Archive | April, 2012

Fishing for compliments

26 Apr
Sent to me by my bestie C.

I want you to read the clever little comic on the right over there. If you can’t see it, I’ll describe it for you:

First panel: Male to female: “You’re really pretty.”
Second panel: Female to male: “I’m fat.”
Third panel: Male, to himself, walking away: “My mistake.”

This was sent to me by my friend from the wonderful world of Reddit. Naturally, what followed was a slew of comments from neanderthals whinging about wimmins and their “deep-seated psychological issues.” According to knuckle-draggers on the internet, women do this sort of thing for one of two reasons:

  1. They’re crazy.
  2. They’re fishing for compliments.

The fishing for compliments excuse can be further broken down into sub-categories of varying degrees of “bitch”ness. There is the “low self-esteem” fisher, who is merely seeking affirmation from her conversation partner that she is not, indeed, ugly or fat. Then there is the “preening” fisher, who knows she’s hot shit and wants to force you to say it. It’s the grown-up equivalent of a little girl sitting on your chest and twisting your arm while screaming, “I’m a pretty pretty princess! Say it! SAY I’M A PRETTY PRETTY PRINCESS!”

Of course, there are varying degrees of untruth in these stereotypes. Sure, some women are nutjobs because some people are nutjobs. And some women are conceited and passive-aggressive, or trying to make their friends feel bad about themselves by comparison. Most of the time, though, the “you’re pretty/no I’m not” response is a conditioned response to the act of growing up female.

(Have we mentioned the fact that “fat” does not equal “unpretty” yet? No? Well it doesn’t. That them thar right there is problematic. Not to mention the fact that women are supposed to act flattered and grateful that some total stranger on the street has taken time out of His Important and Busy Day to evaluate and announce his assessment of their fuckability. Oh THANK YOU, your highness. I’m SO GLAD you want to prong me, whatever would I DO without your validation that I am worthy of your gaze?)

I could go on, but Reddit commenter AustinTreeLover said it better already:

“If a mother constantly tells her kid he’s stupid, does the kid grow up to feel smart? Usually not. That would be abusive, in fact, because we know what it does to someone psychologically if we repeat something to him over a long period of time. This is how people are conditioned to believe something and anyone in the military, or who has trained animals or who has worked with children, knows this.

The comic would be more realistic if it showed the woman wake up, put on her ill-fitting jeans made for someone with no hips, watch one hour of television and see dozens of ads telling her she’s fat, turn on the radio to hear how fat she is, walk by 100s of ads on magazine stands, buses, taxis, billboards and storefronts telling her she’s fat, she gets to work and her co-workers are all talking about diets because they think they’re fat, she goes to eat lunch and there are specials everywhere telling her to try low-calorie, low-fat, carb-free choices because obviously she’s fat, then someone says, “You’re pretty” and she says, “I’m fat.”

Of course, this makes her “crazy” or she has deep-seated psychological problems. Later, when she says she regrets the comment, someone will helpfully remind her that insecurity is unattractive. She can’t win.

This is why women think they’re fat. Not because they’re crazy, but because, at least American women, are incessantly told we’re fat. All of our lives. We’re conditioned to believe we are fat because it sells diet fads and cosmetics and exercise memberships and so on.

Companies spend billions and billions of dollars conditioning women to believe they’re fat. Some of us have overcome it, but the playing field is not exactly level.

When we hit 40, it’s considered a fetish to even find us attractive (a student told me the other day I’m a “MILF”, so, I guess now I’m in a different porn category). However, we are still supposed to put up the good fight and look like Jennifer Aniston. If we fail, we’ve let ourselves go. If we spend too much on it, we’re trying too hard or not “aging gracefully”.

If we complain we’re fat and we’re not we’re “crazy”. If we complain we’re fat and we are, we’re told to fix it. And no matter what we look like, if we say out loud that we like ourselves we’re conceited bitches. We’re especially conceited bitches if we like ourselves and we turn a guy down.

So, some women are crazy and some women would be this way no matter what. But if you really want to know why so many women react this way, this is why.

… Sometimes people are fishing for compliments. But, we should ask ourselves why so many women feel that need to fish for compliments. Why does the same woman who fishes for compliments at home getting dressed for work doesn’t fish for compliments at work regarding her work? Why is she confident in one area and not the other? Remember, she’s supposed to feel ugly and she’s supposed to feel confident too. But, not too confident. If she gives herself too many compliments or at the wrong time or in the wrong tone, we’re back to conceited bitch.”

In conclusion: Yeah, when you compliment a girl and she doesn’t take it the way you want her to, it’s awkward/disappointing. But before you freak out on her, examine your motives for complimenting her. Did you tell her she looked nice because you genuinely wanted to brighten her day? If so, her reaction shouldn’t really matter to you. Or did you compliment her in hopes of getting something in return? You can tell what your motivations were by paying attention to how you feel about her reaction. Does it make you angry that she responded in an “ungrateful” way? Then you were probably complimenting her selfishly anyway, so get over it and don’t do it again. Does it make you sad that she responded in a self-deprecating way? Then you probably actually care about her. Good for you. Now you can do one of two things:

  1. Say, “That’s not true and we both know it. Anyway, how ’bout them Knicks?” A dismissal of the self-deprecating comment followed by a quick subject change will avoid the awkward “you’re pretty/no I’m not” back-and-forth, and allow the conversation to continue with nary a skipped beat.
  2. Say, “You know, it’s not like you to feel this badly about yourself, what’s going on?” or “It really hurts my feelings to hear you talking that way about my friend, could you please stop?” or something like that.

Of course, you could always get into a discussion about patriarchal oppression and body image, but I find that tends to get you queer looks at parties, so take that option at your own risk.

We Do Not

11 Apr

We do not wear halter tops. We do not wear sleeveless shirts or dresses without cardigans, blazers or shrugs. If we do, we feel eyes heavy on our backs and our chests and we cringe and blush and try to cover ourselves with our hands, to no avail. We no longer wear that beautiful silk shirt whose ruffles are so heavy that they pull the neckline down too low. We shall no longer wear cowlnecks for that same reason. We do not ever wear tank tops.

We do not wear skirts that are higher than a fingers’ length above the knee. We rarely wear skirts anyway. We do not wear heels above three inches. We never wear heels anyway. We do not wear jangly earrings, even though the tinkling sound of metal on metal near our ears always reminded us of wind chimes on sunny spring days. We do not wear glitter, even if it makes us feel like the night sky.

We do not wear our pajamas to the grocery store. We do not wait at bus stops in our bathrobes. We do not go barefoot in public. We are appropriately ashamed of our chipped toenail polish. We do not line our eyes in kohl, or paint flowers on our cheeks. We do not skip. We do not run. We in no uncertain terms do not do cartwheels. We never glue gemstones to our faces.

We do not wear shorts. We do not laugh too loudly or for too long. We do not interrupt. We do not look up. We do not stride, or stand up too straight, or take up too much room in our chairs. We do not make eye contact first, and we look away and down quickly, blushing, feeling a rush of shame and anxiety as we pass strangers in hallways. We do not walk a straight line through a crowd.

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