Is The South Culturally Conservative?

I was born and raised in Arizona and while they may call it the southwest the cultural aspects of living in the south are far different than living in the southwest. On the other hand Brent was born and raised in the south. About eleven years ago we packed our bags and very few belongings and and headed to the south, Texas. I have spent a very impressionable time in the south and the “way of life” if you will was passed to me through living there and raising my child(ren) there.

the south

Image Courtesy of ToniVC on Flickr

In my relationship with Brent you would find the title of this post to not fit what and who we were/are. We had three kids together before we got married. We even “dated” and lived together before we got married. Seven years to be exact. While our main reasoning for getting married was the obvious, we loved each other and have already gone through the “steps” the other factors for marriage were simple: insurance, life insurance, etc. To us a piece of paper only declared to the government our status, our status was something we felt in our hearts and thought in our minds.

But then there is Brent’s brother, we’ll call him B for now. B has dated and lived with A, his girlfriend, for a few months shy short of how long Brent and I have been together. All of Brent’s brothers have dated, married and have children and some even divorced and married again. Except B. He’s only lived and dated the same girl, A, for this extensive amount of time. And during this time he has yielded the questions from his family: “Are you ever going to get married?”, “Are you ever going to have children?”. A is your typical California girl. No not blond hair and big boobs that you see on TV, but raised in what could be perceived in a liberal manner; Children and marriage are for when you are ready not a step in your life.

So here is where I pose the ultimate question – is the south conservative in a cultural manner? To get a better understanding and view of this I reached out to those with a southern lifestyle background. For example, Jessica owner of when posed the question of the planned life, if you will, she said; “I did not have the traditional family, but I do raise my children with these beliefs because I feel it is the right way”. With her answer, I wondered more if those without the “traditional southern lifestyle” also felt the same as her. It also made me delve into my thoughts as I wasn’t raised this way but I do have a strong belief that there are steps you should take as opposed to doing things backwards like Brent and I. So upon further interviews like with Trisha owner, who also wasn’t raised with the strong southern lifestyle, made a point in becoming independent in her thoughts of marriage and values; “I think there is a difference in growing up in the South vs a family that just lives there. We moved from the midwest to the south when I was about 10, so I spent my entire life there. However, my father wasnt raised Southern, if that makes sense, therefore regular traditions were not a part of the family, but picked up culturally.  Regarding marriage, I think all parents try to teach marriage. My dad unfortunately went through a few relationships in life, but that was his growth. I still learned the importance of marriage via his mistakes”. And posing the same question to Kasandria of; “I don’t believe everyone should get married. No 2.  people are not all  alike and not every conventional marriage works out for the best anyway. As long as my kids are happy then I will be happy in their choices”; giving herself and her children the chance to freely think and accept life with an open mind. Much like how I was raised, you don’t just do something because that is what is supposed to happen.

But still it left me thinking about those raised in the south, with your “normal” southern family, traditions and way of though. So Linda of, gave me the inside scoop of the real southern prospective. Below are the questions and answers I posed to her to grasp is the South is culturally conservative or not:

1. Growing up in the South or with Southern Traditions did you feel that
you were raised with a strong belief in the sanctity of marriage and in
family? Yes, and I still have the same feelings!

2. Did you grow up with strong beliefs that your life was planned one way
(i.e High School, College, Marriage then Children? I don’t feel as though my life was planned for me. My parents were always the “Go with your heart and Do your best” types. As long as I was happy, they were happy. (Kind of like I couldn’t disappoint them)

3. Did you ever feel pressured to be married with children? from my parents? No From other family members/friends? YES

It’s just what is done here in the South. If you are over a certain age NOT married then something must be wrong (according to most). It’s just so “normal” to be a married SAHM toting around 3 kids in the grocery store here and how dare someone actually have the KIDS before marriage *Gasp*

4. Was acting a certain way (i.e properly, “like a lady”, with high
manners) was something that MUST be done or just an option? We were never really FORCED to act a certain way however, we just KNEW how to act around others. (Common Courtesy….and the “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all” were always in play) Let’s just say, acting a certain way in front of family was one thing but acting a certain way (unlady like) in front of others was just not something we did. My momma had this LOOK. When we got THE LOOK, we knew we better shape up!

5. Was dating and living with someone for extensive amount of time (10 yrs
without marriage) frowned upon? Oh yeah! lol The old ladies at the Waffle House really love to talk about this one.

