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  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer April 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

    It wasn’t just that he was talking about her looks in an inappropriate setting–the wording implied that he had somehow scrutinized/ranked all the (female) attorneys general and found her best looking. I haven’t really seen this commented on. He didn’t just say she was good looking, he implied a beauty contest.

    1. A4
      A4 April 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm |

      Yes. I came here to point this out exactly. Men talking about each other being “good-looking” does not encompass the requirement for comparison and competition forced upon women when men in power judge women based on looks. The fact that he felt that an expression of comparative value was needed when he would choose an expression of absolute value for men is a big problem.

      1. A4
        A4 April 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

        And it’s not just a one time difference! He also uses a comparative evaluation here:

        “We’ve got some wonderful guests here today. First of all, two of the finest senators that you could ever hope to have, the senior Senator from the great state of New York, Chuck Schumer is in the house! And the far more attractive junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand is here.”

  2. matlun
    matlun April 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm |

    Did Obama really apologize for it?

    “They’re old friends. He certainly regretted that [his comments] caused a distraction.”

    This phrasing – that he regret it caused a distraction, that he apologized to her for causing a distraction – seems to be used consistently.

    He is not saying that his comments were in any way inappropriate. He just regrets that people became upset and it caused a distraction.

    It sounds a lot like “I am sorry you got offended” to me. A typical non-apology.

    1. Willard
      Willard April 10, 2013 at 4:39 am |

      Matlun, considering the swiss-cheese responses the administration hands out by the thimbleful to far more serious questions of judgement I think it’s about as good as it’ll get. Should have been better, but it does well enough under cursory inspection to kill the story.

      1. Mike
        Mike April 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm |

        this^

    2. Pseudonym
      Pseudonym April 16, 2013 at 6:32 am |

      The issue I have with this is that it wasn’t just Ms. Harris who was affected, it’s all the other women who have to put up with the normalization of being evaluated for their looks in professional settings. Speaking as a guy who’s done before the kind of thing Obama did, well, it’s easy to slip into that mode of pseudo-flirtatious interaction with attractive female friends, but that don’t make it right. I’m all for calling him out, and I’m disappointed he didn’t have a more understanding reaction, but oh well. I don’t know Obama personally; sometimes he seems like a remarkably insightful guy, sometimes he comes off as a bit of a hypercompetitive jerk. He’s a politician, not my new bicycle.

  3. Comradde PhysioProffe
    Comradde PhysioProffe April 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

    This is an awesome post. One of the grossly ridiculous and intentionally stupid aspects of the “wahhhh! we can’t ever compliment women! now we’ll never get laid!” whining from fuckebagges like that asshole columnist you quoted above is that they pretend like there is no such thing as context. They want universal rules that apply at all times, in every place, and with every woman. This is because they actually don’t even recognize that women are individual human beings, and not just walking talking holes to try to stick their dicks in.

    1. karak
      karak April 10, 2013 at 2:58 am |

      I don’t give two shits if you never compliment a woman again, little fedora-wearing asshat. I don’t need your “compliments” and I suspect no other woman does either.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 3:20 am |

        little fedora-wearing asshat

        Okay, seriously, can we all just lay off the fedoras-as-misogynist-clothing bullshit meme? I have one, so does my SIL, so do lots of women I know. It’s as offensive as describing a female stalker as a “skirt-wearer”.

        I cordially invite anyone who’s really desperate and simply can’t talk about misogyny without having to code articles of clothing as misogynist to begin with priests’ collars or orange robes. Talk about a few centuries’ worth of actual misogyny.

        1. Willard
          Willard April 10, 2013 at 4:53 am |

          I’ve been wearing fedoras for the last 3ish years and never heard/saw this before. Then again I don’t do self-shots, I take my hat off indoors, and don’t, y’know, hate on women because of my headwear.

          Also mine don’t have feathers in. I feel like that makes a difference. That and pinstripes. Not having them is good?

        2. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |

          I love my burgundy fedora. And it has a huge polka-dotted feather in it.

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

          Totally agree, Mac! I’m sick to death of this bullshit line. It’s fucking stupid, it’s rude, it’s insulting. Frankly it’s also blinkered, like fedoras are automatically ugly and worn only by a certain “type” of person. It’d offend me anyway, but it really gets my hackles up because my other half wears one, and anyone suggesting he’s some sort of misogynist or PUA or fashion victim or whatever because of it can go pet a cactus. I’d wear them myself if they’d suit me.

        4. tmc
          tmc April 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm |

          Seconded. I used to rock a fedora when I kept my hair closely-shaved. Now I can’t wear any hats due to the sheer volume of my locked hair: after 2.5 years of freeforming, it is pretty literally a mane of hair and it makes wearing swimcaps and bike helmets obnoxious as fuck. I miss my fedora!

