"Love your hair." "Thanks, I do too." "Don't make me like it less."
May 16, 2017 12:32 PM   Subscribe

 
who are these men and how do they manage to keep breathing when their attention gets distracted
posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on May 16 [35 favorites]


There are a lot of men out there who believe, consciously or unconsciously, that women aren't supposed to have an opinion on their own merits. We're supposed to be completely defined by/reliant on men's approval or disapproval. And they're consequently thrown for a loop when we either agree with their approbation or dismiss their criticisms.
posted by orange swan at 12:51 PM on May 16 [33 favorites]


They probably get a woman to breathe for them as emotional labour.
posted by RobotHero at 12:51 PM on May 16 [24 favorites]


For some reason my gender seems to get more of a pass on odiously self-aggrandizing behavior too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:57 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Gra! So tired of Shit Men Do. I mean, seriously, guys, head out of ass already. I mean, really.

(Yes, I am a guy.)
posted by Samizdata at 1:00 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


This bizarre and misogynist conception of the epistemology of beauty reaches a frank conclusion in that awful Bruno Mars song where he literally says "you don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful."

It never ceases to amaze me, what awful things men say to women when they do not expect to be overheard or have the conversation relayed to anyone else.
posted by clockzero at 1:01 PM on May 16 [32 favorites]


The way you smile at the ground
it's not hard to tell
you don't know, oh, oh
That's what makes you beautiful.
posted by vespabelle at 1:06 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


This reply to the original tweet:
Nicole David @obbiecole
@DetroitQSpider @FeministaJones @absurdistwords Because for some reason women are required to be beautiful, but also oblivious to it.
Reminded me of Born Sexy Yesterday.
posted by adamrice at 1:07 PM on May 16 [14 favorites]




This bizarre and misogynist conception of the epistemology of beauty reaches a frank conclusion in that awful Bruno Mars song where he literally says "you don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful."

I despise the sentiment as much as anyone else but this is a song by One Direction.
posted by telegraph at 1:14 PM on May 16 [71 favorites]


We're supposed to be completely defined by/reliant on men's approval or disapproval. And they're consequently thrown for a loop when we either agree with their approbation or dismiss their criticisms.

This reached its paroxysm with an older top manager at the place I finally quit a few months ago (thus I am at leisure to talk about it). Old dude known for thinking teh wimmin r teh stoopid wanted to leave me with some pearls of wisdom before I left on my new professional journey.

And I quote, well, translated from French, this was in France. Keep that in mind as you read it: "Well, fraula, as we've discussed many times, you have extremist beliefs that hold you back. Your black and white thinking is so simplistic that you're simply unable to see anything from anyone else's point of view. You're intolerant, closed-minded, and incapable of working in other cultures."

Me, promptly and deadpan, out loud: "Thanks for the advice." Silently thinking, "by the way I understood all of that and it's in a foreign language, the same one in which I just responded to you, after having worked in a foreign country for twenty years."

Dude: O.O;

Me, looking him in the eye while thinking: yup dat's right dude watcha gonna come at me with now

Dude: O.o;

Me: grinning

Dude: "... so what are you going to do next?"

Me: "well part of it will be giving [Blah] certification courses in Benelux countries."

Dude: "OH! HA! HA! You see!!! You're totally incapable of understanding Nordic cultures!"

Me: desperately trying not to dissolve into a puddle of snort laughter

Dude: o.o; ;>.> o.O;

Me: stands up, shakes dude's hand, leaves
posted by fraula at 1:19 PM on May 16 [40 favorites]


I am fat, so I do not normally get compliments from men, so I have not run into this in the wild, but I totally believe it. I was once chatting to a guy on a dating site who told me he liked a picture of my legs as pretty much his opening gambit. When later in the conversation I said something he didn't like about him, he immediately called me a bitch and said my legs were like big ugly hams. They'd apparently gotten uglier and more ham-like all of a sudden when it was clear that his compliment didn't automatically lead to me opening them for him.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:23 PM on May 16 [50 favorites]


A woman who already knows what a man tells her doesn't need the "value" the man is giving her via the compliment. This angers men who think this way. Disturbing stuff!
posted by agregoli at 1:26 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


"you don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful."

So where does Joydrop's "Beautiful" stand?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:26 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


And yet part of the Sea of Sexism we all swim in.
posted by agregoli at 1:26 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Thank for this, and I'll try not to be that guy if I compliment someone. Will also add this to the things I'm passing onto my boys, like "if you tell a girl her body was made for you, I will save her the trouble and punch you in the face myself."
posted by turkeybrain at 1:32 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Yeah. I was in a taxi recently after a long work trip & we were talking about my job. "So, sounds like you are pretty good at your job, then?" the driver said. I was tired so forgot I was meant to giggle at that, so I replied: "Yes, I am". The change of tone in his voice was amazing - and instant: "Well, aren't you full of yourself?!"

If I hadn't had a suitcase with me, I would have left right that moment.
posted by kariebookish at 1:37 PM on May 16 [38 favorites]


Oh, I do this when I agree, like when someone says my hair looks good when it does. And if it's something I have control over, I'll sometimes say something like, "Thanks, I did it on purpose!"

