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You should be flattered

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If men’s kindnesses toward women were really only kindnesses, a man would be pleased if another man or woman offered these kindnesses to him. He would be pleased if another man or woman lit his cigarette or pulled out his chair for him. He would be pleased to derive his income, prestige, power and even his identity from his partner. He would take pride in another man’s or woman’s offer to walk him to his car at night. But in fact, “one of the very nasty things that can happen to a man is his being treated or seen as a woman, or womanlike." -- Frye 1983

You should be flattered is an excuse used for sexist incidents, in particular for sexualized environments or harassment incidents, in which commentary on women's appearance (usually) is defended as being complimentary to the women.

This excuse is problematic because:

  • it ignores that random sexual comments tend to stem from asserting male power and control over women, not good-will
  • it reminds women that they are subject to men's approval (see Grunch), and implies the "flatterer's" right to express their opinion aloud is more important than the "flatteree's" feelings
  • it attempts to dictate women's emotional responses to them, in particular perpetrating the idea that women are socially obliged to be pleasant and accommodating
  • it places the blame on women for responding negatively to what is wholly inappropriate conduct for many contexts, such as professional communities
  • it reminds women who aren't the object of the comment that they are also subject to men's approval
  • it ignores the fact that many women have had negative experiences with sexual attention, such as immediate or eventual criticism or violence, and therefore do not view it with unmixed (or any) pleasure
  • it makes non-straight women feel particularly marginalised
  • focusing on women's appearance contributes to feelings of exceptionalism and conveys the judgement that a woman's interests and expertise are less valuable than her attractiveness
  • it is often defended with dismissive False equivalence, such as "well I'd be overjoyed if I got catcalled!"

Incidents Edit

Responses and commentary Edit

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