      2. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia April 10, 2013 at 5:11 am |

        karak,

        If you disagree with an agreement of the post, maybe you should try leveling some constructive criticism at the post instead of attacking someone agreeing with it. It would be more helpful.

      3. Pseudonym
        Pseudonym April 16, 2013 at 6:34 am |

        I feel like I might be missing some context here. Help?

  4. firelizard19
    firelizard19 April 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

    As a feminist, I’ve been unsure how to react to this whole thing. I can’t even agree that appearance-based compliments to women don’t belong in the workplace, based on personal experience. One of the sweetest compliments I’ve ever received was from a male coworker who said to me “You have a beautiful smile- and I mean that in the most respectful way.” I was disarmed and charmed by that phrasing, and he had no past of treating me in anything other than a respectful manner. It’s hard to see this as much different, especially given the context that emphasized that physical appearance was a bonus, and not the most important thing about the attorney general.
    I understand the historical problems with emphasizing a woman’s physical attributes in a work setting, but it honestly seemed respectfully done to me, rather than meant to demean her by reminding her that her physical attributes were more important to men than her mind.

    The biggest differences between my story and this one that I see are the public forum and the fact that the man in question is above her in the work hierarchy. Is that the crux of it, or is there more that I’m missing? Politics is unforgiving, but in a non-political context, I don’t know if it would have unsettled the woman being complimented/discussed or not.

    What do you (other commentators) think?

    1. AMM
      AMM April 9, 2013 at 9:49 pm |

      One of the sweetest compliments I’ve ever received was from a male coworker who said to me “You have a beautiful smile-…” I was disarmed and charmed by that phrasing, and he had no past of treating me in anything other than a respectful manner.

      Short answer: this is “benevolent sexism.”

      (Food for thought: would he have said that about a male co-worker? If so, how likely is it that said male coworker would feel “charmed”? As opposed to at a minimum uneasy?)

      Long answer:
      in (professional) environments where it’s considered OK to talk about women’s attractiveness (and “a beautiful smile” is absolutely about attractiveness), women’s professional accomplishments get devalued. Granted, they tend to get devalued anyway, but it’s measurably worse when comments about attractiveness are part of the mix. This is true even when — or especially when — the comments are positive, e.g., “disarming and charming.”

      In a perfect world (when Teh Patriarchy is no longer even a memory), it might conceivably be possible to discuss women’s (and men’s) attractiveness and not have it negatively impact the women. But we aren’t there yet.

      1. xzaebos
        xzaebos April 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

        Yeah, I totally agree, the way she felt was -offensive-.

        1. firelizard19
          firelizard19 April 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

          @xzaebos- I really, really hope that was sarcasm. If it was, thanks for the assist. If it wasn’t, I’m not sure what to say to that. Gotta be door #1, right?

          @AMM- I’ll think about that, and I have some familiarity with the research you cite about even mentioning appearances being detrimental to women in the workplace, but I have two quibbles with your post:

          1- You truncated the quote from my coworker. It was “You have a beautiful smile- and I mean that in the most respectful way.” His manner while saying it fit his claim of respect, and he was sincere and even a little apologetic in his manner.

          2- I thought the whole point of feminism was that we should all just treat each other as people, not define each other by our genders. So I act (in day-to-day life) as if feminism’s triumph is the normal state of things, rather than acting as if I hold a radical belief system that I need to hide, in order to be one more drop in the bucket of our culture proving that life as we know it is better with feminism- with treating all people with respect (OK, except Santorum, but he’s earned my contempt!). So I was consistent in my reaction here- my coworker and aquaintance complimented me, so I said thank you.

          I will give some thought to the Benevolent Sexism idea, but I always thought that applied more to things like being exempt from the draft, or not allowed to serve in combat- technically beneficial, but completely arrogant to assume the right to choose like that for all women.

    2. EG
      EG April 9, 2013 at 10:44 pm |

      Personally, I think it depends on the context of the relationship. I have a friend at work with whom I trade all kinds of compliments. No big deal. But with somebody else it would be.

      There’s also, to my mind, a difference between giving me a compliment and mentioning this compliment publicly. I’m pretty certain my friend, for instance, would never say that I’ve got it going on when he was introducing me at a conference.

    3. catfood
      catfood April 9, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

      I think once in a while, a man might get lucky in the sense of breaking one of these “rules” about complimenting a woman in a professional setting… and it just comes out all right? Just whatever the nuances of the situation, it ends up making people happy and not contributing to oppression?

      I’m sure that at some time in the history of “ever” that has happened.

      But the guy in that situation is clearly taking a chance on, wittingly or not, increasing oppression. Why take that chance? People really can get through their workday and have nice work relationships without being told, subtly or not, that they’re hot. It’s just not that much of a loss.

