This video enrages me. Among all the crap I’ve read and heard related to the Hollaback! video, I think this one makes the top of my list. Let’s for a moment set aside the fact that white men have been omitted from the original video and that the issue of race/color is one that has been made nonexistent, when it shouldn’t.
There’s a point in the video where the man interviewee says something in the lines of “Women love being complimented”. And you know what, that is absolutely true. Women love to be complimented, we enjoy when we are told that we are beautiful, that we have a nice smile, that we have a cute outfit that fits us perfectly.
Yes, we love to be complimented, as opposed to men who obviously do not care the least bit whether they are complimented or not. They absolutely do not understand the concept of being told nice things; telling them their new jacket looks perfect on them, or that you love their new glasses will just be lost on them. Men are simply immune to those words, they are special that way. And yet, they go to great lengths to please us, us the ungrateful women, even when they do not really understand how compliments work. So really, I mean, we should nod and smile and say thank you like the nice polite girls that we are, I mean, that we should be, because, ladies, men have once again surpassed our utmost imagination and expectations to do things just to make us happy. We should be ashamed. Indeed.
All right, kidding aside, who the fuck doesn’t want to be complimented? I love it when my friends notice my new earrings or jewelry, I love it when my students tell me they love my jacket or my dress. And yes, I even rejoice, I have to admit, when my relatives/acquaintances tell me I’ve lost weight (although I do know it’s none of their business). But that is NOT the point.
What this nice gentleman does NOT get, and what all those men who say that these guys were just being nice do not get, is that once again, women are not given any choice in the matter. I mean, you would think we would be used to it by now, when choices have been made for us for centuries and when we’ve rarely been given chances to raise our own voices. But hey, that’s what we are, the women, we are crazy and hormonal, so we always want change. Geez.
When friends compliment us, there is an understanding, between people who know each other, that a safe space has been created between us. By being friends, we have, in a way, allowed each other to say a number of things that we would not allow to total strangers. That’s how compliments work. When the person saying them means them, AND when the person that is being said to takes them that way.
What men don’t get is that one guy may say, and believe with all his heart, “Sexy mama”, and walk away, but women will meet more than that one guy throughout her day and throughout her life. What men don’t get is that women have to live in constant fear when they are out in the streets. I don’t mean to say that fear overwhelms me the moment I step foot out of my door. I’m not saying that I walk out in broad daylight giving glances to everyone every step of the way, suspecting them to be potential attackers. But rarely does a day pass by, whether it is when I go home late at night, or when I jog through areas where there are not many people, or when I’m in a crowded bus/subway, when the scary thought of ‘What if…’ doesn’t cross my mind. And unfortunately, men will never get that.
I’m not saying that men never get attacked or harassed. They do, absolutely, and unfortunately. But not only the argument ‘Well, men get attacked too, so women really shouldn’t make a big deal out of this’ is a very bad one, but also and mostly, this is not the point here.
The point women want to make is, as it has always been, Why do men always have to determine and tell us what is good for us and tell us how we should feel and behave? Why does it matter that men meant it ‘in a good way’ when we are telling them we can’t possibly take them in a good way? Why do women have to listen to men tell us that we should feel flattered and not be an uptight ass about it? Why are men still allowed to be so entitled to say anything they feel like to women, regardless of how they feel?
I’m not saying that we should all stare right ahead when we walk in the streets and not share any hellos, goodbyes or thank yous. It is nice when a stranger, man or woman, smiles at you and you still feel perfectly safe, when you know that a smile back will not be construed as an okay for ‘Hey, now that you’ve smiled at me, you can grab my ass, please.’
What a beautiful world it would be, if we could all say hi or smile without fear, and share compliments that are meant as such and that can be taken as such. And the first step in making such a world is to develop an environment where women will have no reason to fear hellos and smiles. In that world, men won’t tell women to smile for them, won’t say demeaning things such as ‘Sexy mama’ or what not, won’t stare at their cleavages or behinds, and won’t follow them for 5 minutes. And to develop such an environment, maybe it would be helpful to listen to those most affected by this.
And we are shouting, loud and clear, that we do not want your so-called compliments.