Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Cat-Calls and Wolf-Whistles

There's a paradox in every paradigm

Like some girls, I enjoy receiving compliments. Compliments about my looks, my knowledge, my mixology skillz, my outfit, whatever. It's nice sometimes, after having worked on various aspects of myself, to have someone verbally acknowledge that they've noticed said work.

I say "some" girls, and not "most", and especially not the ever-dreaded absolute "all" because it's come to my attention via the Internet that many girls dislike this attention, specifically when it comes from strangers, even more specifically when it comes from strange men, and typically strange, older men.

Maybe it's the jobs I've held (DQ with horny teenage boys, J Jill where looks were very important, Q101 with Mancow's Morning Madhouse wildly inappropriate crew, bartending), or perhaps my mother just never instilled the Fear of Men into my heart, but I find it strange and a little bit wrong that many girls and women feel threatened by compliments from strangers.

I am aware that there are varying degrees of this behavior. There's a difference between my regular, Danno saying to me "You look beautiful today, as always" and a drunk patron yelling "Nice ass, sugartits! Come over here and shake it around for me!" However it appears from my Internet Endeavors that any sort of attention from a guy is out of line for many women, and merits a slapping or at least a steaming hot shower to get the sleeze off when she gets home.

None of this makes sense to me.

A guy telling a woman that she looks hot today doesn't necessarily mean he's objectifying her. And hell, even if he isstraight-up looking at her as a sex object... why does the woman have to be offended? Yes, I have decent intelligence, a broad knowledge base of a variety of subjects, a fairly quick wit, a large vocabulary, and socially relevant interests to offer up, but that doesn't mean I don't also have physical beauty or sex appeal. If the only thing Alex ever complimented me on was my creative application of the word "egregious", I'd start to feel under appreciated in a myriad of ways, including, but not limited to any efforts I put in to making myself look good.

Perhaps I've missed some sort of feminist boat comprised of planks of Sylvia Plath novels lashed together with our sisters' leg hair (clearly demonstrated by my offensive gross generalization of feminists in my description of said boat), and perhaps I'm amiss in thinking a little validation here and there is at least a neutral, if not good thing. If so, please, enlighten me. Because as of right now, I think it would be a sad, ugly, self-loathing existence if my first reaction to appreciation from a stranger was anger and derision.

Stilettos and push-up bras,

Addendum: This entry is not about the very common reaction of feeling uncomfortable and not knowing how to react. This is about a trend I've noticed where a comment like "you have a nice smile" is uncompromisingly considered "sexual harassment".