guys did guy stuff, girls did girl stuff

My dad was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1953. When I called him and asked him about Davy, before I could finish the description of what I needed, he belted out “Born on the Mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three, Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!”.

I was not too surprised. My dad is the epitome of a kid that would have been a Crocket fan. A frontier man himself, he is from the south and continually travelled West throughout his life. He loved riding horseback and continues to hunt, fish, and all sorts of Crocket activities.Max and pleaseMax on a horse on ridge(Max Clough on the frontier)

As a kid, my dad’s parents gave him a lot of freedom and were not as concerned with keeping him within the fence of the back yard. He was encouraged to play around the neighborhood and was always given the responsibility of looking after his two younger brothers.

An aspect of Davy that my dad recalls emulating was his leadership. In the TV series, my dad remembers, he was a folk hero who he respected for doing the right thing regardless of the authority. Growing up in a bigotted south, Davy exemplified a man who was fair, as seen through his treatment of Indians. By no means was my dad holding protests for civil rights because he saw Davy be merciful with Indians, but he remembers the fact that Davy made it “cool” to be a leader and be separate from the general ideology.

One thing I found very interesting was the way that Davy was depicted in the Crockett movies, according to my dad. In one movie, Davy becomes a congressman who stands up for the rights of Indians. My dad always admired the fact that Davy was a political figure but always straddled the line of wanting to help social causes, and wanting to enjoy life in the hills of Tennessee as a frontiersman.

In terms of the “textual poaching” we talked about in class, my dad used Davy as a figure that represented a social leader and also someone that inhabited the “innocence” as the frontiersman that Griffin references.

When I asked my dad if girls looked up to Davy the way he did, he said, “they might have looked up to him but it was more of a ‘wow! I hope my husband when I grow up is like that guy’, rather than putting on the coonskin cap and trying to be a frontiersman themselves”. Especially in the south at this time, my dad says, the genders were very separated and the thought of a girl trying to be Davy Crockett was very unusual. “Guys did guy stuff, and girls did girl stuff”, he said. Griffin’s reference of the song with Davy kissing Marilyn Monroe and the “patriarchal construct” that this represented was very indicative of the picture my dad painted of the time.

Some of my dad’s fondest memories of being a kid were the birthday parties he attended. At every party, you could distinguish who was invited by the birthday boy and who was invited by the moms because all of the kids who were invited by the birthday boy would be the rebels and all the kids invited by the mom were yankees. As a young kid, my dad could never figure out how the confederates lost the war because every time they played, the rebels always won. Another privilege remained for the originally invited kids. They got to wear the coonskins. I found it amazing that these kids still played games around the civil war, which would seem to promote the slavery and inequality that occurred in the South at the time.

Interestingly enough, my dad loved Davy for his fairness towards the minority Indians, and yet the “racist” confederates got to wear the coonskins. This irony was indicative of the decade and is highlighted in the episode of Davy Crockett that we watched where Davy encourages the Indian to make the treaty with the white government. The Indian refuses saying his tribe does not trust the white government because they do not keep promises. Davy replies with “but Davy Crockett always keeps his word”. The decade may have had icons like Davy who encouraged fairness and mercy, yet white society was still extremely segregated and seperated in strict gender roles. The child-like “innocence” that Griffin emphasizes of the post-war attitude masked the true inequality of the era.

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2 thoughts on “guys did guy stuff, girls did girl stuff

  1. The details you reported about your father’s interaction with the “Crockett Craze” really intrigued me. I think that it speaks to Griffin’s comment about the desires that producers had to create separate spheres for fan identification that were gender segregated in a time where “women were being encouraged (if not forced) back into the home, while men went to the workplace” (115). Female emulation of Davy was certainly far from the idealized notion of “learning ‘proper’ feminine behavior” (115) and stood in direct contrast to many of these expectations. I really wish that Griffin would have explored the idea that Crockett may have served as a model for an “ideal” husband like your dad suggested, because I think that idea is really worth unpacking. (Griffin mentions in passing on page 115 that girls were supposed to “want to be married to Davy or be his mother”) In the portion of the movie we watched in class, his wife certainly cares for him a great deal and pines for him while fulfilling her obligations of domesticity. I asked my father if girls, where he grew up, participated in the Crockett fad and engaged in games that involved pretending to be Crockett and his answer contrasted with your father’s. My dad grew up in a very rural area, so that is probably a major part of the different view. He said that the local girls did participate heavily in Crockett in nearly all of the reenactments and were consumers of Crockett memorabilia which allowed them “to break out of their engendered roles and spaces, at least for the time that they used the merchandise” ( 115). The girls didn’t take on any of the “female” roles in Davy Crockett. The girls that did play Crockett were considered, by my dad and his family, to be “Tom-Boys;” although this label didn’t impugn their Crockett credibility, because “none of the boys seemed to mind or question the coed gatherings of weekend “Davy Crockett” fun.

  2. I also wonder at how much of the difference in who got to “play” at Crockett hinged on region — the South is stereotypically and in practice more conservative (in terms of gender roles) than the Northwest, so even if both parents lived in rural spaces, there might have been slightly more rigidity as to who could appropriately “play” at what. Jackson, I like that you point out the complicated negotiation of protecting Native Americans AND being Confederate — it points to how children take on labels and identity markers because of what they know of them (no one probably told your Dad and his friends that the Confederates were “bad”; rather, they were just Southern) not because of any nuanced knowledge. Kids are complicated, as your post testifies.

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