I've never gotten real pushback that I can remember, though. Some people will laugh or be surprised or something, but if anyone's gotten angry, I guess I was too busy preening to notice.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:46 PM on May 16 [16 favorites]


Nobody has ever been hornier than the guys who reply to women's tweets with "I'm sorry for my gender".

Remember, fellas: the only winning move is not to play.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:58 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]




Nobody has ever been hornier than the guys who reply to women's tweets with "I'm sorry for my gender".

Remember, fellas: the only winning move is not to play.


One of my (dude) friends has perfectly named this "men are terrible, amirite?" response "the gentleman's 'not all men.'"

This was in the context of a conversation where he asked me what kind of response would be the ideal one when a woman is sharing these kinds of experiences. The winning move is to listen. Just like it says in the article. You don't need to apologize for your gender or assure us that not all men say things like that. We know, that's why we're telling you. Because we see you as an ally and we want you to understand MORE.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 2:09 PM on May 16 [125 favorites]


Previously

(Even includes my response to "It's not sexism"/"The girls are being rude".)
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:16 PM on May 16


[One comment deleted in the name of avoiding the world's most predictable fight. If you're a guy and this hasn't happened to you, consider that you're not in the best position to explain how these ladies are misunderstanding what's happening in the interaction they're in and you're not in.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:19 PM on May 16 [115 favorites]


Their hostile responses really illustrate that these "compliments" are actually transactional.

These men perceive themselves as bestowing something of value on women, who should then express shock and gratitude. But when a woman says "this is already a thing that I have", then men become angry because their precious gift has essentially been rejected. The compliment isn't really a gift at all-- it is essentially a form of forced teaming (you have to enter into this transaction with me, or you run the risk of being attacked by a stranger).
posted by a fiendish thingy at 2:23 PM on May 16 [163 favorites]


My "favorite" iteration of this is when I'm complimented by a woman, usually at a nerdy queer event so it's a mutually gay kind of thing, so I respond with thanks and a reciprocal compliment and maybe some cheerful flirting/friendliness/support. And then like five minutes later a man will give me the exact same compliment, and I say thanks, and the response is sour-faced grumpiness and a visible struggle to clamp down on his desire to neg me, if there is a struggle at all. Being bisexual is tiring.
posted by Mizu at 2:34 PM on May 16 [39 favorites]


I would say being a woman is tiring sometimes.
posted by agregoli at 2:35 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


It's like the world's easiest text adventure, and yet men still fuck it up.

>_There is a woman here.

>_COMPLIMENT WOMAN'S SHOES IN ORDER TO GAIN ACCESS TO VAGINA

>_She agrees with you about her shoes, but does not allow you access to her vagina.

>_NEG WOMAN

>_...you're not very good at this, are you.

>_FUCK YOU

>_Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

posted by tzikeh at 2:35 PM on May 16 [65 favorites]


(Not to negate your comment, I have no idea what its like to be bisexual. Damn these interactions tho!)
posted by agregoli at 2:36 PM on May 16


I think the thing about "I apologize for my gender" is that it's obviously the expression of someone who gets that it's bad but kind of wants to go back to not thinking about it too much. As if the apology really makes us feel better (and makes us think you must be one of the good ones?) again.

There are plenty of ways to "win," if that's your goal as a man, but they all involve thinking about things that are uncomfortable quite a bit.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:36 PM on May 16 [17 favorites]


One of the many reasons I love my Dad is because he taught me to accept compliments. If he said something nice to me I'd do the usual "Ach no my hair's a mess/this old thing?/it was just luck" etc etc, but one day years ago he just looked at me and repeated what he'd said, and then did it again, and eventually I just said "Thanks?" and he said "ok then." It took a bit of practice but after a while he'd pay me whatever compliment he was paying me, about being smart or nice or whatever, not just about appearance, and I'd just say "Thanks." So now when I get a compliment I say "Thanks." If you don't like it, fuck you. My Daddy says so.
posted by billiebee at 2:40 PM on May 16 [104 favorites]


(Not to negate your comment, I have no idea what its like to be bisexual. Damn these interactions tho!)

It's like... imagine you grow up thinking that both pie and cake is delicious, and you know that people claim that they only like pie OR cake and never EVER want the other, and you scoff and think it's silly, and then you realize that no, seriously, the vast majority of everyone really does only like pie or cake and is grossed out by the other, and meanwhile they think that people who like pie and cake are vaguely evil and definitely confusing and just fooling themselves. And you never quite comprehend it, and additionally have to have the conversation repeatedly where you explain how you only ever want pie or cake at any given dessert having occasion, but choosing one on one occasion doesn't lock you into that choice for the rest of your life, but the people who also like pie and cake simultaneously aren't evil or wrong either, you just aren't one of them... Meanwhile, you have to constantly be on watch for identifying cake vs pie likers and learning how to respond to and interact with them differently, or else you risk insult and, if you're a woman, physical danger. Good times!
posted by Mizu at 2:43 PM on May 16 [75 favorites]


