Hey, Ladies: Not Every Compliment Is Sexual Harassment


You may have read or seen the story of the Minneapolis woman who gives out reprimand cards to men who harass her on the streets and in other places. In case you haven’t, the woman, Lindsey, decided one way to get back at these men who catcalled her or even felt the need to compliment her looks was by creating some cards that might educate these brutes on how to treat a lady.

The cards say such things as:

“Someone simply walking/jogging/biking in your line of sight isn’t an invitation for you to comment on how they look. It’s not a compliment. It’s harassment.”

“I know you may think you can’t help but to comment on the appearance of certain people you pass, but think about it: only poorly behaved children blurt out everything that pops into their head. You’re not a child are you?”

“Have you ever had one of those wonderful days, when everything seems to be going right and there’s that little skip in your step for no particular reason? Well I was having one of those days until you felt the need to comment on my appearance. It’s not a compliment. It’s harassment. Next time, keep it to yourself.”

My problem with this is when I saw the interview with the young lady she made absolutely no distinction between guys who whistled and indeed did rudely make sexual comments or innuendos and men who gave her seemingly well-intended compliments. I know as a man I may not be able to completely understand the female point of view on this or the powerlessness women may feel in these situations, but I think we have gone way too far when there is absolutely no distinction between a simple compliment and truly rude behavior.

We have gotten to the place where a guy cannot simply say to a woman, respectfully, “You look nice today.” Or “that’s a pretty dress” without being told we are being inappropriate. That just seems like an overreaction to me. I think it is fairly easy to see the difference between a stereotypical scenario with guys catcalling or whistling at a woman walking by, and a guy who makes a simple compliment and goes on his merry way. Seems to me many women, like many men, would like a compliment here and there.

Don't get me wrong - I know sexual harassment is a serious issue that should be taken as such. And men do need to be educated more about what it means and how it affects women. But there is also the phrase that says, "Treat every woman with the respect you would want your wife, mother, daughter or sister to be treated with." That’s a a great way of looking at it. But the problem is, some of us believe that a compliment, when delivered respectfully and with good intentions, is good thing for our wives, mothers and daughters.

According to Lindsey, though, the simple answer to the fine line between a compliment and sexual harassment is keep our mouths completely shut and grow up. To her and many others, there is no good reason to compliment a woman you don’t know or may work with if you are a man.

What a sad world this has become when there are no distinctions made between boorish street behavior and gentlemanly compliments meant to brighten a day.


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