't speak French, but you might think so when reading this.