A couple weeks ago my grad school friend Susanne posted a link to an article on the website Feministing titled "Why do strange men think they're allowed to touch me?" Now based on that title, most women would shout a hearty "AMEN!" as most of us probably don't appreciate being touched by a stranger. Upon further reading, however, I found myself thinking that this particular feminist was rallying against something not particularly worth her energy.
For those of you too
- Chloe (the author) is in line at Starbucks, listening to her ipod when a stranger walks past her, stops when he sees her, puts a hand on her arm and says "You are so beautiful."
- Chloe responds with "filthiest look" she could muster, "now a reflex after over a year of dealing with New York City street harassment."
- Her immediate thought, "Why do strange men think they’re allowed to touch me? Why do strange men think I care about their opinion of my appearance? Do they think I’ll be flattered if they approach me out of the blue and offer their unsolicited opinion?"
- Despite actually feeling beautiful this particular morning, Chloe notes, "Being touched by a stranger and told that I was beautiful didn’t make me feel more beautiful; it made me feel unimportant."What she wanted, a simple treat at Starbucks, didn't matter. "What mattered most was that this man had an opinion about me, so I had to hear it whether I wanted to or not. He wanted to touch me, so I was going to be touched, by a stranger, whether I wanted it or not."
- And then she takes the natural leap to "What he wanted was more important than what I wanted, because he is a man, and I am a woman."
My reaction to Chloe's reaction is chill out. There are worse things than being told you're beautiful or even being patted on the arm by a stranger. Earning less than a man doing the same job is worth fighting against. Not allowing women the same opportunities as men is worth an argument. Stereotyping women (or anyone) is wrong and deserving of your righteous indignation. But being told you're beautiful? Hmm.
|Not my Balloon Guy, but you get the idea|
After initially reading this post, it occurred to me that perhaps I just hadn't been hit on by a creepy stranger in a while. Maybe a good wolf whistle from a construction worker would make me feel differently. Well, as luck would have it, over the weekend I was
While I didn't particularly enjoy the experience, it also didn't send me running to my laptop to write up a missive about the nerve of strange men to force their compliments on me. No, he didn't touch me, and if he had I would have thought, "gross, leave me alone you creep," but I wouldn't have allowed one icky guy to make me feel unimportant. Nor would I have given him credit for thinking that he mattered more than me and that's why he felt the need to offend me with his compliment. I hardly doubt he was thinking at all!
Yes, I would prefer to be acknowledged for my brains, work ethic, kindness, and my sense of humor, but the reality is that we were created to appreciate the beauty in one another. While some guys (and girls) don't have the class, finesse, or tact to either appreciate beauty silently or with respect, I hardly think we can condemn mankind or let a wayward compliment or touch ruin our day.
As long as a woman doesn't base her sense of self-worth or self-esteem on the comments on strangers, I can't see the harm in enjoying being told you're beautiful. Admit it, there are times when a compliment from a man or a woman, or a wagging tail on an affectionate dog, or a smile from a baby can make your day. There are times I will take any flattery I can get and run with it.