As food for thought, I remember telling a guy once about how I'd gotten so used to going everywhere with him (during grad school when I rarely left campus unless we were going on a date) that it was really jarring to go downtown by myself and get leered at and have a man (actually!) lift the headphones off my ears so he could talk to me (they weren't even playing anything! I could hear!). Said guy was actually very sympathetic and said something like "good lord, that is infuriating." Which is exactly what I want to hear. Because the experience was incredibly rude and also alarmingly awful. I don't want to hear him start acting as an ambassador for men out of male guilt. I want him to sympathize with me as a human being and his friend. "Oh no, I would never!" or "do you want to hear 500 words about how I feel about this, as a man?" are never really a great response; it drives home the fact that you seem them as more like you than me. And I'm your fucking friend! Think about what you would want to hear, not what you want to hear yourself saying, or what you want them to say back to you. It's a selfish shitty way to make it clear that a woman's shitty experience with a man is, to you, only about your male self-regard.

Imagine you're at your girlfriend's house and her mother says you're a classless slob who doesn't deserve her beautiful baby girl. And you tell your girlfriend. And she gives you one of two responses:

1) "oh, but my family is not all bad!! I promise!", or
2) "wow, I can't believe she said that. What in the hell. Let me talk to her, that is unacceptable."

The second one means "I care about you and I empathize with you." The first one means, "I am a member of my family, and feel I must defend them, and honestly the fact that my mom insulted you makes me feel sorrier for myself, because I have to do something difficult, than it makes me feel bad for you."

Sorry, it's been on my mind a lot. Someone saying "wow, not all men are like this" or "I apologize for the men who are!!" does zero to make me feel better about the exhausting trial that is being publicly female. It immediately pricks my awareness that you want me to say something to comfort you, to make you feel that it's not really so bad, or that I actually still really like you so don't worry about it. That's the last thing someone who is putting up with unearned shit wants to hear. If you complain about some asshole at work you probably don't want an earful from a higher-up about how it's actually a pretty good workplace tho, or hm no one can do anything but here's a useless apology from me. Right?
posted by stoneandstar at 2:50 PM on May 16 [175 favorites]


As Mizu says above, in my experience (broadly generalising here) when women compliment other women it's much more OK to agree, so that the whole thing (ideally) becomes mutually supportive. (I'm hetero, so I'm not sure if the vibe is different between WLW?)

Admittedly I run with goths and geeks. When I was new in the UK goth scene, my opening gambit for conversing with strangers would usually be to compliment a standout thing about someone's outfit-- their corset, hair, shoes, etc. And since at a goth club or geek convention everyone tends to have worked on their outfit to varying degrees, I would get happy answers saying yes, the corset is awesome, isn't it? Or yes, this is my favourite coat, I've had it for years! Or yes, I sweated blood over getting this pattern right but I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

I wish we lived in a world where compliments were commonplace and genuine and un-loaded.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:56 PM on May 16 [28 favorites]


One of the many reasons I love my Dad is because he taught me to accept compliments.

I'm trying really hard to be that dad. My daughters are 6 and 8, so I've been focused mostly (so far) on making sure they know at an instinctive level that no matter what their mom and I will always love them and always be on their side. I feel like I'm on the right track because the other day I told my six-year-old "You know what? I love you a lot and I'm really proud of you." And she got really angry and said "I know! You tell me that all the time!!
posted by nickmark at 3:02 PM on May 16 [44 favorites]


> "... imagine you grow up thinking that both pie and cake is delicious ..."

This comment pretty much sums up why I ended up getting together with someone else who also likes both pie and cake and now we kind of huddle together peering at the outside world in vague bafflement like lifelong indoor cats who don't know what to make of all that green stuff but are pretty sure it's up to no good.
posted by kyrademon at 3:04 PM on May 16 [35 favorites]


In general I'm not big on compliments about people's physical appearance (mine or others). But: for my last haircut, I had a friendly acquaintance cut my hair. It's not that one absolutely spectacular haircut that I got one time in a far-ish away location that I was only in temporarily and haven't been back to, but it's decent and I'm happy with it. The next time I saw my acquaintance, she glowingly complimented how gorgeous my hair was, and I got to say something along the lines of, "I know, right?! I had a talented stylist!" and we both felt super and it was awesome.
posted by eviemath at 3:14 PM on May 16 [13 favorites]


"Child, you are smart and talented."

I know that daddy! I'm pretty too.

(Success)
posted by 1adam12 at 3:14 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]




Just one of those ways in which behaving like a normal human being with self-respect serves to filter men out of the available dating pool. In the end, it's for the best. But still gruesome to contemplate.
posted by praemunire at 3:35 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


Thank you for sharing this.
posted by Fizz at 3:38 PM on May 16


I'm pretty sure 90% of woman-to-woman compliments consist of, "That's such a cute dress!" "Thanks! It has pockets!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:57 PM on May 16 [139 favorites]


I'm pretty sure 90% of woman-to-woman compliments consist of, "That's such a cute dress!" "Thanks! It has pockets!"

I had literally this exact conversation with a coworker yesterday. Love dresses with pockets.
posted by basalganglia at 4:27 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


EShakti is a friend to women who love dresses with pockets.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:30 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


Thirded. I am so delighted when someone compliments me on a pocketed dress.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:37 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


So...
[Compliment]
Agree --> "You smug b---- so full of yourself #?*!&%$#!"
Disagree --> "You frigid b---- can't you just take a compliment ^&(*$%#@! "
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 4:50 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


My default is a simple "Thanks!" and I'll add a quippy "I agree" if I feel like it. Fortunately so far it's been greeted with friendly chuckles and not the douchebaggery BS cited above. Time to think of how to respond if/when it happens...
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 5:00 PM on May 16


The winning move is to listen.

In normal human interactions, I agree 100% - in the Twitter sharktank, no.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:29 PM on May 16


I always wondered how so many guys can say something like "your body is great" and then immediately 180 to "actually your body is hideous" when you upset them and not see that as any kind of absurd contradiction.

For example, if for some psycho reason, I wanted to insult someone I had just complimented, it wouldn't occur to me to just... say the opposite of whatever I had just said. For me, "You're pretty" would lead to something like, "but you're a cruel person," not, "no nevermind you're ugly."

Similarly I've had uncountable convos with other female friends and girlfriends where one of us says something like, "wow your {whatever} is great" and the other goes, "haha I know right?! I love it!" and everyone is happy with that exchange. It's interesting to me how men seem to read that reply as conceited.

For the first time I understand it's because many guys don't see themselves as complimenting the existing value of something... they see themselves as creating that value with their compliment. To them a woman's worth is entirely dependent on what men judge it to be. A girl doesn't have a great body that you're noticing, her body is great because you say it is, and if you immediately afterwards say otherwise, then it isn't great, and that's not a contradiction. It's you punishing her for being uppity by taking something away from her. It's like compliments are male validation tokens you can give or remove. Maybe they don't realize they're doing this but it's the only context in which their way of communicating has internal consistency.

This also explains why they get so mad when a woman agrees with them, it's undercutting the entire premise that they are the arbiters of value.
posted by Emily's Fist at 6:22 PM on May 16 [186 favorites]


I'm married. So maybe it's because I haven't been in the flirting game for a long while, but if somebody I was attracted to agreed with my compliment of them, I'd probably be blushing and stammering, not acting like a jerk angry that they agreed with me.
posted by jonp72 at 6:27 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I almost never favorite things on MeFi, because I am a favorites are bookmarks sorta gal, but if I could, I would favorite Emily's Fist twice, once so I could find that comment again in the future and once to acknowledge the awesomeness of her comment.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:28 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


As I understand it, complimenting anyone's person in the long-nineteenth in Great Britain or France or under the sway of Emily Post was possibly quite rude as it implied that you could sit in judgement on them. I am not sure this isn't the stable strategy.

Pockets and machine washable!
posted by clew at 6:32 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


Show me a woman who doesn't feel guilt and
I'll show you a man.
~Erica Jong
posted by pjsky at 6:54 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


"you don't know you're beautiful / that's what makes you beautiful"

I'm in the fat margins of what men find attractive, so I get the occasional compliment, but not many these days because I'm past forty and have zero time for bullshit. But when I was younger I used to get the weirdly double-edged variety like (true story) "For a fat girl, you're almost making me hot" or "You know you got a pretty face and if you lost some weight I'd hit that" or my favorite "You're so cool that you're almost sexy. But I think of you less like a girl I'd sleep with and more like a hot gay dude I respect." These, by the way, are delivered with the same expectation of eyelash-batting Oh jeepers, you big strong man. You really I'm almost good enough for you? I'm so flattered as if they'd told me I was beautiful.

It's unlikely that a pop song will ever hand me a pick-up line that I like. Mostly because"You're very witty and smart and sexy af. Let's go play scrabble and listen to records and drink scotch and discuss possible adventures" is hard to work into a chorus.
posted by thivaia at 7:04 PM on May 16 [12 favorites]


I'm pretty sure 90% of woman-to-woman compliments consist of, "That's such a cute dress!" "Thanks! It has pockets!"

My girlfriend explained that one to me one time, and I loved her discussion of it so much that I hope it's all right to share:

She told me that complimenting an innate physical characteristic is not only overly personal, (which I knew), but silly both because nobody has any control over that, and because everyone's seen a mirror. (That horrid Bruno Mars song was a topic of discussion over here last week.)

However, compliments about things people have chosen are friendly because they picked them out. Like, an outfit, hairstyle or bag is something that the person already thinks is cool, it was their doing, so saying something nice is really just agreeing with them. That, I hadn't ever thought about until she pointed it out.

I don't do either when I'm out alone, but it's really fun to join in when she gets going with that.
posted by mordax at 7:07 PM on May 16 [50 favorites]


mordax, I share your girlfriend's view on compliments. It's strange to me to think of stuff like "You have nice eyes/hair/etc" as really a compliment because it's not something I did, chose, accomplished...
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:13 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


So (among my first comments ever on the site btw) I'm wondering. I'm a gayish cis man, though I've been told I don't set off gaydars, so I may seem straight even when I open my mouth.