    4. Donna L
      Donna L April 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm |

      I think once in a while, a man might get lucky in the sense of breaking one of these “rules” about complimenting a woman in a professional setting… and it just comes out all right? Just whatever the nuances of the situation, it ends up making people happy and not contributing to oppression?

      I’m sure that at some time in the history of “ever” that has happened.

      I do think there can be a big difference in the propriety of personal compliments depending on whether someone is your boss and/or directly supervises you in any way, or, on the other hand, is a co-worker with whom you already have a friendly relationship. If it’s the former (as in Obama’s case), I don’t think it’s ever appropriate. In private or in public. If it’s the latter, then, as EG mentions, friends compliment each other all the time and tell each other they look good. Even friends of different sexes! But I don’t even consider that kind of conversation to be in a “professional setting”; it’s more a private conversation between friends that happens to take place at work.

      The compliment that firelizard mentions doesn’t sound like it came from a boss, but it doesn’t sound like it came from a friend, either — it was too formal for that. But if it didn’t make her feel uncomfortable and awkward in any way, and if she doesn’t work for him, then it’s really not up to anybody else to tell her that it was inappropriate, regardless of whether the guy would ever have paid the same compliment to another man. I realize it’s not the same context, but I’ve gotten a number of entirely non-creepy compliments at work in the last 8 years, on my clothing and/or my appearance, from people (both men and women) who certainly never did so when I was presenting as my previous incarnation. And I may understand the reasons why there’s been that change — including, of course, the fact that I do happen to be infinitely better-looking now! — but I’m still generally pleased to hear such comments (especially early on when I needed the reassurance, and I think people were basically just being kind), as long as it’s not in the middle of a work meeting. Which none of them has been.

      1. catfood
        catfood April 10, 2013 at 12:16 am |

        I’m totally with you, Donna, except for this one bit:

        But if it didn’t make her feel uncomfortable and awkward in any way, and if she doesn’t work for him, then it’s really not up to anybody else to tell her that it was inappropriate, regardless of whether the guy would ever have paid the same compliment to another man.

        It’s also relevant to third parties who may have been there for the comment. I’m sure you can imagine lots of ways in which Person A’s public compliment of Person B might put Person C in a disadvantaged position even though Person B is totally fine with it.

        Aside from that, I think we’re on the same page.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L April 10, 2013 at 12:22 am |

          Oh, absolutely. For whatever reason, I just sort of assumed that the compliment was made when nobody else was around. It clearly wouldn’t have been OK to do it in front of other people, for a number of reasons.

      2. AMM
        AMM April 10, 2013 at 8:56 am |

        @Donna L (April 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm)

        But if it didn’t make her feel uncomfortable and awkward in any way, and if she doesn’t work for him, then it’s really not up to anybody else to tell her that it was inappropriate, regardless of whether the guy would ever have paid the same compliment to another man.

        How she feels about it is her business.

        But how that kind of behavior affects other people, specifically all women in her workplace, is not just her business.

        Once comments about women’s appearance come to be seen as appropriate in a workplace, people there start to treat women’s — all women’s — appearance as a component of their work performance, sometimes to the exclusion of how well they do the work they were hired to do.

        We live in a society where the default assumption is that women exist to be eye candy. All that is needed to support that assumption is to go with the flow. Fighting that assumption is what takes an effort and feels awkward.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L April 10, 2013 at 10:08 am |

          I understand what you’re saying, and would entirely agree if (a) he made this comment in front of other people, (b) she works for him — or even directly with him — and he plays some role in evaluating how well she performs her work; and/or (c) this wasn’t an isolated comment, and he either says the same kind of thing to women with whom he does work, or who do work for him, or discusses women’s appearance with his male co-workers, or takes it into account in any way in judging their work. Perhaps the chances are overwhelming that one or more of those things is true, in which case “that kind of behavior” may well affect other women adversely. Or perhaps it actually was simply an isolated social comment that he would never dream of making in an actual work context. We don’t really know.

    5. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 1:51 am |

      One of the sweetest compliments I’ve ever received was from a male coworker who said to me “You have a beautiful smile- and I mean that in the most respectful way.” I was disarmed and charmed by that phrasing, and he had no past of treating me in anything other than a respectful manner.

      Yes, and if you’d bothered to read West’s article, you would see that she explicitly includes “do you have a track record of treating me like a human being?” in her checklist for when it’s okay to compliment someone. Also that she points out that, in an informal setting, a coworker giving non-creepy compliments to another coworker is usually fine.

      So…nice job beating up those strawmen? Have a cookie.

    6. ashurredly
      ashurredly April 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |

      The Jezebel article accounts for this – a compliment to someone you’re friendly with in the break room is generally fine, a compliment about physical appearance in a meeting is not.

