Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” Is Perfect When You Need to Stick It to Small Town Hypocrites

Jeannie C Riley country music

Maybe it’s growing up as a woman in a small southern town, but there were very few places I could go without seeing someone I knew that would do that look up and down thing at my outfit and (probably fake) smile.

Essentially, they were judging me no matter what I was doing, in Walmart or at breakfast, for no good reason. I was just trying to live my life.

And I’d have to smile and do nothing, even though I usually knew all about their dirty laundry that made my crop top look like a nun’s outfit.

While country music can have some wonderfully petty tunes about being a hypocrite like “Long Walk” by Brandy Clark, I gotta admit that “Harper Valley P.T.A” has been the song that has stuck with me the most.

The song follows a single mother whose teenage daughter comes home one day with a note from the local P.T.A. chastising the mother for her high skirts:

“Well the note said, “Mrs. Johnson
You’re wearin’ your dresses way too high
It’s reported you’ve been drinking
And a-running round with men and goin’ wild
And we don’t believe you oughta be
A-bringin’ up your little girl this way”

Mrs. Johnson isn’t exactly following the socials norms of how women were “supposed” to act at the time. The song was released in the late ’60s, so of course, gender norms were much more strict than they are now.

But instead of just accepting these people and feeling chastised, the singer (as many women in country songs at the time) decides to stand up for herself by opening a can full of closet skeletons for each member of the Harper Valley P.T.A.

While adorned in a very short miniskirt, of course:

“Well, there’s Bobby Taylor sittin’ there
And seven times he asked me for a date
And Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lotta ice
Whenever he’s away
And Mr. Baker can you tell us why
Your secretary had to leave this town?”

The entire song makes me think of the show Gilmore Girls with Lorelai constantly having to prove herself to the rich upperclass of Connecticut. I’m not sure we get a great take down like in this song though, expect for maybe in the revival of the show when Emily (Lorelai’s mom) has an epic speech as she quits DAR.

The song, which has been covered many times and had a movie of the same name based off it in 1978, is just this awesome story of a woman standing up for herself and calling out all of those people who thought it was okay to judge her.

While we might not be able to ever walk into a room and point out the hypocrisies of every person who gave us a dirty look or made a snide comment, we can sing this song very loudly to hopefully get some kind of catharsis.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock