Recently I saw this thing on Facebook and decided to tear it apart, because that's what I do.
This is, of course, a highly contrived fictional conversation that somebody made up to pat himself on the back for how woke he thinks he is. (That's still the word kids today are saying, right?) So I shouldn't hurt anybody's feelings by mansplaining what should be the self-evident fact of how ridiculous it is. Of course I realize that in the hierarchy of hate crimes, mansplaining is just below smiling while white, but I never said I was perfect.
Ugh. I know the feeling.
"This 'sexual harassment' ---- is -------- ridiculous".
I am not inclined to empathize or side with someone who starts off by saying this. Actual sexual harassment is wrong, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated in any workplace. But again, this is a fictional person and almost nobody in real life is stupid enough to say this so bluntly in public even if it reflects his actual opinion.
"What, now I can't even tell a woman she is pretty without getting in ---- for it?"
This part is a tad more realistic, and the point where I expected the post to take a completely different turn than it did. I expected the author to say something like, "No, you just have to treat women with respect and not be a pervert. You shouldn't feel personally victimized by that concept. Allow me to explain the difference between sincere, thoughtful compliments and sexual harassment."
"Well, we've worked together for you've never told me I'm pretty."
"That's because you're a dude, like me."
In this instance, the fictional person is correct and the person making up this conversation is an idiot. It is not and never has been normal in any English-speaking region of the world to call a dude "pretty" as a compliment. Even if you're gay. The typical male equivalent is "handsome". If the author had demonstrated a first grade level of English fluency by recognizing this fact instead of pretending that two entirely different contexts are the same thing, he would have greatly strengthened his argument. But he didn't.
"Gotta tell ya, that's a little disappointing because I think you're pretty."
"Cut that ----, bro. You're creeping me out."
Again, the fictitious nature of this conversation is painfully obvious. Based on the context immediately preceding these statements, to say nothing of the way most straight males aged twelve to thirty interact with each other, the fictional sexist straw man would need an IQ in single digits to not realize the author is just being a jackass and messing with him. He certainly would not play right into the author's exceptionally woke hands by saying "You're creeping me out." At best he would roll his eyes and say (correctly) "You're an idiot." But in this SJW wet dream, anything goes.
"Soooo me telling you that you're pretty when you neither asked for nor welcomed comments about your appearance is making you feel uncomfortable."
What alternate reality is this guy living in where you're not supposed to compliment people until they "ask for" it? The same alternate reality where there's no difference between calling women and men "pretty", I suppose. And how exactly does one "welcome" compliments? "Attention, everyone, I am now welcoming comments about my appearance for the next fifteen minutes. Please submit your comments before the deadline or they will not be accepted." Look, if someone is making unsolicited unflattering remarks about your weight or complexion or whatever, of course that's messed up and you have a right to be upset. But if you think people need your permission to say you look attractive, and/or if you can't tell the difference between those things, something's wrong with you.
No, not really, you pompous tool.
And the story ends there. I suppose modesty forbade the author from mentioning the part where all his other coworkers applauded, and the misogynist piece of crap was so ashamed of his behavior that he deleted all his Facebook posts where he had accused Rey of being a Mary Sue.
Once upon a time, a gay friend told me that I'm "dorky cute". I'm not gay, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. More recently, a straight friend told me, "I know guys aren't really supposed to say this, but that shirt really brings out your eyes." He was right, guys aren't really supposed to say that, I appreciated the compliment anyway and started wearing that shirt a lot more often. Last week at church, a friend of my grandparents who's old enough to be my mother asked them, referring to me, "Who is this handsome man?" The obvious explanation is that she needs stronger glasses, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. Though I would have appreciated it more if she had called me pretty. Why didn't she call me pretty, when all the people more woke than me know that's a perfectly normal way to describe men? Another time, I was in the restroom at Hasting's (now closed) when some guy outside started whispering "I want you." I looked around for something to kill him with if he came inside. So I would certainly qualify that one as sexual harassment.
I'm hardly an expert, but here's some free advice on giving compliments that aren't harassment. I waive all responsibilty for death or injuries that may result from following said advice.
First of all, I don't think you should call someone pretty or handsome or cute or whatever unless you actually know them a bit. When complimenting strangers, which if done properly brightens any normal person's day, I think it best to focus on an item of clothing or swag and leave it at that. "I like your scarf", etc. Maybe if you have social skills and pure intentions you can proceed to get to know this person but I wouldn't bother. Even with someone you know, a specific compliment with some thought put into it is usually more meaningful. Something that singles out the clothing, a physical feature from the neck up, a personality trait, or a skill.
I would forego the gender-specific and potentially loaded terminology altogether, to say nothing of slang that could make someone feel objectified, and just say "You look nice." I have never experienced or heard of someone reacting negatively to being told that they look nice. Sometimes they have low self-esteem and try to deny it, but they probably won't bite your head off, but then again people apparently exist who think you need prior authorization to say something like that. Perhaps I've just been fortunate enough to avoid those people. Not that I go around giving out as many compliments as I'm making it sound like here.
If you're a middle-aged or older man, probably just don't compliment anything about the appearance of a woman in her twenties who isn't related to you. It's not harassment if done properly but it just isn't necessary enough to justify the potential discomfort. Yes, there is a double standard that makes this less acceptable than when the genders are reversed, but let's be honest, we all know that double standard exists for a reason and we all know what that reason is. I wish we lived in a world where everyone had pure motives and just wanted to brighten everyone else's day out of the goodness of their hearts. But since we don't, I'll just keep being a jerk.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.