Archive for Civil Rights

The Invisible Veil

Posted in Alabama, America, Autobiographical, Country Music, New York City, Non-Fiction, NYC, Poetry, Pop Art, Pop Culture, Punk Rock, Rock and Roll with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2011 by Paulette Powell

I’m undeniably Southern with my soft twang. Just the other day at our local C Town, the lady at the register asked, “Where are you from, Texas?” And of course I get friendly indignant, “Hell NO, I’m from ALABAMA, ROLL TIDE!” …She replied, “I love how you always smile”, I laughed and added “That’s because we Southern girls are trained at an early age to hide pain, especially when our high heels cut into our feet while walking down a beauty pageant runway!” She tore into a loud laugh.

And I’m the first to entertain at Manhattan cocktail parties stories of my Alabama upbringing, regional differences and historical moments.

Like Truman Capote, Harper Lee and Hank Williams Sr, we share a culture that is special to our state including Jubilees, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, Snake Handling, Muscle Shoves, The Drive-By Truckers and the Crimson Tide!

Alabama cast a long dark shadow too, guard dogs and hose pipes, but from oppression came a defiant young woman, Rosa Parks who would be the mid-wife of the Civil Rights movement. I believe I am proudest of this American history.


I wish I could testify that the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not just on paper but opened minds. We still have to fight the “good fight” of equality for all.

I grew up in a culture that still has a way to evolve in gender equality. I call it the “Invisible Veil”, women second class in the white-bread Deep South. Treated like little girls, it disturbed me when I witnessed my friends before and after marriage, from Daddy’s house to a husband keeper, never allowed their own power.

Once visiting Dixie, I fell ill and saw Dr. Mark Cohen, he commented I was the most difficult and intelligent patient, questioning everything! I made my joke “Because Southern girls are taught to marry doctors or lawyers, not to be one.” But in all seriousness, I had read the Hysterectomy Hoax, inspired by a young woman from Birmingham Alabama, I shared this with Cohen. In a soft-spoken tone he said, “Most of my patients are passive, I could do anything, they never question my authority.”

My ex-husband, Charles Laurence validated me, “it isn’t your imagination” and gave me the book A Turn in the South by V.S. Naipaul. I often recommend it to friends. It underlines several reasons why “a woman’s power” is taken away or hidden through manipulation in the unforgiving South and keeping women objects, like painted dolls beneath an invisible veil.

The family faith I grew up in, along with many other Patriarchal Christian sects that dominate the poorest states align the Bible Belt and continue to give women a back seat ride through life. The Church Of Christ, maintain women are to remain silent in the “Church”, never to become a minister, elected deacon or elder. If a woman is a widow or (scripture) divorcee, she must appeal to a man to be her voice in the church. Now you can see where this could go.

As a child I would scratch my head and think, “But Debra was a judge!” I also would rationalize, “religious doctrine is inspired by God and written by men. Why would God distinguish sex when souls have none? So why make gender a condition, we pay for the sin of Eve, especially if Christ paid for all of our sins?”. My Sunday School teacher could not answer my questions. That was the precise moment I decided to start my own personal quest for truth, I was 12 yrs old.

It became obvious to me, it was Darwin, stronger dominates the weaker, God is not involved.

My life in the South was a struggle for equality, even after I relocated to New York City with my beautiful daughter. Her Father attempted to sue me for custody. My attorney told me at the time “You better marry your boyfriend, Alabama court doesn’t look too kindly at a single Mom raising her daughter in Sin City.”

I was an East Village artist, but also held down an office job that provided me with insurance as well as my own apartment lease, never had an addiction or an arrest.

The court became a circus, when my daughter’s father and his wife cast stones from their glass house. Making judgment calls I associated with a sordid crowd, while holding up a Spider-Man comic book (I was drawn in as issue by John Ramita Sr., the artist who gave Mary Jane Watson her dimples) stating Spidey made the sign of Satan. I was told they would bring me and my daughter back to Alabama where we belonged, this was the 90s, NOT the 1960s!

I won but not after great grief, a dent in my bank account and a deep seeded fear that I could lose my daughter. I would not be free until Cortney was 18. The Judge advised, “Be mindful of your actions in New York City or don’t be surprised if you find yourself back in my court.”

I would have to portray the rehabilitated good housewife, no longer an emancipated woman who could challenge society through her art, poetry and music. I was sentenced again to wear an invisible veil and pay for my sin of living my dream.

Surveying American women’s progress today, we still have a long way to go, according to an analysis of recently released census data conducted by the Women’s Policy Research; Women make only 75.5 cents for every dollar that men earn and the recent downturn continues to put women at a disadvantage, women have not received a significant increase in wages since 2001. 49% of the working poor in America are single Moms raising children in Fatherless households.

That brings me to my conclusion; instead of Americans casting stones at other religions and cultures, especially Islam (that most have never even bothered to pick up the Qur’an or attempt to understand another’s theology) we would be better off leading by example and allow our own women to cast off invisible veils while they break those damn glass ceilings!

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