6. Was respect (i.e. saying yes ma’am or no ma’am) pushed upon you? Again, NO but I always knew to say it around other adults. I have some friends that would have been punished if they forgot to say it though. My parents were not that strict. Maybe I was just a good kid? hmm Not sure what happened to me

I think in the end, truly the south is conservative in a cultural aspect. Those that were born, raised and lived the southern lifestyle tend to agree and lean towards the understanding that some things are just this way. And if there is one thing we all agree is that raising our children with the respect of themselves and others and teaching them that; “Yes ma’am, No Ma’am” is not a punishment of a forced act, just a sign of this respect. I do not frown upon those we graduate high school, go onto college, get married or have children. It is what I teach and hope for my children. I do no frown upon those we did the same as I, having children as a teenager and doing things “backwards”. To each their own chosen path they must lead. But if there is one thing my mother in law taught me it is “My children may say they hate me, but they damn sure will always respect me“. And I hope for nothing more of that of my children. And of course, Jessica reminded of the few things the south is big on, known for and what I miss the most;Jessica said; “This is something that I could not believe was not done when I moved to Illinois. I was raised to say yes ma’am, yes sir to anyone as a way of being polite. Being in Illinois for 8 years, I did not require my children to say this when they were young. However, I know it was something that I wanted to instill in my children and something that I thought about when moving them back here. They still struggle with saying it to me or in our household, but have learned to say it at school and outside the home. I feel that saying yes ma’am, yes sir is a sign of respect. There are many other southern traditions that I think are not practiced in other parts of the country. One of the most important reasons that I wanted to move my family back home was the southern hospitality. When you walk past someone in the street, you always speak. You always speak to anyone you see when you visit someone, especially parents. We always offer to share anything, even a bag of chips. Everyone is always welcome to other peoples houses when there is a large meal. One thing that I did not notice in Illinois was the courtesy to a grieving family. In the south, when a family member passes, their home is flooded with food. All kinds of food. This helps the family thru the funeral and shortly afterward. One less thing for them to worry about”. And Kasandria agrees, “I do wish to instill quite a few of these in my children. The first thing anyone says about my kids when they meet them is How polite and respectful they are. Which they should be because I have made them that way. Anytime they asked for something we made sure it was the correct way. For Example. Kids-Mom can I have some milk? Me-What do you say? Kids-Mom, can I have some milk please Ma’am? I think by having manners and being polite it not only instill respect to others, but shows that you respect yourself as well”.

And I couldn’t agree more. So if manners, traditions, family values and character in themselves and as a community is what the south entails as being culturally conservative – I’ll take it. I’ll take a double to be quite honest with you. Just leave out the planned part because I have a feeling my children will do what they wish when they become adults themselves.


  1. I haven’t ever been to the south nor lived in the south but most of the people who have seem to think in a way I imagine them being. My father loves the south, he thinks the people there are very nice and just so much more fun to be around than those here in New England area. I must admit I don’t raise my kids to say “Ma’am” because I just don’t like it, I would feel odd if someone called me that and it’s probably because I was born and raised in NH and we don’t talk like that. I don’t take it as a negative though, I think it’s a great positive.

    I used to never agree on divorce, but here I am facing divorce in the form of legal separation, so I can say that no matter how I was raised I still live my life to be happiest because when I am at my best and happiest then my children are their happiest.

    It’s funny how different everyone is in their values and beliefs depending upon where they have lived or currently live. I think we all seem to agree on one thing though “That our children should live a life that makes them happiest, whatever that may be” and that is something I can certainly agree with.
    .-= Brandy´s last blog ..Social Media is Addicting? =-.

    • Brittany says:

      Amen Brandy! And you know what, whatever works for you is best. If you are happy that is what matters. I think it’s not just our children we all believe that in – it’s everyone. 🙂

  2. Great article Brittany! It’s so funny to see some almost the same exact answers on everyone’s questions. 🙂
    .-= Kasandria´s last blog ..~Wordless Wednesday~ Cute? =-.

  3. Oh My Word….I hope I don’t have some of those old ladies at The Waffle House hunting me down now.

    Great article!

    P to the S: THAT LOOK I was talking about (from my mom) Well, it doesn’t work on my kids. I need to ask her what the secret is.
    .-= Linda @ My Trendy Tykes´s last blog ..Hopeful =-.