      Also, see above about having a track record of treating women as human beings.

    7. Miriam
      Miriam April 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

      The comment was too public for it to have ever been okay. In a private conversation with no reasonable expectation of it being broadcast, I think it’s between Obama and Harris whether that type of compliment is okay.

      We all have different responses when it comes to bodies and compliments, and I don’t think there can be one size fits all rules to benevolent sexism comments. If there were to be one, though, I think it would be “don’t comment on a co-worker’s appearance in a way that can be construed as sexualized ever.”

    8. Robyn
      Robyn April 13, 2013 at 1:57 am |

      I think the biggest difference is that your coworker gave you that compliment directly, whereas Obama did not address her directly in this instance. Instead, he brought up her appearance in front of a large group of people, whose unconscious reactions to that remark would vary, and possibly change their perceptions of Harris.

      Going to the bigger issue of whether or not appearance-based compliments are okay in the workplace, I think what your coworker said was appropriate, especially if he addressed you one-on-one. It made you feel good (the point of compliments btw), and he seems to recognize that one’s physical assets doesn’t detract from one’s accomplishments. Everyone likes hearing that they look good, just as much as they like hearing about what they do well. Men compliment each other too, except it’s usually more along the lines of, “Nice shirt, bro.” I totally get the idea that coworkers should never say anything that could be interpreted as a pass or anything sexual, but I also know that it’s possible for coworkers to be friends, or at least get along, and compliments (both on accomplishments and other things) can help build positive relationships and strengthen a workplace community.

      It is an unfortunate fact that men tend to be complimented more on their accomplishments than their looks, and vice versa for women, and that needs to change. Addressing anyone’s appearance in a setting that should be focusing on their accomplishments is inappropriate. However, the occasional, one-on-one compliment on appearance (if it’s genuine and respectful) is perfectly fine, in my opinion.

      1. TomSims
        TomSims April 13, 2013 at 9:42 am |

        @Robyn

        “Everyone likes hearing that they look good, just as much as they like hearing about what they do well. Men compliment each other too, except it’s usually more along the lines of, “Nice shirt, bro.”

        I have to respectfully disagree that “everyone” likes hearing how good they look in the work place. I’m an old man and have never had another man tell me I had a nice shirt, never been called “bro”, or heard of another man complimenting another man on his appearance. Maybe you’ve seen this on TV or in the movies, but it doesn’t happen in the real world that I’ve ever seen or heard.

        1. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym April 16, 2013 at 6:38 am |

          I’ve had guys complimenting me on what I’ve worn, and vice versa. It’s very different than directly commenting on intrinsic physical attributes though.

    9. Pseudonym
      Pseudonym April 16, 2013 at 6:51 am |

      Well, I hope I’m not mansplaining or anything, but let me share my experience. I once greeted a coworker in private by saying something along the lines of “Hello beautiful.” Okay, this was a bad idea on my part. We were just friends, she was married and I had no interest whatsoever in interfering with that relationship. Her reaction indicated that she felt incredibly awkward however. Maybe the problem is that I just can’t read other people’s attitudes very well and so constantly say things that end up being tactless; hence I try to avoid those sorts of comments that might risk offending women, because women are unlikely to feel similarly disposed to me or to enjoy that sort of interaction. I think I came to recognize a long time ago that women in general didn’t find me attractive or show any interest in me, but it’s taken a while to realize that just joking about it can also be off-putting and that women usually would rather be left alone.

  5. AMM
    AMM April 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |

    I have a new “law” to propose:

    if you have to ask whether it’s OK to compliment a woman, it isn’t OK to compliment her.

    A fortiori, if you say:

    YOU’RE SAYING I CAN’T EVER COMPLIMENT A WOMAN EVER

    then, yes, you (non-generic you) can’t ever compliment a woman. Ever.

    + + +

    Now that I’ve proposed it, do I get to name it? :-)

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 2:02 am |

      That’s a bit AMMbitious, don’t you think? ;)

    2. Colin
      Colin April 10, 2013 at 3:50 am |

      Well, it’s true that some people are just pushing as far as they can to see what they can get away with, and are just pretending not to understand how their behaviour is inappropriate. Don’t do this. But I wouldn’t make a ‘rule’ of ‘if you have to ask, then no’, because some people are genuinely unsure of what’s appropriate and could benefit from some guidance. These things can be hard, especially if you are non-neurotypical in some way and process social cues differently.

      1. AMM
        AMM April 10, 2013 at 9:20 am |

        But I wouldn’t make a ‘rule’ of ‘if you have to ask, then no’, because some people are genuinely unsure of what’s appropriate and could benefit from some guidance.

        Why not make it a rule? The world won’t end if you don’t ever compliment any woman on her appearance who you don’t know well enough to already know how she’ll take it.

