In Defense of the Southern Man

She said, “Don’t call me, ‘sweetheart.’ It’s misogynistic.”

But, as a southern man it’s one of the highest praises I can respond with. Of course I would never do that to a man. And do you know why? He doesn’t deserve being treated with such a prominence as that of lady. He is my equal. And you, my dear, are not to be treated as my equal. You are to be treated better than him. And you always will.

gregory-and-bearYou see, southern men do a great job of treating women of such value that we’re famous for it. We battle our fathers, crass with our contemporaries. But, we treat women differently. We acknowledge our mothers and pay them homage. Our mothers are sacred. We honor chaste ladies that are chased with a reverence afforded only the saints. We respond to a woman’s power with an acknowledged “yes, ma’am.”

Ladies, women, have a valued place in the southern man’s heart. She fills the deficit, she fills his weaknesses and makes him strong, and like wise, she shows wide eyed respect when he grabs her by the waist, pulls her close and whispers, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ve got you.” And he looks deeper into her eyes and she knows, yes, this man will fight dragons for me.

So when a southern man calls you “sweetheart,” listen close. He’s not demeaning you. He’s placing you on a higher grade than that of himself. The sweet part of his heart. His sweet heart. When he calls you “ma’am,” try not to dismiss his intentions. For they are the best that you could imagine. He has recognized you as valuable and deserving of bowed reverence. So as we push ourselves into a new century where traditions are being pushed away for the sake of solid and determined requests for acceptance as equal, our choice of words, our attempt at acknowledging you as a more beautiful thing than me may come across as alien and foreign in voices that are not politically correct. We mean only the highest praise in ways that were taught to us by the women that reared us. The lady is more precious than the jewelry she wears, her lineage and breeding, and her social standing. She has a value in our hearts that we men sweeten to. She is, and always will be, a lady. A sweetheart.

So ladies, please don’t bitch when we call you “sweetheart” or “ma’am.” Because our own mothers would flip out and destroy us if we didn’t offer you our highest respects. And we listen to our mothers. To a southern man, women rule all.



  1. Loved “Shut Up and Knit,” but may like this one even more. Xoxo from a southern woman who enjoys being called “sweetheart,” “honey,” etc.

    P.S. It’s jarring when I travel in other parts of the country and men don’t hold open doors or walk out of an elevator before me. My first thought is generally, “Who raised you?” before remembering where I am.

    P.P.S. Love that you break stereotypes (gay AND conservative? 😊), but mostly I love that you’re courageous enough to be YOURSELF.

  2. I’m not going to be very popular here with this response, but I’m going to share it anyway.

    First of all, Southern men may be known for revering women, but Southerners, as a whole, are also known for verbal sugar which sweetens their words as heavily as their tea, bless your hearts, so pardon those of us who prefer a little less of it.

    If you were offended by that last paragraph, I’m sorry. Truly. Because I didn’t mean it to be offensive. Just honest, as I see it. And that is a heartfelt apology because:

    A. What you mean by the words you say is less important than how they are heard by the person to whom you are speaking. Let me say that again: It doesn’t matter what you mean by what you say, however innocent; if you knowingly say it to someone who hears it as offensive, it’s wrong. When I read β€œDon’t worry, sweetheart. I’ve got you,” I don’t think “Yes, this man will fight dragons for me.” I think, “This guy has a pretty inflated ego AND he doesn’t think much of me. He thinks I’m incapable of taking care of myself and only HE can rescue me.” So, no matter what you mean when you say it, that’s what I hear. It makes my stomach clench and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Also:

    B. Only my husband gets to grab me by the waist and pull me close to whisper anything. If anyone else had ever done it, they wouldn’t have gotten any wide eyed respect. They’d have gotten a black eye and an earful of get-your-hands-off-of-me. But finally:

    C. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal and treated like a saint, because I’m not a saint. I’m human. Leave me on the ground as your equal. The pedestal is lonely, and the higher it is, the more dangerous it is to fall from.

    1. I’ll take your comments to heart.But, it’s unfortunate that a post that was an offering of kindness and acknowledgement was taken so hard to heart that it made you feel uncomfortable. Should we be in an actual real-time setting, I’d wish you a lovely evening, and all the best in your endeavors, tip my hat and walk away. Take care.