  4. This post somewhat rankled me.

    I was raised in the North by a Southern mom. I live in the South now. I say sir and ma’am. I’ve been happily married for 17 years. No divorce. I’m a stay at home mom fulfilling a tradional role. We have 5 childen. I’m Christian. Many people looking at me might consider me conservative. The truth is though I’m not. I believe in choice whether it be who you choose to spend your life with or when you choose to have children. I am spiritual, not religious. I don’t have a church I affiliate with instead proscribing to the belief that God is everywhere and in everything I do. I empathize with women who have to work or who choose to work thanks to my 11 years in the military(which might also be why I kept the sir and ma’am.) While I may be a traditional stay at home mother I am not theleast bit subservient. Being a helpmate means telling my spouse when I think he is wrong. I expect he same thing from the man I am partnered with.

    I disagree with the premise that the South is the only place where people share. In California, it was not uncommon for clthin to be passed down and passed on. After we lost a child, while stationed in California I had people offer up casseroles to me to help allow me time to grieve and help while my family adjustedad my spuse returned from overseas. It isn’t JUST the suth that does these type of things. Most close knit communities do these type of things. Likely, your friend in Illinois did not have a close relationship with her neighbors. It takes time and energy and a certain measure of trust to do so. Perhaps she was short on one of the three.

    I also take umbrage with the idea that the conservative South has cornered the market on tradition. I had recipes passed down while living in the North. I continue to pass on these recipes to my sons and daughters. My wedding dress is in my closet for my daughter. Each of the children have receiving blanket put away to pass on for their own children. My kids have heard stories of their grandma, my father, my stepfather, and my brother.

    I guess I just disagree that having manners, believing in the importance of teaching history(including your own), family values(which in my opinion does not mean forcing people to conform to what YOUR opinion of what a family should look like; which I would argue is as IMPOLITE as all get out)or even community are all that “conservative.” They are just values that conservatives confer upon themselves and seem to insist are theirs solely(again not something I would overwhelmingly consider polite as much as arrogant).

    I’m sure this post isn’t going to get me in the good graces of some. I’ll likely be hogtied at the next Southern Conservative Ladies Tea. So be it though. I think the world is better off knowing that it isn’t only conservatives that teach and practice respect, courtesy, or charecter, let alone Southern conservatives.

  5. Nothing wrong with having some great values for sure~! I am a true northerner but still expect my children to say yes mam or no sir. Respect is respect no matter where you live and as far as following steps I figure to each their own as long as they love and treat each other with respect that is the important part. I myself have lived with my loved one for 7 years now unmarried but I do preach to my children the steps because this is what I would like to see but if they don’t I will love them no less and I will understand and care only of their happiness. Great Read Thank You
    Live Long & Happy & tell your family you Love them everyday 🙂
    .-= Rhonda Martin´s last blog ..Two Of A Kind Working On A Full House Stork Craft Giveaway =-.

  6. I’m not sure how to answer the original question — because I can answer yes, and no.

    I was born, raised, and still live in the South, here in Kentucky. Deep South folks may argue that we’re a border state, but if I travel even a remote way north, folks will comment on my accent.

    For the questions you posed:
    1. Most definitely — marriage and family values were paramount when I was young, and still are the things I hold most dear.

    2. High School, College, Married — who knows? I was definitely going on to college, and a career after that, but I certainly wasn’t pushed into any decision or life planning by my family. I grew up in a rural community, and if you weren’t farming, an education was key.

    3. Pressured to be married with children? Not at all — I got married after college, and had a baby shortly thereafter.

    4. Acting like a lady? Absolutely. You respected your elders, didn’t dare talk back, and you’d be in MAJOR trouble at home if you got in trouble in school with a teacher, or with someone else’s parents, etc.

    5. Living together before marriage — major faux pas in my family. I got my butt chewed up one side and down the other when I moved in with my to-be first husband. Only time in my life I ever heard my Grandma drop the F-bomb. She was LIVID!

    6. Was respect pushed upon you? I wouldn’t call it pushed, but we were expected to treat adults with respect, no matter if they were our parents, grandparents, youth group leaders, teachers, or checkers at the grocery store. It’s just what we did.

    For me, this lifestyle of ‘Southern Hospitality” is all I know, what I’m comfortable with, and will be passing on to my children. Is it a product of the South, or is it a product of families passing down treasured values, traditions, and expectations no matter where they live?