        If you’re so clueless that you have to ask on-line (or in a Washington Post column) how to tell if it’s OK, maybe you shouldn’t do it at all. Any more than you should try to be a tightrope walker if you have no sense of balance.

        BTW, your bringing up “non-neurotypical” people makes me very suspicious. “What about the Aspies?” has gotten to be an on-line trope, used almost exclusively by or about neurotypical people who want to excuse intentional bad behavior.

        (Obl. disclaimer: I’m not talking about people — neurotypical or not — who ask trusted therapists, support groups, friends, family, etc., to help them with their behavior. But people who would ask these questions in good faith don’t come into feminist discussion groups to derail discussions by asking these questions, nor do they parade their cluelessness in columns in major newspapers.)

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |

        These things can be hard, especially if you are non-neurotypical in some way and process social cues differently.

        Oh, look, it’s the return of Schroedinger’s Aspie.

        But people who would ask these questions in good faith don’t come into feminist discussion groups to derail discussions by asking these questions

        Speaking as one of these non-NTs with formerly major, now-minor social issues that were fixed by guidance – this. There are better times and better ways.

        1. wembley
          wembley April 10, 2013 at 11:45 am |

          Oh, look, it’s the return of Schroedinger’s Aspie.

          Best thing I’ve read all day.

        2. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym April 16, 2013 at 6:58 am |

          These things can be hard, especially if you are non-neurotypical in some way and process social cues differently.

          If you can’t tell, either get reliable advice or err on the side of no.

          Metaphorically fuck people who use mental or neurological disorders (real or not) as just an excuse to get away with bad behavior.

    3. TomSims
      TomSims April 10, 2013 at 10:05 am |

      @AMM

      I think you’re spot on.

    4. matlun
      matlun April 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      if you have to ask whether it’s OK to compliment a woman, it isn’t OK to compliment her.

      Why do you believe this? As long as it is honest and not manipulative or a rhetorical question used as part of a flawed argument, I see no problem with it.

      Having a discussion about which type of compliments are Ok in which context is not something I see as necessarily problematic. Nor do I see the answers being so obvious that they are unworthy of discussion.

      (In your other response above you seemed to be ok with people asking the question in “good faith”. Which could mean we agree, but I still see it as a strange “law”)

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

        As long as it is honest and not manipulative or a rhetorical question used as part of a flawed argument, I see no problem with it.

        I also see no problems with flying sparkly unicorns barfing rainbows and shedding glitter with every toss of their silver manes.

        1. matlun
          matlun April 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

          I also see no problems with flying sparkly unicorns…

          If you are saying that the question is never asked honestly, then I disagree.

          This was put forward as a general law and not just as the trivial observation that many people are in fact not asking honestly within the current context.

          The problem is not that they “have to ask the question”. They do not. They choose to argue in bad faith using the question.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 2:04 pm |

          If you are saying that the question is never asked honestly, then I disagree.

          Matlun, when was the last time someone actually had an etiquette question on this site that was genuine? I mean, no, seriously. Even if you broaden it to general questions on being feminist, the only time I can think of was HelpMeBeABetterMan, who actually took the suggestion and ran with it. And that’s my observation from a year or so of commenting and two more of lurking.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

          Although, to clarify, I’m referring specifically to the JAQing off that occurs here and on other feminist sites, as well as the “woe is me, I cry manly tears in my NYT column” JAQing off that West was responding to. IRL, I wouldn’t give this question the side-eye unless it was very obviously rhetorical.

        4. matlun
          matlun April 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

          Matlun, when was the last time someone actually had an etiquette question on this site that was genuine?

          On this thread the only example I could find of a question appears to be firelizard19 above. I did not read that as an obviously bad faith question. YMMV, of course.

          Anyway: I was reading this “law” as in a more general context than just this thread or even only this site.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

          On this thread the only example I could find of a question appears to be firelizard19 above. I did not read that as an obviously bad faith question. YMMV, of course.

          Eh, I don’t know. She presented an example of something West specifically okayed as a reason to disagree with West, and then wibbled about how as a feminist she couldn’t agree with West. o_O

          Anyway: I was reading this “law” as in a more general context than just this thread or even only this site.

          We’re in agreement on that, then. I really do have a much lower threshold for suspicion on the internet, where -isms are concerned.

        6. A4
          A4 April 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

          when was the last time someone actually had an etiquette question on this site that was genuine?

          You have a habit of stating huge assumptions about other people’s intentions as though they are obvious facts. You frequently dismiss people’s statements by assuming they are motivated purely by a desire to “troll” you. It’s no surprise you think there are no genuine questions when you take the liberty to assume whatever intentions you feel convenient.

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

          A4, do you actually have a problem with any statement I made on this thread, or is it just me you find objectionable?

