Are the days of complimenting women over?

In light of Trump's inappropriate 'compliment' to Brigitte Macron, we ask: How should a person handle complimenting women?
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 07/21/2017 at 9:00 AM EDT

Recently Trump visited France, and when first meeting President Macron’s wife Brigitte, he took her hand and let her know she was “in good shape!”  Lots of outlets have reported this and some, interestingly enough, have called him out. Athletic company Reebok even came out with a rather pointed ad in response.

Obviously Trump should not the one to set the bar on these types of things, but the incident got us thinking:

What’s the deal with compliments when it comes to women? Are there situations where it’s inappropriate or ways of going about it that should be avoided/encouraged?

Patricia Valoy:I don’t appreciate compliments on my body, ever! I don’t care if it’s my mom or the president, they make me feel uncomfortable. I do love compliments on my clothes, accessories, hair, or makeup. That is specific and about something that had I say in, but my body is always in flux so when I get a compliment on it I just think about other times when I’ve been slimmer or bigger and wonder if people thought I looked bad then. A good rule of thumb is to just never speak about someone’s body unless they ask you for your opinion.”

Jen Selk:I think the question of whether so-called compliments are unfeminist is a bit of a derailment. It’s not about feminism, or even about ‘compliments.’ It’s just never really okay to comment on a person’s physical appearance (unless they’ve asked you to do so). This is beyond Feminism 101; it’s more like Basic Human Decency, Logic, and Common Sense 101. The appearance of a human being’s body –- and more importantly, your opinion on that appearance –- is beyond irrelevant in 99.9% of situations, whether you’re talking about Brigitte Macron or Chris Christie, so just shut the fuck up, folks.”

Avital Norman Nathman:Compliments are great, but it’s just a matter of being thoughtful about what you’re commenting someone on. Compliment someone on a job well done, a fight well fought, an accomplishment achieved. When it comes to looks or body? It’s really not your place to evaluate and judge a person unless it’s been invited or requested.”

Kristine Kimmel:Is the woman your wife, girlfriend, partner, mother or sister? These are your safest bets. If the situation calls for a compliment, I suggest you go with, ‘You look beautiful.’ or ‘You look great.’ If they just changed their hair, the right thing to say is a hearty ‘I love it!’

Stay away from compliments that revolve around their age: ‘You look so much younger with that new blouse/makeup/husband!’ It reinforces to a woman is that the worst thing that could ever happen to her is age. Trust me; we get that enough from every message in society, advertising, and film. (caveat: Did a woman just say, ‘Does this lipstick age me?’ She’s asking a specific question. So, it’s your call on how honest to be. My advice is to tread lightly)

The same goes for compliments revolving around weight loss: “OMG, you look amazing! What’s your secret!?’ Again, this reinforces to a woman that being thin is the holy grail. Most of us have a body weight that fluctuates throughout our lives and don’t want to feel that we are only valued when we are less than. Plus, maybe her secret is heartbreak or chemo. (Caveat: Do these jeans make my butt look big? The answer is always ‘Those jeans make your butt look amazing.’)”

Molly Tolsky: “Of course it’s OK to compliment a woman! But it’s all about context. Some examples of times when it’s totally kosher to tell a woman she’s ‘in good shape’:

– You’re a doctor and you just gave her a thorough physical examination

– She managed to get through Zumba class without sweating through her spandex

– You find her sitting in an inflatable chair shaped like a gummy bear

If, say, you’re meeting with the leadership of a foreign country, you might try complimenting her hospitality, her country’s rich culture, or just stick with, ‘nice to see you.'”

Mayim Bialik:This is so hard for me to answer because I was raised in a very old-fashioned home where men complimented women all the time and it was considered fine. As I grew in my feminist sensibilities, I started to see how off-putting and sometimes inappropriate and unintentionally demeaning it can be. In professional settings, compliments can be nice, but they need to not be lascivious. I always prefer specific compliments; they feel less scary. Like, ‘Beautiful!’ is just creepy. And as a woman, I don’t NEED compliments from professional people or strangers. I have grown to not need them because it makes my life simpler when I keep things separate, as it were. It’s still confusing to me, but if I were the president of the US, I would never do what our President just did. So there.”

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