The Southern Girl’s Guide To Proper Political Discourse: What Your Momma Should’ve Told You

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they’re thinking of electing a new president.

Of course you’ve heard.  You couldn’t have missed it, with all the shouting from both sides (we are a nation of equal opportunity meanies).  Some of the vitriol I’ve seen and read has made me feel suddenly less alarmed by the scuffles that sometimes erupt in the back of my mini-van.   

I know you’ve heard of political correctness, the idea of conducting yourself in a way to "minimize offense".  You might think that notion was invented by the media, or sociologists.  But you would be wrong.

It was invented by Southern women. 

We’ve made "minimizing offensiveness" an art form.  We do it all day.  We are trained to do it at our mothers’ knees.  In fact, I remember, quite distinctly, my parents telling me never, ever to bring up politics or money in conversation unless you were absolutely certain where the other person stood.  And even then, you should proceed carefully.

Since I have received such fine training myself, I thought I would offer up the following to the Whole Entire Internet, Or At Least The Portion That Blogs About Politics.

1.  Do not make assumptions that the person you’re talking with must vote a certain way because of her gender, race, religion, or shoe size.  That simply tells your conversation partner that you don’t think she’s smart enough to make up her own mind, and that is just plain tacky.  Anyway, you know what they say about assumptions….well, I’ll let you look that one up on your own.

2.  To expand on #1, when you begin a political discussion with a stranger or acquaintance, do not launch into a tirade about how horrible Senator Joe Don is, because this stranger might be voting for Joe Don.  Heck, your stranger might have a Daddy whose old football coach once had his hair cut by Joe Don’s niece.  It is the South, you know.

3.  Name calling is completely, always inappropriate.  But if you really feel you must throw around words such as "socialist" and "radical right-wing nut-job", it would soften things a bit if you would insert a "bless his heart" at the end of sentence.

4.  When you go to the polls in November, please do not wear white shoes, because that is after Labor Day.  It has nothing to do with politics, but I just needed to squeeze it in.

5.  Do not blanket statements of fact:  "ALL Republicans are money-hungry," or "ALL Democrats are overly emotional," or "All Texans have big hair."  Blanket statements are almost never true, and they just make the speaker sound desperate and uninformed.  And anyway, I’ve known plenty of Texans whose hair size was only slightly above average.

6.  It’s okay to disagree with someone and still like them.  Even if they’re voting for the Other Guy, or–worse–cheering for the University of Texas football team.  (I know.  I’m bagging on Texas a little.  They’re big, they can handle it.)

7.  Be charming.  If you find yourself utterly and completely annoyed, then make a joke.  If charming doesn’t work, head straight for that great old friend of Southern women, passive-aggressiveness.  You could even, perhaps, and I’m speaking purely hypothetically here, write a blog post about it… 

99 thoughts on “The Southern Girl’s Guide To Proper Political Discourse: What Your Momma Should’ve Told You

  1. Nicki says:

    Amen!!! I’ve, fortunately, been finding some of the political diatribe that is ocurring on many blogs, comical. So many times it’s one group accusing the other group of something that they are both equally guilty of doing. It’s rather ridiculous, really.

  2. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    Oh, I enjoyed that! Almost as much as I enjoyed all those comments on the Regional Stereotypes post! (Reckless Michigan Drivers!)
    You know, the one glimmer of hope I have in the “next generation” is that it seems a bit less politically divided and a bit more bipartisan.
    In unrelated news, I had to read the “Joe Don” about five times before I got it. Hey, it’s after midnight.

  3. Amy says:

    Very, very funny! And, can I just say that your summer break has made me appreciate your blog all the more. I’m so happy to be able to check it each day and find something new and great!

  4. WayMoreHomemade (Donna) says:

    Amen and Amen.
    I followed the last part of number 7 a while back and actually wrote about the same thing… only with out the wonderful wit and humor that you use. When did we start acting like such children?
    One more… be aware of the issues and don’t be afraid to admit that you may agree with the other side on a particular one, or that you’ve matured enough to root for the University of Texas against opponents like OU. I’m just sayin’ (as an Aggie).

  5. mimi2six says:

    If my 5th graders acted as mean and hateful as those in many political ads, they’d be staying in at recess writing sentences like, “If I can’t stay anything nice about someone, then I won’t say anything at all.” Love your age-old advice!

  6. Jackie says:

    Oh my goodness, #3 cracked me up! Being transplanted to the South from the north (3 years ago), I have totally gotten to see that phrase in action. I have not perfected it yet, (not even close!). But I keep working on it…..