        8. A4
          A4 April 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

          I object to anyone who refuses to take people’s questions as they are presented and instead declares that there must be an ulterior motive that makes their question invalid. It’s crappy enough when you’ve talking face to face and even more presumptuous and groundless when on the internet.

          So this whole thing:

          Matlun, when was the last time someone actually had an etiquette question on this site that was genuine? I mean, no, seriously. Even if you broaden it to general questions on being feminist, the only time I can think of was HelpMeBeABetterMan, who actually took the suggestion and ran with it. And that’s my observation from a year or so of commenting and two more of lurking.

          is bullshit. You are in no position to judge the genuineness of people’s comments and questions and are even less legitimate in making grand statements about the nature of questions on this blog based on your observations.

        9. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

          A4, can we take it to #spillover, please? I want to address your comments honestly but it’s OTT.

      2. IrishUp
        IrishUp April 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

        Because the fail state of a gendered compliment to a woman is a microagression.

        If your intent was to do something nice for another person, but you’re not sure they’ll receive it as nice, you probably should check yourself, regardless. But if you go ahead and do something, which if unwanted, is going to become more SHIT they’ve got to deal with, well, then you really WEREN’T looking to do something actually nice, were you?

        The epic “Would It Kill You to Be Civil” post by Sweet Machine in the Shapely Prose archives is a great place to learn up on this.

        http://kateharding.net/2009/10/05/would-it-kill-you-to-be-civil/

      3. Donna L
        Donna L April 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

        Mac, I don’t remember ever reacting that way before to anything you’ve written here — and I think you know how highly I regard you — but I did think in this one case that there was no need or reason for you to be as hostile to firelizard’s comment as you were.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

          Donna,

          You’re right; I shouldn’t have assumed that firelizard was being disingenuous in her post, I should just have assumed she didn’t actually read West’s article (which explicitly agrees with her, rendering her questions/issues moot). I was over the line in getting pissed off.

          I’ve been trying to avoid commenting in the last few days because I haven’t been feeling okay. I think I came back too soon. I’m sorry, firelizard, if you’re reading this.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

          Also, fair disclosure, I’m a fan of West’s work, have been for a while, and I got overly hostile because of it.

        3. firelizard19
          firelizard19 April 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm |

          Oops- this time I did read the apology part- I had stopped after you said I must not have read the article (that it was the only other choice besides my being disingenuous). I do stand by the above post, but I accept the apology. It helps a lot- I was feeling pretty burned.

  6. TomSims
    TomSims April 10, 2013 at 12:51 am |

    I was surprised that a smart guy like Obama screwed up like this. Even a poorly educated slub like me knows the only way to compliment women in a business setting, is on their performance of how they do their job. Period! I put my foot in my mouth a few times back in the late 60′s and learned my lesson well. And ever since have chosen my words as carefully as a lawyer with the women I’ve worked with over the years.

    1. Revolver
      Revolver April 10, 2013 at 9:05 am |

      Uh hey, TomSims, remember when you made this comment on Jill’s video? That horse doesn’t seem so high now, does it?

      1. TomSims
        TomSims April 10, 2013 at 9:58 am |

        Yes, I did put my foot in my mouth, but it was NOT in the workplace. I was trying to use my “privilege as an old white man with granddaughters to slip a sexiest compliment in. I had a “senior moment” and all that kind of thing. But you are correct and I’m busted.

        In hindsight all I should have said was something like this’ “Jill, I saw your appearance on al jazeera and think you did a great job. You got your points across well and did so in a very professional manner. And she did all of this and I should have stopped there. And I assure you, going forward I will never compliment any woman on this blog with respect to her physical appearance.

      2. A4
        A4 April 10, 2013 at 11:02 am |

        Seconding this. I knew exactly what comment you linked to before clicking and I remember it being creepy as hell.

  7. theLaplaceDemon
    theLaplaceDemon April 10, 2013 at 2:01 am |

    Here is a tip: Women are people, just like men!

    Love love love it.

    1. klaym0re
      klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |

      that advice is also very dangerous, men typically communicate in many ways that women typically find offensive. At my previous employer’s place of business, it was I frequently exchanged comments between other men on each other’s clothing physique and other aspects of our appearance that some women might find extraordinarily inappropriate in either a casual OR professional setting.

      1. EG
        EG April 10, 2013 at 10:00 am |

        The advice that women are people, just as men are people, is “dangerous”? I think you need a different word.

        1. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:10 am |

          The advice that women are people, just as men are people, is “dangerous”?

          No, the advice that you should treat all people the same is dangerous, because many women feel that speaking to them the same as one would men is not equal treatment.

        2. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 10:17 am |

          Fortunately, that’s not what was being said:

          You interact with men on a daily basis, right? Can you tell when a man doesn’t want to talk to you anymore? Here is a tip: Women are people, just like men! So just take the understanding of social cues that you use on men (the default humans, I know) and then apply it to your interactions with women.