Sometimes when I see someone's clothing or hairstyle I want to tell them "your dress/shirt/hair is so cool." Is there a way I can do this that neatly sidesteps the problem of me being a man? And most likely delivers a positive or uplifting effect?

What I usually go with is "I hope you don't mind me saying, I think your shirt is so awesome/wicked!" and sometimes follow with "Do you mind if I ask where you got it." Even this deliberate construction, I do less these days, after having read so many threads about this... whole phenomenon.

I would like to be able to compliment perfect strangers on pieces of their look that they have chosen, because that's what I usually notice, choices like clothing. Frankly I would never compliment someone on something of their body they haven't chosen, even hair (unless it's like, a dye job or some other artifice) because yikes, what a gross thing to do, their body is not for me, it just exists in the world for its own reasons.

May not be the thread for this, and maybe I should just not unload my opinions on strangers anyway, but I am wondering
posted by panhopticon at 7:59 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


panhopticon, part of it is body language, but honestly what you said here sounds fine as long as you don't have any expectations for their response. Sometimes I feel awkward about getting a "where did you get it?" If it's not somewhere "cool", but that might just be me.
posted by Night_owl at 8:11 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


I despise the sentiment as much as anyone else but this is a song by One Direction.

Hah! I don't even know why I thought that was Bruno Mars, actually
posted by clockzero at 8:33 PM on May 16


Even as a woman, when I'm complimenting some random stranger's clothing, I only do it in passing.(*)

Like, as I get off a bus, I might smile and nod and say 'I love your hat!' or 'Your scarf is amazing!' Or as I'm walking down the street, 'That's such a great coat!' to someone I walk by or who is going in the other direction.

The key is: I keep going, I don't expect a response or even look like I'm expecting one, I don't look like I'm trying to strike up a conversation. I'm just telling someone that they have a thing that's cool and continuing on. I think that if you took that approach as a man, you would offend relatively few people -- though there's still the overall situation where women just get a lot more contact out on the street so some of them might still add that to the list of unwelcome intrusions.

So, ask yourself before you throw out even a passing compliment -- is the person looking up and engaged with people around them? Or are they doing the thousand yard urban death stare? Or reading a book? If they appear to be actively (or even passively) avoiding engagement with the people around them, respect that.

(*) Unless it is a hand-knit thing. Then I assert my right as a fellow knitter to stop and ask many questions. Did you knit it yourself? What pattern is it? Who is the designer? What yarn is it? Where did you buy it? Can I pet it? Are you on Ravelry? Do you ever read the Knitting in Public thread on GTA Knitters? Can I mention I saw you? Are you knitting anything right now?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:50 PM on May 16 [40 favorites]


I wear a lot of bright novelty prints and vintage so I do get compliments/comments from other women pretty often, and usually those are "Thanks! It has pockets!" type interactions. Most guys don't seem to have anything to say to a woman who looks like her other car is the Magic Schoolbus, but I do occasionally get a "cool outfit!" or similar. The ones who say it and leave, without expecting anything, are the ones I am happy to hear from. The rest? Not so much.
posted by nonasuch at 9:04 PM on May 16 [13 favorites]


(Just sharing because the Excitement About Pockets conversation is currently happening here - recently I moved to somewhere that has a winter, after spending fifteen years in the tropics.

I was dying, even though we're barely in cool Autumn, so I bought some flannel pajamas. I was SO JAZZED to discover the jacket top has deep, usable pockets. On this basis, can I recommend the brand PJ Salvage? Their flannel pajammies are thick, well made and POCKETS.

Also their Chinese Takeout design is cute as fuck.)
posted by pseudonymph at 9:38 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]



She told me that complimenting an innate physical characteristic is not only overly personal, (which I knew), but silly both because nobody has any control over that


oh I don't know, if you have a juvenile mind you can entertain yourself for a long while by saying "thanks, I grew it myself" when someone says you have a nice nose or whatever. it isn't actually funny but telling someone you like their nose or whatever isn't funny either, so who can complain

also you can tell someone who gives you a presumptuous but not obscene compliment that they are perceptive and have sophisticated tastes. "that is correct," you say, in the tones of a schoolteacher with high standards who is forced by her sense of integrity to acknowledge a right answer from an unexpected source. if you do it just right the guy will feel humbled but gratefully uplifted by your counter-compliment and forget that he was supposed to be the one conferring approval instead of soliciting it. not just in my dreams either, I am sure I remember this working at least once in my life
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:49 PM on May 16 [16 favorites]


I feel bad for how entertaining I found those because it doesn't seem like it was much fun at the time for the women. But hearing about a game of rope-a-dope when the dopes are so fargin' huge that rope is optional is just a wonderful thing.

