Janisse Ray was not your typical southern girl; “feminism came early and naturally to me” (Ray 203). In her book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Ray takes us into her childhood and way of life. Ray talks about the land she grew up on, and shows us that through her childhood she became a “tomboy” as her mother stated (Ray 203). In the South in the 1960’s this was not smiled upon, women were supposed to fit a certain role. Janisse Ray’s book is influenced by her gender and she also looks not only at the stereotypes of men and women, but conflicts that arise from these stereotypes.
The form of this work is influenced by the fact that Janisse is a woman. She feels a deep connection with the land where she was raised. “The landscape that I was born to, that owns my body” (Ray 13). She definitely expresses her feelings of injustice for the environment much differently than a man would. She also focuses on her desire to not accept her role as a typical woman. Not only as a child did she refuse to act like a little, sweet, innocent girl, but when she grew up, she defied the norm and attended college – and she had a passion for science which is also uncommon in most girls. “When I was eighteen and away from my town, I dived recklessly and surely into the world, not because it was a form of rebellion, as people might think, but as a form of healing and revival.” By this we can see Ray’s desire to go off by herself and take a risk. She took the plunge and control of her life becoming independent.
The lives of men and women are portrayed definitively in this novel. The setting of the story is in southern Georgia in the 1960’s, a time when women were expected to fit a certain role in society. When she was younger she would rather be playing outside than inside and her mother would always have to drag her inside and scrub her down to get her clean. Her mother would then dress her in fluffy dresses with bows and ribbons, the way a southern girl should dress, and Janisse could never understand why (Ray 8). As you can tell her mother fit the typical southern woman stereotype. She was a mother who stayed at home. She cooked, cleaned, made the clothes, and was the caretaker of the home. She took care of the children when they were sick and was everything a southern mother should be.
Janisse’s dad on the other hand fit the role of the southern male. “Daddy is a mechanic in the words truest sense, loving motors and tractors, and radios, and guns” (Ray 75). He was the sole provider for the home, worked outside and was not afraid to get dirty. Her parents played two very different roles in her life. Her father was the rock of the house, the head, while her mother was the more comforting support of the household.
When Ray’s dad becomes “ill”, her “mother stepped into the role of head-of-household without a stumble” (Ray 200). The roles flip and her mother has to become the sole provider and caretaker for the house. Ray remarks on how confidently and easily her...