          Context is your friend. It’s not dangerous.

        3. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:23 am |

          Context is your friend. It’s not dangerous.

          Contextually, most men (as has been my experience admittedly) do not rely on non verbal cues to communicate with me. Typically they communicate via overt verbal or physical gestures, things that many women (as far as I have experienced) are very averse to.

        4. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 10:38 am |

          So men say “Get the fuck away, dude, I don’t want to talk to you any more”?

        5. thinksnake
          thinksnake April 10, 2013 at 10:44 am |

          Contextually, most men (as has been my experience admittedly) do not rely on non verbal cues to communicate with me. Typically they communicate via overt verbal or physical gestures, things that many women (as far as I have experienced) are very averse to.

          Physical gestures are non-verbal cues. A lot of what might be termed ‘overt verbal gestures’ is in tone of voice, pace of delivery, register and dialect. Which can carry a huge amount of non-verbal information.

          So… I don’t actually understand what you mean by this comment?

        6. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm |

          So men say “Get the fuck away, dude, I don’t want to talk to you any more”?

          yes

          So… I don’t actually understand what you mean by this comment?

          Things like slapping each other’s asses in sports games, fist pounds, we typically swear more when speaking to one another, some times lewd gestures used in conversation such as crossing the hands over the genitals indicative of the meaning “suck my balls”, this can be friendly or negative in nature, jack off hand motions expressing discontent, etc.

        7. A4
          A4 April 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

          Things like slapping each other’s asses in sports games, fist pounds, we typically swear more when speaking to one another, some times lewd gestures used in conversation such as crossing the hands over the genitals indicative of the meaning “suck my balls”, this can be friendly or negative in nature, jack off hand motions expressing discontent, etc.

          You should not be doing any of these things in a professional environment except the fist pound. Gender is irrelevant to that fact.

        8. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

          These “men” you speak of sound like a thoroughly unpleasant group of people. I can’t say I’m too concerned about them getting smacked down if they follow the “dangerous” advice to which you object.

        9. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm |

          You should not be doing any of these things in a professional environment except the fist pound. Gender is irrelevant to that fact.

          Agreed, it is however how many men interact within professional spaces, particularly in high ranking ones. As such, it would not be good to interact with women this way “because it’s how you may or may not interact with other men”, which was my only comment on the matter.

        10. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm |

          Klaymore, saying “women are people, just like men!” doesn’t mean women are identical to men*. It means we are people, as men are people, not some weird separate species that exists for men to have sex with.

          *Or that we’re identical to each other and there’s a total men/women divide, or anything silly like that – quite apart from all the variations of people that binary leaves out.

        11. theLaplaceDemon
          theLaplaceDemon April 11, 2013 at 8:48 am |

          Others have pretty effectively taken this to task (*wow* I did not expect replies on my comment).

          But this:

          “Contextually, most men (as has been my experience admittedly) do not rely on non verbal cues to communicate with me. ”

          Is empirically false. I will throw a boatload of citations in your direction if you are actually interested.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L April 10, 2013 at 10:13 am |

        it was I frequently exchanged comments between other men on each other’s clothing physique and other aspects of our appearance that some women might find extraordinarily inappropriate in either a casual OR professional setting.

        Really? I’m having a hard time envisioning a bunch of guys at work (either straight or gay) spending a lot of time complimenting each other’s “physiques” in a way that their female co-workers would find offensive. “Hey, Bill, how’s the family? Your ass looks great in those pants, by the way!”

        1. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |

          Really?

          Yes, comments were frequently exchanged about who had been working out recently, “looked ripped in that shirt”, “was dressed to kill” (lady killer was a bit of a meme at that place, long story <_<), etc.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia April 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |

          “Hey, Bill, how’s the family? Your ass looks great in those pants, by the way!”

          Do men seriously say things like this to each other?

        3. Donna L
          Donna L April 10, 2013 at 10:27 am |

          Not in my experience working as a guy all those years. But maybe my ass just didn’t look good enough.

        4. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia April 10, 2013 at 10:44 am |

          Sorry I wrote that. Men is an unacceptable generalization. But I’ve really never heard of such a thing happening.

        5. A4
          A4 April 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |

          Honestly, if the men at my office frequently commented on each other’s physiques in that manner, it would make me super uncomfortable because I would never say something like that for fear of sexually harassing one of the men or eliciting a homophobic reaction or both. It’s an intensely othering experience, and has a very “no-homo-bro” vibe, and is reminiscent of men bonding over their shared subjugation of women (especially with the creepy lady killer crap)

        6. steven
          steven April 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

          in my experience usually when guys say stuff like that to each other they are joking and they have to know the person well enough before they will even joke like that. for some reason a lot of guys think it is funny.