Also, in reporting that will shock absolutely no one, I can confirm I have seen discussions on male heavy forums I used to visit (nerd/gaming type) that included things like: "If you think about it, women should be objectively flattered by a compliment. After all, the guy liked her enough to make himself vulnerable / put himself out there." This is pretty much verbatim. Predictably, that crowd sees tweets like in the OP and decides that those people are from "radical feminists." I'm a not especially enlightened middle aged guy but my god the stupid is just so very stupid.
posted by mark k at 9:52 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Sometimes when I see someone's clothing or hairstyle I want to tell them "your dress/shirt/hair is so cool." Is there a way I can do this that neatly sidesteps the problem of me being a man? And most likely delivers a positive or uplifting effect?

I take no responsibility if you do this and it offends someone who wants to be left alone, but sincerity makes more difference than you would believe. it's obvious when someone is genuinely excited about your bag or your hair dye versus being genuinely excited to have come up with an excuse to talk to you and perhaps move on to creepier topics if you hold still for a moment.

like I have a kate beaton tshirt and if a man, even one who radiated heterosexuality from all his hair follicles, came up to me and said oh hey I love your kate beaton shirt! I would be pleased and not even think ill of him if he was staring at my chest while he said it, as that is where the picture of the boat is on the shirt, and it is a fine picture of a boat. catches the eye. but if some other man came up to me some other day and said, hey. hey! I like your shirt. did you hear me, I said I like your shirt. I would have violent feelings.

and then also, say whatever you say the way you say it to men who look cool. a woman stranger has no way of knowing if you talk to strange men the same way you talk to her, except that she kind of does because men who only ever compliment women have a particular vibe when they do it and it's not a good one, even if attraction isn't why they do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:16 PM on May 16 [12 favorites]


Sometimes when I see someone's clothing or hairstyle I want to tell them "your dress/shirt/hair is so cool." Is there a way I can do this that neatly sidesteps the problem of me being a man? And most likely delivers a positive or uplifting effect?

Like jacquilynne, I am a passing complimentor. Brief, to the point, with a smile in my voice, move on. I think it is important for oneself to not restrict our compliments to people who fit the age/gender/orientation/beauty-standards of our sexual interests.

Complimenting people on their choices, their expression of themselves, is a very rejuvenating past-time. It requires us to notice, appreciate, and express a form of gratitude that they have brought their choices into our world, however fleeting. I compliment young and old, male and female (I'm cis female). My favourite cheeky compliment is to men wearing lovely hand-knitted jumpers. I'll say something like "what a lovely jumper!" wait for their expression of either thanks or dismissal as an unimportant comment and then continue, "did you knit it yourself?" Their flustered "no"s are satisfying, but best of all is when they (only one so far) grins and says "yes!"
posted by Thella at 1:19 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


However, compliments about things people have chosen are friendly because they picked them out. Like, an outfit, hairstyle or bag is something that the person already thinks is cool, it was their doing, so saying something nice is really just agreeing with them. That, I hadn't ever thought about until she pointed it out.

I personally hate it when people compliment anything to do with my appearance, whether it's my body, my hair, or my clothes (and I get a fair bit of the latter in queer spaces) because they aren't things I've invested any time, thought, or effort into. Is this a nice top? It's comfortable enough, stops me getting arrested or hassled for having my boobs hanging out, so I guess so? Seems a weird thing to notice or care about...
posted by Dysk at 2:00 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure 90% of woman-to-woman compliments consist of, "That's such a cute dress!" "Thanks! It has pockets!"

That implies that 90% of women's dresses have pockets. And WE KNOW THAT AIN'T THE TRUTH.

It also makes me wonder if 90% of women actually wear dresses. I... have no idea.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:06 AM on May 17


I think the important thing is not the compliment itself but the change in tone once the compliment is received with a "thanks, I think my hair looks awesome too."

Upthread I mentioned a recent experience I had with a taxi driver. Imagine being locked inside a car with a man whose whole demeanour changes on a dime as soon as you meet his casual remark with a "yeah, I know". Imagine knowing that his anger could turn really, really bad and he could take you anywhere to take out that anger on you. Imagine how one minute of forgetting to play by the patriarchy's rules could potentially mess you up for life.

It's not about the compliment. It is about what could potentially happen to the woman who dares to agree with the compliment. A change in tone is just a few seconds away from violence.
posted by kariebookish at 4:22 AM on May 17 [28 favorites]


Poor Bruno Mars is hard done by in this thread.
posted by emd3737 at 6:21 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


> Can I pet it?

Ha! I've done that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:40 AM on May 17


That implies that 90% of women's dresses have pockets. And WE KNOW THAT AIN'T THE TRUTH.

No, no, it rightfully implies that dresses with pockets receive 90 percent of compliments. They radiate coolness that people can intuitively sense even if they don't know about the pockets. YOU HEAR THAT, CLOTHING SHOPS? IT'S SCIENCE.
posted by Emily's Fist at 6:43 AM on May 17 [27 favorites]


I've had men compliment my visible tattoos. They have done it in both negative and positive ways.

