Compared to farming cultures, those reliant upon herding were prone to male aggression. Because livestock are mobile, herders were more vulnerable to theft. Raiders cannot rustle crops out of the ground like they can cattle.
The increased dangers herders faced motivated male vigilance to threat, including creating concern for establishing and maintaining a reputation for toughness, along with a concomitant propensity to seek revenge. This fostered a culture of honor based upon character.
Cultures that emphasize male honor inculcate boys to defend their reputations aggressively. This in turn leads to a propensity for interpersonal aggression to defend the honor of an in-group.
Cultures that valorize honor tended to a dry plains geography that lent itself to herding economies. This includes many Mediterranean cultures – Spain, Italy, Greece – and Arabs in the Middle East. This also applies to cultures formed by herder immigrants, such as in Latin and South America, which were colonized by herders from the Iberian peninsula.
The early waves of European immigrants to the southern United States came mainly from the borderlands of Scotland and Ireland. Unlike the Puritan farmers who settled the North, Southerners were from herding societies with a culture that esteemed honor.
The US South, and western regions of the US initially settled by Southerners, are more violent than the rest of the country. The herding regions of the South are still the most violent.
Homicide rates for White Southern males are substantially higher than those for White Northern males, especially in rural areas. But only for argument-related homicides are Southern rates higher. Southerners do not endorse violence more than do Northerners when survey questions are expressed in general terms, but they are more inclined to endorse violence for protection and in response to insults. ~ Richard Nisbett
Incidents of incidental aggression which male Northerners may find amusing angers Southerners, who feel insulted. Southerners more commonly believe that a boy should handle a bully by fighting back.
State laws reflect the cultural divide of honor. In Florida and some other southern states, a homeowner can legally kill a home intruder without having to prove that the intruder was an immediate threat. Until the 1970s, a man in Texas could legally defend his honor by shooting his spouse’s lover out the saddle if caught in the act.
Culture of honor values not only provide ideological support for male aggression, but social approval for women who “stand by their man,” remaining loyal and committed even in the face of violence. ~ Laurie Rudman & Peter Glick
Much of the conservative streak in the South reflects endorsement of a culture of honor. Opposition to gun control is stronger in the South than other parts of the country, as people view guns as necessary for self-protection. Southerners show stronger support for war as a way to defend national honor.
The mores of an honor culture bear a strong similarity to sexist ideologies, notably benevolent sexism. Under this creed, men should fight to protect the honor of women, especially their intimate partners or relatives.
Honor for a female is quite different than for a male. Whereas a woman’s honor is to modesty and sexual purity, a man’s honor demands independence and toughness.
Beyond physical threat, honor culture includes protecting a woman’s reputation from insult, and her person from other men’s sexual advances. Most Southern men, asked to imagine a male friend making sexually suggestive remarks to their girlfriend, view this as an insult to honor, deserving a violent reaction.
Southern man, when will you pay them back? I heard screamin’ and bullwhips cracking. ~ Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young in the song “Southern Man” (1970)
I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow. ~ Southern popular music group Lynyrd Skynyrd in the song “Sweet Home Alabama” (1974), written in response to Neil Young’s insulting song