A compliment is the introduction to any relationship, whether it be romantic or platonic. It's the easiest conversation starter with a complete stranger.
Like most women, I enjoy being showered with compliments more than open bars at weddings. They're like little validation sprinkles that boost our fragile feminine egos. Words of affirmation are powerful and can turn the crappiest day into one of the best days of our lives.
It’s amazing how much of an impact the right compliment from the right guy can have to instantly turn our sidewalks into our fashion show runways. However, a complement also has the power to turn our sidewalks into pathways of harassment and objectification.
The first time I was complimented, or “cat called” I should say, I was 10 years old in the 5th grade. I was in the beginning stages of puberty when my body started filling out, which began to attract the opposite sex, specifically, perverted boys in my grade and older men. Unaware of what was happening to my body because I only had eyes for hot cheetos, handball and Hello Kitty, I was overwhelmed with confusion when I was complimented on my “fat ass” by a man that looked about 20+. At the time, I didn’t know how to identify that emotion but as time when on, I realized that I felt objectified.
As I matured through middle school and high school, the disrespectful compliments and catcalling increased which took a dig at my self-esteem. I grew flustered because I was conditioned by society and my peers to believe that I should be “flattered” that a man is attracted to me but it only made me want to cover my body in baggy clothing. There were times where those toxic compliments were accompanied with being touched, grabbed, and even vandalization.
When I was 19, a guy who was upset that my friends and I weren’t receptive to their compliments and advances began kicking my car so hard that it was covered in dents. We were called out of our names and threatened with physical violence. Luckily, a few of our male friends saw us and came to our rescue to dissolve the situation. All too often, women are put in difficult situations where rejecting a man’s cat calling can end with a traumatizing outcome. Just recently, a woman by the name of Bailey Cantrell had her car vandalized by a man who could not handle rejection to his advances and stomped her windshield, causing it to shatter. Thankfully, Bailey was unharmed but women like Raelynn Vincent, Paris Sashay, Janese Talton Jackson, and many other women like them were subjected to violence and even murder for not being receptive. To protect ourselves, women are coached to carry pepper spray, wear modest clothing, and even to “just give them the number anyway” to prevent possible attacks.
Since the beginning of time (literally), women have been conditioned to give in to the entitlement that accompanies the toxic compliments and cat calling from men because our bodies exist solely for the judgment and consumption of men. In 2018, we are still taught to believe that all compliments from men are good compliments and that we should be grateful to be the object of any man’s sexual attraction. When women reject or ignore these problematic compliments and advances from men, women are often deemed ungrateful, rude, and subjected to aggressive behavior. The fact that women can relate most to each other through horrific catcalling incidents as much as getting our menstrual cycle is problematic af and the cycle must be broken.
Both, men and women, have fragile egos but it doesn’t give a man an excuse to disrespect, violate or harm any woman that doesn’t welcome an unwanted compliment. Genuine words of affirmation is an effective tool to engage with others but as most of us were taught in kindergarten, not everyone is obligated to play with you in the sandbox. Whether those words have ulterior motives or not, if we feel uncomfortable, we should not be forced to accept it and should be able to walk away with our mind, spirit, and bodies in tact. This is not a feminist rant, this is a request that men respect us as we are more alike than we assume and would like to navigate our day peacefully just as much as men do.
In light of the #metoo movement, I have encountered numerous men on and offline that are frustrated on how to compliment a woman out of fear of being accused of sexual harassment.
There are 3 easy questions a man can ask himself before issuing his compliment:
1. What are my intentions?
Check your motives. Are you complimenting this woman because you want something from her or do you genuinely like how she looks in her dress?
2. How would i feel if someone said this to my Mother/ Sister/ Aunt/ Daughter?
Think about it. You don’t know this person or maybe you do but not as close as you would like. If someone gave your sister the same compliment that you want to give to the desired woman, would you be offended?
3. What will my reaction be if my compliment is not reciprocated or received in the way that it was intended?
This is the most important question you want to ask yourself because this person is not obligated to be receptive to your compliment or stroke your ego. If the woman that you’re complimenting does not wish to engage, are you able to handle the rejection?
These 3 questions will assist you with qualifying your compliment to see if you are ready to go out and properly function in the world and initiate healthy relationships or if you should retreat to troubleshoot and heal what is causing your negative reactions.
Blogger, Crys Watson of The Stylish Activist