  7. Melanie says:

    Thank you for this post! All of the bickering makes me tense. I don’t care where people stand – I may not agree, and I may not understand your stance, but I certainly don’t want to waste your time or my own trying to change your opinion.
    Oh, and my husband (UT Alum) has matured to the point that he let an Aggie put in our sprinkler system (amazing job!) AND an Aggie is going to be my orthodontist (because I need braces at 30 – ugh.)

  8. prasti says:

    LOL-great list! i have to agree w/ “Amber” on #7 being widely used in the west. when we lived in seattle, we met a lot of experts in the art of passive-aggressiveness 🙂

  9. Debbie says:

    Excellent post. As a life-long southerner, I couldn’t agree more. I also find that Point #2 comes in handy around here in any situation, not just politics. In my neck of the woods, most people are related to Joe Don…several times over.

  10. Jolyn says:

    Oh my goodness, #3 is so funny. Probably because my dh likes to throw out such wonderful diatribes against “ignorant lib-tards” and the idea of him ending with a “bless his heart” at the end made me snort my coffee up my nose.

  11. DES says:

    OH! You had me at #3! ROFL!
    Being a displaced easterner now potted in the NW, I have to be MN ‘nice’? *faints*
    Well said! <>

  12. Susan says:

    Thank you for this — especially #4–when will people learn this????
    My 17YO daughter overheard a political ad or something on the radio the other day, turned to me and asked “how old are these people?” I told her that sometimes they pass themselves off as adults.

  13. Emily says:

    I can’t believe how often our neighbors and co-workers don’t follow the “don’t talk about politics” rule. Many of them jump into a diatribe about candidates I like and after 20 minutes of ranting, they want to know what I think. Like I’m about to say anything!!
    How can we spread your list? Maybe I’ll post it on the local bulletin boards. (I mean the actual cork boards at the grocery store . . .)

  14. edj says:

    I’m not Southern and have never actually been to the South (unless you count Hawaii, where it is permissible in a pinch to go shopping in a swimsuit), but I’m right with you on this! Preach it, sistah! (Is that right? I don’t know the lingo)

  15. Jennifer says:

    I grew up the same way! I wish people wouldn’t talk to so openly about politics, because you never know where the other person stands. And I agree about the white shoes too.

  16. Summer says:

    Oh I love it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’m so sick of hearing all the bashing going on. Why can’t we all just have a well informed discussion about both candidates instead of attacking!

  17. mzzterry says:

    Bless your heart.
    I appreciate the sentiments, all of them. Just for the record I am a Texan, with slightly big hair that wouldn’t be caught dead in white shoes after Labor day!

  18. Texas in Africa says:

    Could we add, “Don’t forward nasty emails with content that is unsupported by the facts to everyone on your mailing list” to the list? Or at least hit up and snopes before you do?

  19. Carrie says:

    hehehe….my grandparents moved up north from Texas when my mother was 16 and I remember my grandma would be a negative nelly about someone and end it with bless his/her heart…and to this day it cracks me. The other one she used was if it was a behavior thing, “but he means well” gah.

  20. Cheri says:

    Well bless your heart. Now you’re just waiting for the insult, aren’t you? Don’t worry, there won’t be any 🙂 I loved this post – very well said.

  21. Gina Lane says:

    I will respectfully disagree with one statement… All Texans DO indeed have big hair. Texas is considered part of the south, and all southern women have big hair…some are just better at hiding it than others.

  22. Mrs. Pear says:

    Watching the whole election thing as a woman living in the US with a green card and therefore cannot vote, I figure that all I am seeing is nothing that a timer and a big trouble chair cannot fix….sorry, could not resist.
    Not that I can say much because our home country is having an election too, and it is just as ugly.
    I really appreciate your post!

  23. Octamom says:

    Amen. And anytime a “bless his/her heart’ is thrown in, it removes all judgment and gossip from the preceding statement….I’m sure it’s part of Southern law….
    Jefferson Davis…bless his heart…

  24. nat says:

    “Name calling is completely, always inappropriate. But if you really feel you must throw around words such as “socialist” and “radical right-wing nut-job”, it would soften things a bit if you would insert a “bless his heart” at the end of sentence.”

  25. Amy says:

    Love this post. You did a great job.
    Here in Oregon we don’t go to the polls…our State does poll mail-in. So, I will make sure not to wear “white shoes” while I sit in my livingroom and vote. Which by the way is on my birthday!

  26. moobeema says:

    I was just whining to my husband the other day about how worried I was about my hair when he gets elected to Congress! He said not to worry! Since I’m from Oregon I could wear dreadlocks if I want! WHEW! That’s a load off my mind!