Positive: "Nice ink!" while walking by.
Negative: "Oooh, can I see your tattoooooooooos?" while trying to stop me from walking and obviously you've seen them, you just want to stare.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:10 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Oh, yeah and 100% dresses with pockets are everything.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:16 AM on May 17


A coworker was wearing a dress with dinosaurs on the other day and so naturally I complimented it and she said "thanks! it has pockets!" and showed me the pockets and I almost expired on the spot and (with permission) took a photo of her to send to several other female friends because DINOSAURS and POCKETS this is DRESS NIRVANA
posted by corvine at 7:25 AM on May 17 [21 favorites]


why anybody comments on anyone else's appearance baffles me.
posted by judson at 7:30 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]



I personally hate it when people compliment anything to do with my appearance, whether it's my body, my hair, or my clothes (and I get a fair bit of the latter in queer spaces) because they aren't things I've invested any time, thought, or effort into


I don't necessarily hate it but a lot of the time if someone says e.g. that's a nice bag I would have to say oh, is it? what does it look like? and take a second to inspect it, if I were to respond at all. because yes, the number of articles I choose to carry or wear because they look so great and are little personality horcruxes that live by admiration and wither to dust when not observed, taking my sense of self with them, is vanishingly small. not zero, as previously noted, but small.

this actually is the real reason why I agree with people's compliments most of the time, not to fuck with them or make a point but because I didn't design the sweater or cobble the shoes or whatever it is that draws attention. we are both complimenting an unknown third-party designer or manufacturer, which is sort of a boring thing to talk to a stranger about but also hard to connect to personal vanity. what's it got to do with me? somebody designed it, somebody else made it, somebody else stocked and marketed it. I just bought it is all.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:31 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


and to second/third/whatever the people discussing how to drive-by compliment in a non-creepy way - the difference is the demand for attention. 'That's a cool dress/coat/hat' vs 'hey. hey! HEY. That's a cool dress/coat/hat'. Toss out a compliment on something that isn't a natural-grown part of me as you pass me with no expectation of a response or attention: fine and thankyou; demand my attention while you bestow an Approval Token on me that I must react appropriately to: you can get to fuck.
posted by corvine at 7:32 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


"Do you mind if I ask where you got it."

Here's where I use all of my hetero married privilege: "Do you mind if I ask where you got it? I think it would look great on / be wonderful for my wife." I have done this maybe three times in my life. In all three times, when I started (ALWAYS with "I'm sorry to bother you" or "Excuse me"), I could see the wall go up, and by the time I finished "...for my wife" I saw it come back down (cautiously). On being informed of the item's provenance, I thanked the woman and promptly got on my way and out of hers.

I don't know if you can do the same. But "for my husband / boyfriend / significant other" might work well.

(Have also done this five times with dudes. Two times I got the store where I could buy the item. Two times I got "Thanks! My significant other gave it to me".

The last one I got was a very arch "Milan".
"The ... city?"
"Yes."
We were in New York.

I was given to understand that it was not for someone such as myself to pursue the matter further.)
posted by aureliobuendia at 8:22 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


I personally hate it when people compliment anything to do with my appearance, whether it's my body, my hair, or my clothes (and I get a fair bit of the latter in queer spaces) because they aren't things I've invested any time, thought, or effort into

Sometimes, when I'm on some damned quest for some thing, I notice people's clothes and accessories extra hard. I tend to be sort of fussy, so I'll spend absurd amounts of time and effort trying to find just the right bag or jacket or something, and I'll have all these criteria in my head about the shape and material and pockets and configuration and construction, because I want exactly the right thing and I don't want to be replacing it next year, you know? When I am on one of those missions, I notice the fuck out of everyone's stuff, and if I see someone with something that looks like exactly what I'm looking for, and I can do it without, like, chasing them down the street or interrupting a date or whatever, I will compliment them and maybe ask where they got it or something.

I do it with shoes a lot, too, because I'm also fussy about shoes. However, I am fully aware that my shoe preferences are not popular ones. For one, I have weird feet, and for two, the shoes I like tend to be ones that people think are ugly. Which I know because people tell me my shoes are ugly all the time. I do fight them, because I think my 'ugly' shoes look great and way way cuter than the flimsy uncomfortable abominations everyone else seems to like so much. But I also think that Birkenstocks with sandals look fine, although I know better than to wear that out in public because there are a lot of very emotionally fragile people out there.

So I know better, usually, than to compliment someone on their shoes, because based on my experiences, I might suspect that compliments would be sarcastic. So instead, I think I sometimes end up CREEPILY STARING at other people's orthopedic shoes, which is probably worse.

So that is your brief disturbing glimpse into the life of a clothes noticer.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:27 AM on May 17 [16 favorites]


I like compliments, but my partner is a bit weird on them. I'd like to be able to compliment people if i see something about them that cheers up my day. I feel like that's a nice thing to do... except it's more complicated than that. So I very rarely compliment people unless i'm certain i'm not going to be either misconstrued or insulting.

I think the last person i complimented was a 5 year old girl in my son's class for her choice of hat on wear-a-wacky-hat-to-school-day. I did not expect or receive a response.
posted by trif at 9:16 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


when I started (ALWAYS with "I'm sorry to bother you" or "Excuse me"), I could see the wall go up, and by the time I finished "...for my wife" I saw it come back down (cautiously)

Oh ha ha, this reminds me of the time I was grocery shopping with headphones on and saw out of the corner of my eye a police officer positively SPRINT toward me so abruptly that my heart stopped and I nearly died right there, only to take off my headphones and hear, "girl, where did you get those shoes??"

