The Oxford dictionary defines a compliment as ‘A polite expression of praise of admiration’. So, a compliment is supposed to highlight your great qualities or admire you for who you or what you do.
So, can a compliment be bad? Yes. You probably know about backhanded compliments which are comments that blur the line between an insult and a compliment. But going beyond that, do you know that there are compliments that go beyond being insulting to actually being sexist.
To be fair, many of these ‘compliments’ are very commonplace and are usually used with a genuine intention to compliment a woman. I think it is pretty rare that people use these compliments intentionally to be sexist but ignorance still does not make it right.
So let’s get into it.
- Beauty with brains: Funny how this one is used so popularly and it makes me itch every single time I see it. We all use it on our friend’s birthdays, graduation ceremony, friendship posts, weddings etc..
Generally, it is done to highlight that our friend, who is really beautiful, is not just a ‘slay queen’ but is also pretty intelligent. Just in case, you have not realized the issue yet, emphasizing that a woman has brains to go along with her beauty inadvertently implies that beautiful woman often do not come with smarts or that smart women will generally not be beautiful.
The next time you want to use this compliment, think about why you think this is the right description for your friend. Sometimes we do it subconsciously to place ourselves above other women or to present ourselves as well rounded for the onlooking men. Personally, I have never heard anyone compliment a man with ‘handsome with brains’ or ‘strength with brains’ so I wonder why it’s okay for women.
- You are beautiful for a ….: No matter what comes after the ‘a’, this is a statement that spells trouble. Most of the time, the word will be fat or black or short or dark skinned.
The person ‘complimenting’ has some sort of beauty standard in their head that they expect you to fit and when they realize that you are beautiful outside their beauty box, they resort to giving compliments that actually are insulting.
- You are not sensitive/emotional like other girls: At this point, I don’t have to tell you that any compliment that compares you to other girls is already trouble. But let’s talk about the sensitivity that men often complain about.
When it comes down to it, everyone is sensitive. It does not matter if you are sensitive about food, people, family, sports or music. In fact, anyone who is not sensitive about anything should probably get themselves checked.
- Women are nurturers/better cooks: Sounds good, might make you blush but it’s not true, sorry. lol. It is simply a ploy to make you cook and be a nurturer. I guess I should say, in my opinion. The truth though is that both men and women have equal potential and need to learn how to cook.
In fact, if we were to speak on need, men generally have a greater need to learn considering that they tend to eat more than women. You see, when I came to Canada, the only meal I could prepare was instant noodles. I could not even boil a pot of rice properly.
For the first year, I was in boarding school and so all our meals were prepared for us. The second year, I stayed with my cousin’s family and again had all my meals prepared. The third year, however, I moved to live by myself and boy did I eat a lot of pizza and chips.
After a few months, I started with frying plantain, making Jollof rice (famous Nigerian rice dish) and eventually I could put a decent meal together for myself. Nothing about me being a woman inspired my cooking ability. It was entirely because I did not want to starve to death. So, seen as everyone needs to eat, I am sure you can see why everyone needs to cook, or clean their personal spaces.
- Women are multipliers: Again, feel good on the surface, burden of sexist responsibility on the bottom. They say ‘give a woman a sperm, she gives you a baby, give her food stuff, she makes you food, give her a house, she makes it a home’ Lol.
Firstly, this ‘compliment’ assumes that once a man ejaculates, his sperm is good enough and the burden of pregnancy and child birth is on the woman. If you grew up watching Nollywood (Nigeria’s movie industry) movies, you will know why this is a loaded problematic statement.
Every time a couple had issues conceiving, the husband’s mum would come into the house and frustrate the woman for not giving her son a child and making her a grandmother. Never would they look at the man as the potential culprit of their infertility because their son ejaculated.
Quite frankly, there is nothing multiplying about pregnancy and childbirth. If we are so desperate to be mathematical, I would call it an addition. A man with a viable sperm and woman with a viable egg that join together to form a baby. So you see, there’s really no compliment in that. It’s just a sweet sexist catchphrase.
In the same vein, today women work to also bring in the food stuff and buy the house. Women don’t just sit on their butts waiting to be handed foodstuff or houses so that they could work some multiplication wonders.
Looking for a multiplier? Try Jesus!
Heart to Heart: Are there any other statements I left out that you hear often? What are your thoughts on this as a man or woman? I’ll love to hear it.