Compliments and Benevolent Sexism

Miri, the blogger behind Brute Force, discusses the problems with imposing unsolicited “compliments” on women. She notes that men often get angry when women do not respond with enthusiasm when a man comments on her appearance. Giving “compliments” is all about context. As Miri points out, complimenting someone you know very well (a friend or family member) and who welcomes such comments is fine. Feeling a need to vocalise your judgement about a woman’s looks on the street, at work or anywhere else is not okay. She writes:

“In a perfect world, you could tell a woman she’s hot and she would smile and say thank you because there would be no millennia-long history of women’s bodies being used and abused by men, no notion of women’s beauty as being ‘for’ men, no ridiculous beauty standards. Complimenting a woman on her appearance would be just like complimenting a person on their bike or their shoes or the colour of their hair; it would not carry all the baggage that it carries in this world. But that’s not our world, and it may never be. Yeah, it sucks that women often take it ‘the wrong way’ when you give them unsolicited compliments. You know what sucks more? Yup, patriarchy.”

The idea that women need to be evaluated on their looks, “complimentary” way or otherwise, is a form of sexism. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

[Image: a woman sits at her computer reading. “Nope,” she says at the screen, kicking it. She continues to say “nope” as she boards a spaceship and flies into the sun.]