      1. It didn’t actually make me uncomfortable, because you weren’t calling me sweetheart. This was purely a discussion on how/why this phrase makes some women respond negatively. If you were to actually, in real time, wish me a lovely evening, I’d smile back, say, “And to you as well!” and walk away feeling warm & fuzzy. πŸ™‚

    2. I’ll take what you said and consider the place from within that it comes from. I spent many years in the south (GA) and I’ve always taken sweetheart, hun, sweetie, darlin’ and many others for what they are intended.
      Gregory is right, they are considered compliments. That said, your inability to accept a compliment in any form speaks volumes to the issues you have within yourself. Be it how you were raised or something happening in your life that made you uncomfortable with compliments in general and only being willing to accept a compliment from “certain” people is an issue I care not to delve into.

  3. Ok, this is only to lighten the mood! But in regards to that last comment on my blog about Southern men, I asked Phillip what I should respond back with. He asked, “What’s your initial reaction?” and my reply? “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”

    1. And this, literally, made me laugh out loud. So loud that I woke the dog. From saint to bitch in under a minute! hahaha! But I’m much more comfortable there. It’s hard to laugh from up on high. πŸ˜‰

  4. Ah, Gregory, you have a kind & well meaning heart. Don’t let the negative stuff that comes get you down. I was the envy of all my friends when my boyfriend opened car doors for me, etc. Yes, he is now and has been for many years my husband, and I appreciate his & any other person’s courtesy in holding a door open for me. The arm around my waist……..only if you do it in the way you would do it to your grandmother. : )
    You are a dear.

  5. We need more Southern gentlemen to make this a better world. Wouldn’t a return to civility be an improvement over rudeness and crassness? Personally, I would love to be called sweetheart by a gentleman!

  6. When I was younger (lots), I was told to watch how the men treated their mothers, as that is how he would treat me. Sorry, I was too hardheaded to listen at that time

  7. I appreciate your explaining the cultural differences of language. When a northern man says sweetheart, it is something else entirely, like babe, toots. Remember Bogie? I get annoyed when anyone, male or female call me anything other than my name, if they know it. However, understanding where a southern man, or woman is coming from, I would happily being addressed, respectfully as “ma’am,” or “sweetheart.” It is not so much the words we use but the intention behind them. For example, I once read an African Am woman post on Facebook that no white person may ever call her “girl.”

    Just keep being you. I sense your integrity and caring intentions and I really appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable. Political correctness is often a lot of posturing. It is a cultural phenomena and not always sincere.

  8. This post expresses perfectly what I know as a woman born and raised in the South. It is something I try to explain to friends who wonder that I am not insulted when a man calls me “sweetheart” or “honey.” It is the South that “bless your heart” means I am sorry for your troubles. I never heard it used any other way until online recently. The next time I am questioned about being called “sweetheart,” I am sending the questioner to your post. Thank you for an always thoughtful, honest post, Greg.

  9. As a western Yankee, I’d be comfortable with “sweetheart” from a relative, fellow female, or anyone old enough to be fatherly. (I’m now old enough to start calling people that myself.) I teach school, so ma’am is great and I like to be addressed as “Mrs. —“, rather than my first name.

    I think we should all hold doors open for each other, but have trained my husband not to do it with the car doors, because it feels silly and over-protective to me. (Like Timeless, I’m afraid of pedestals.) However, I would never criticize anyone for having more formal manners than mine. I know that my male colleagues who speed up their steps to get the door were raised right and I appreciate their politeness.

  10. I wish there were more Southern men out here in the Far West. I like having doors opened for me and being called “ma’am.” I find it endearing and respectful.

    If we would all put one another up on pedestals and honor one another, the world would be a better place.

  11. Oh Gregory, You can call me sweetheart anytime! I’m 56 yrs old, from Australia & grew up with my Dad & Granddad walking on the car side of the footpath – from the days of the horse & cart splashing up muddy water from dirt roads! Chivalry is almost dead!