  27. SusanB says:

    Amen! Your Mama raised you right (pronounced with the syrupy Savannah accents of my mother and grandmother).
    And #4? Genius. Wearing white after Labor Day is just plain tacky!
    And don’t forget, responding “How nice” to some politcal discussions is also southern belle code for something completely different! 🙂

  28. Nancy says:

    O this is such an important post with all that very critical info. I will make sure I remember #4 when I go to the poles, I would not want to offend anyone in the fashion industry..Too funny !!!

  29. Angela says:

    Oh, how I love it! Last week, I was tasked with informing some of my coworkers, via email, about some less-than-pleasant duties we’d all have to do… and I received a reply which said, “I just have to tell you, that was very well worded. Good job.” I wrote back and replied, “Thank you. I majored in tact.” A skill which my southern father instilled in me, just like eatin’ grits. 😉

  30. Jenny @ a latte talk says:

    Great post. LOL!
    I am SO not from the South, alhtough I’ve been known to throw a y’all around here and there. So I MIGHT just go out and wear white shoes to vote. GASP!
    But, your other rules are very true. I live and work in a population of people mostly-inclined-opposite-of-me politically, and I get that ALL the time… people assume you’re with them, and it’s very awkward to say, “well, actually, um… I see it differently.”

  31. Laura Leigh (LLMajer) says:

    AMEN, my fellow GRITS! BTW, I am a Longhorn but do not have big hair, and I still found this funny and agree with you and think anyone showing up in white shoes on election day should have their vote thrown out, bless their hearts…

  32. Megan@Hold it Up to the Light says:

    I LOVE this post, because:
    a) I am a Southern girl who has been raised in EXACTLY the same way (although when you get around my daddy you know PRECISELY what his views are, thank you very much!)
    b) It gives me the opportunity to state: yes, we do wear shoes here in Alabama, and we also know that white and linen are NOT OK after Labor Day…no matter what you non-Southerners may say (or choose to do for fashions sake). It is also essential for your little girl to wear a bow and a slip on Sunday to church. Fancy Panty Bloomers are also required.

  33. Kim says:

    Loved this post and had to share it with the hubby who also enjoyed it. We’re living overseas and our mantra is “never speak of politics ever, ever, ever”… be it American or local. Being southern (and charming of course) comes in handy when pushy people try to pull you into a political discussion. If the charm isn’t sufficient then the steel magnolia side of me kicks in.

  34. LauraLee Shaw says:

    Oh my goodness, I am in stitches!!!! I’ve been trying to think of a way to bring up the issue of slander in the political realm, but hey, I’ll just forward them to you…why bother? LOL!
    Love this post!

  35. emily says:

    so true! i’m so tired of reading all the angry blog posts about politics. it’s like you said – the person they’re attacking might very well be the person i’m voting for…

  36. Nancy says:

    From a Texas girl, I second all those comments. Especially the passive aggressive,, bless your heart part. It’s always amazing to me how some people can totally be rude and somehow you end up saying “thank you!” at the end. I guess I must not be a true Texan, since I never really mastered that art.

  37. Brandy T. says:

    Wow! My friend and I have been discussing all week how terrible it is that people assume we share their political views, and therefore go off on all sorts of tirades.
    I also love the whole, “You can disagree with someone and still like them.” I’m surprised at how many people don’t get that.
    Thanks again!

  38. Everything Mom says:

    I love it !!! I really love #3. I think its a riot when I hear one of my relatives
    (Good southern women) say the meanest thing about someone only to follow it with “Bless their heart”. he he he

  39. Sheila says:

    Awesome post! Sometimes I get carried away on my own blog. It’s easy to do. Frustration gets the best of me. Then I write about raising my kids and I get back on the right path mentally! lol. I don’t know what makes me crazier, teenagers or politics.

  40. EEEEMommy says:

    Bless your heart! A friend of mine shared this link after one of my political blog posts blew up in my face last week. She told me to enjoy it with a cup of sweet tea, bless her heart. 😉
    I am reminded of one of my summer jobs in college where an elderly gentleman I worked with very sternly told me that religion, money, and politics were the three subjects that should never be discussed in the workplace or most social settings. That pretty much forced me to be silent for the duration of that employment as there didn’t seem to be anything else worth talking about. That was before I had children of course. At least they’re a safe topic now, until I start quoting what they said about politics…
    I do thank you for sharing your wisdom. The next time I mention a femi-nazi, I will certainly end that statement with bless her little heart. Of course with my luck, it’ll probably be mistaken for condescending rather than sincere or even humorous…

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