I guess his wife had been looking for a similar pair, and I'm glad to help, but... it took an hour to shake that one off.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:54 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


Oh ha ha, this reminds me of the time I was grocery shopping with headphones on and saw out of the corner of my eye a police officer positively SPRINT toward me so abruptly that my heart stopped and I nearly died right there, only to take off my headphones and hear, "girl, where did you get those shoes??"

When I was a senior in high school, I got called into the Dean of Students office and I freaked out because I figured I was about to get busted for smoking cigarettes on campus (guilty as charged), but instead she was literally like, "Oh girl, those are the cutest shoes. You just have to tell me where you got them?" It took me like two minutes before I realized she wasn't playing mind games and actually just wanted to know where I bought my shoes.
posted by thivaia at 10:05 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


Huh... is this a US phenomenon or am I weird? I'm female and have never experienced anything like this at all.

My usual response to compliments is "Thanks (smile) ", "Thanks, yeah, I like it!" or "Thanks! (minor fact about where I got it or why I like it)... and I have never had anyone, male or female, stranger or not, get upset about that. Isn't that a normal response to a compliment??

Unless this is only referring to "compliments" in the catcalling sense? I pretend I don't hear those, which sometimes does make the asshole shout something angry.
posted by randomnity at 10:10 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


> The key is: I keep going, I don't expect a response or even look like I'm expecting one, I don't look like I'm trying to strike up a conversation. I'm just telling someone that they have a thing that's cool and continuing on. I think that if you took that approach as a man, you would offend relatively few people -- though there's still the overall situation where women just get a lot more contact out on the street so some of them might still add that to the list of unwelcome intrusions.

Nthing the drive-by approach to not begging for attention with your compliment. I have fairly distinctive hair and get complimented on it pretty frequently on the street, by both women and men. (For the record, I just respond with a cheerful "thanks!" Unless I'm on the bus/subway and it's a woman because in that case we chitchat about hair for five minutes.)

Anyway, when you're giving a compliment and it truly isn't transactional, it's quite obvious. Conversely, someone can phrase a comment in the most women-approved non-catcall language ever conceived, but if the intention is transactional, it comes across as transactional.
posted by desuetude at 10:24 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


From my experience this phenomenon usually happens with catcalling or online interaction (which is similar in very many ways to catcalling, come to think of it), yeah. Funny how it's primarily strangers who like to think that they are the ones who get to define my worth all by themselves. It's certainly possible others' experiences reflect otherwise, though.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:25 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


"Thanks, I stole it."
posted by aspersioncast at 1:37 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


"Nice eyes."

"I know, I totally use them to see things! Like my way out of this conversation!"
posted by aspersioncast at 1:58 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


I love doing this - it inspires other women and it leaves those who are complementing you to get something out of you in the dust.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 2:33 PM on May 17


Nthing the "saying something nice and move on." This cartoon resonates with me, although I realize that it's a little less nuanced than I remember. I personally like when someone compliment-bombs me and walks away without any expectation of a response.
posted by crepeMyrtle at 3:42 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


okay wait but where did she get the dinosaur dress from
posted by nonasuch at 5:13 PM on May 17 [9 favorites]


thank you, crepeMyrtle, for pointing out lunarballoon - I just read about a hundred of them and feel the urge to be a much better dad :-)

Here's another on the "compliment someone" them, maybe even more on the nose for this thread.
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:43 PM on May 21


lots of wise input, analysis, and receipts for this particular shade of transactional compliments / low-key catcalling... thanks Feminista/Metafilter. (also, the short-circuiting robot face twitter-gif embedded in the Buzzfeed roundup is amazing)

I've occasionally gotten an accessory-compliment while walking down the street from other pedestrians (Philly was especially loud+great for this), or a good simple "where did you get it" on the train. I would recommend, for well-meaning men who are wondering, not shouting anything from a car to a pedestrian, unless you're absolutely confident in your enunciation and can clearly telegraph a non-leery smile (or just a platonic thumbs-up, maybe dorkier the better).

some months ago in NYC on a nice sunny day, I was walking with a friend (two cis ladies I s'pose). a solo guy, who a minute earlier had been standing near a restaurant up ahead looking around the passersby, appeared right in front of us and said, "Just wanted to say you have a great smile!" and then ran ahead, on his way. I was relieved because I'd expected worse (or that he would try to tag along) and actually felt complimented, whereas my friend felt slightly weirded out. He was not necessarily graceful or smooth, but the sincerity was there, and neither of us felt threatened or really put-upon, since his zipping ahead would ensure we didn't have to continue to manage an interaction. Contrast that with any other "smile"-commentary/commands that we've been subject to (and many many have described, in other catcall threads), and this was downright refreshing. no expectations of return -- this is how ya do it!
posted by cluebucket at 11:09 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


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