  12. My favorite part of living in Louisiana is when a gentleman calls me “Cher.” It doesn’t happen often enough!

  13. Hmm – either my post never showed up or it got deleted. I’m from the south and I love the terms of endearment. It’s all about the intention behind the words. If there’s genuine kindness, call me sweetheart all day long. And someone else mentioned that men don’t open doors or wait for women to exit an elevator first in parts of the country. THAT I miss about the south. And the lightning bugs πŸ™‚

  14. sadly what comes out of your mouth is a complement, but what goes in the ears is an insult, I love your words and agree, when you mean that it is wonderful, but I often get ‘love’ and ‘darhlin’ thrown at me and most are demeaning 😦 you just have to look and listen, I will always accept this from those who mean me well, sadly some do not, you just need to learn that they have an issue and the ears that here a complement wrong are their choice, you know how you mean it. Thank you putting it into words. It is very hard in the current world to know when it is a complement and when it is ‘bantar’ which I find very offensive. Smile and keep your head high!

  15. Thoughts from a Brit here. As a young woman, I would be addressed respectfully as Miss. At some point in my ageing process, this became Madam. I dislike the latter a great deal because it makes me feel old!

    I think I would love to be addressed as Ma’am. Personally speaking, to me it sounds warm and respectful.

    I agree that we should be very aware of how words are received, as well as how we mean them. I enjoyed reading the comments on this post as there was a real intention to understand each other, and not the usual sad descent into name -calling that can so often happen.

    A mark of the kind of folk you gather around you, Gregory. Love to you, and all who read this x

  16. I absolutely love when I hear a southern man… with that southern accent call me sweetheart, darling, dear… or all of the above! It makes me feel comfortable with them… and its definitely a southern thing πŸ™‚

  17. As a ‘yankee’ born and bred, I suppose I should feel offended by being called ‘sweetheart’ but I’m not. I try to listen for the intention behind the words and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. My husband of 33 years opens doors for me, brings the car to the door in the pouring rain, makes sure I am on the inside when we walk down the sidewalk. No, he doesn’t think I am helpless. He thinks I am precious and he feels protective. Can I take care of myself? Of course. I’m an adult woman who teaches coworkers how to handle and take down aggressive patients in a mental health facility..

    But (and this is a big but), it gives him such pleasure to do small kindnesses for me and I will not deny him his chance to do so.

    As a Southern gentleman, you politeness is bred into your heart and soul. I would no more expect you to change than I would my husband.

  18. I get more “sweetheart” and “Hon / honey” from females (especially waitresses) than males, and often I figure it’s just because they want to create that closer bond, but don’t know your name or feel they may be crossing a line to call you something else. But I’m in Kentucky, so it’s borderline (mixed Northern and Southern, we all can get along). We are working to raise our boys with “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” though, which I never had growing up in the north…..chivalry is not dead, but it is in hiding – I remember glaring at coworkers who made a big deal about opening doors for me, or help with moving heavy objects – after being pregnant and realizing they just want to help and know I can do it myself, it’s been easier to let them be the gentlemen they were trained up to be, and not feel insulted. But I’m also not insulted if they don’t pause at the door to let me through – so long as they don’t slam it on me, we’re all ok. πŸ™‚

  19. I’m going to be unpopular for this, too… but I’m not your sweetheart. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I don’t want that sort of familiarity from a stranger. I worked in a home improvement store for a decade and that sort of thinking by men lead to being called all sorts of pet names, lots of unwanted touching, and even one joker who GRABBED MY HAIR.

    So yeah. Don’t put us on pedestals, but treat us as equals. πŸ™‚

  20. I must admit that I have very different opinions than you about your last two posts. And this has provided some soul searching. I was raised in the northeast U.S. with my family arriving after the Civil War. For more than half my life I have lived in the west. When I see a confederate flag around here it is often on an old beat up truck with a few white men inside. I figure they are southern and never adjusted to loosing the war. But I guess that is too simplistic,

    Then I realized that when a man I do not know calls me sweetheart, I do take offense and get stand offish. Maybe because it is often followed by a pick up line. Rarely done well. If you do not know me, please don’t call me sweetheart.

    I open doors for people and thank those that open doors for me. I smile at people and make eye contact. I am my husband’s sweetheart but not anyone else.

  21. I love to be called nice things like ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’ and ‘honey’ and to have a man be a gentleman and treat me accordingly. I am very glad to have been married to a gentleman for many years. I am English, living on the south Coast of England, and have just discovered your blog. Will enjoy following it I think.

  22. Beautiful post. I love your blog but can’t find your etsy shop (?) I’m a native Angelena ( from Los Angeles ) and I have to say men here open doors and let ladies go first and I find it sweet. Social niceties make the world go round so please never lose them. My parents are from NYC but I’ve always felt I’d fit in in the South, y’all are so charming…

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