        7. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah April 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

          I’m not a dude, but I have definitely witnessed dudes (in a law firm) exchanging comments like the ones that klaymore gave as examples. Frequently. Especially the young ones, but not exclusively.

        8. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah April 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

          And, actually, I had a guy come into my office once and he turned around and asked me how his butt looked in his “casual Friday” jeans. We were friends and he was not interested in me (or women at all, in fact), so it wasn’t offensive, but an honest question. He later asked another (straight) male colleague and got an “It looks awesome, man.” And then, ANOTHER male colleague complimented the pants without any prompting, something along the lines of “Like those tight jeans, ___, one of those work AND play outfits, I see?” On the other hand, I hear women say things like that to each other all the time, usually jokingly and between people who are already friendly, if not already friends. Its really not unusual at all, in my experience.

      3. (BFing) Sarah
        (BFing) Sarah April 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

        I don’t think that men, specifically, communicate in many ways that women might find offensive as a group. I think that everyone finds different things offensive and appropriate and that, to be safe, you shouldn’t make statements about a person’s physical appearance in the workplace if you are not sure if its appropriate. When in doubt, just don’t say anything. I don’t think women, as a group, find more things “offensive” than men. I think that, in a casual setting, you will find that individual personality is the best indicator as to whether a person will be offended by a particular remark or action. That’s why its best to get to know another person before making any kind of statement about his or her physical appearance, so that you know whether he or she will appreciate it or be offended. If you don’t know, don’t say it. Simple.

        1. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

          I think that everyone finds different things offensive and appropriate and that, to be safe, you shouldn’t make statements about a person’s physical appearance in the workplace if you are not sure if its appropriate.

          I agree, and since it is impossible to know if such a comment will be considered appropriate 100% of the time and the consequences for offending somebody in the professional space are so severe, It is best to avoid them entirely.

        2. TomSims
          TomSims April 10, 2013 at 11:08 pm |

          @(BFing) Sarah

          “When in doubt, just don’t say anything. ”

          Excellent advice.

  8. klaym0re
    klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |

    If you are friends with a woman in your office, you two are hanging out in the break room, and you notice that she’s gotten a fetching new haircut, it’s completely normal to say, “Hey, Cheryl, righteous haircut.”

    This is actually very dangerous advice, the break room is still the office, and a comment on a person’s appearance can still be considered sexual harassment (friendly “track record” or not). The safest course of action is to only interact with people “at the office” proffesionaly at all times.

    2. If a woman is making eye contact with you in a public social space such as a bar or discotheque.

    This is also very dangerous advice. People make dozens of gestures to all sorts of people in public for all sorts of reasons without using any form of verifiable communication. There is really no way to tell if he or she is looking, smiling, frowning, etc, at YOU until you speak to them, and body language is notoriously difficult to decode with anywhere near even 80 confidence compared to verbal methods.

    If the person in question didn’t in fact want your attention, you have just opened your self to a very public and potentially vicious or perhaps even violent social reprimand by attempting to speak to them as if they were perusing a conversation.

    1. EG
      EG April 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |

      you have just opened your self to a very public and potentially vicious or perhaps even violent social reprimand

      So what you’re saying here is “you might get shot down and/or insulted”? Gee…that’s…really awful. Or just part of life.

      This is actually very dangerous advice, the break room is still the office, and a comment on a person’s appearance can still be considered sexual harassment (friendly “track record” or not). The safest course of action is to only interact with people “at the office” proffesionaly at all times.

      You completely skipped the “If you are friends” part, didn’t you?

      1. klaym0re
        klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:15 am |

        So what you’re saying here is “you might get shot down and/or insulted”?

        No, what I said was by only using non verbal signals as indicators of permission to engage in conversation with women, you potentially could be shot down, insulted, or physically attacked. (I did not mention permanently ejected from a social environment but that is also a possibility)

        You completely skipped the “If you are friends” part, didn’t you?

        No, I didn’t, in fact i referred to it specifically in my reply using the qualifier (friendly “track record” or not)

        1. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 11:00 am |

          Friendship is not a “track record.” It is an ongoing relationship. If you can’t tell the difference between these two things, then indeed, it is best to keep your mouth shut. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you represent men in general.

          you potentially could be shot down, insulted, or physically attacked. (I did not mention permanently ejected from a social environment but that is also a possibility)

          What kind of conversational gambit are you envisioning that would result in being physically attacked or eighty-sixed? In my rather extensive experience, not only do men not fear these things as a result of accidentally talking to a woman who is not interested in talking to them, these things do not happen. It would probably be a better world for women if men did fear them as the consequences of offending women, but they don’t. Because they don’t need to. Because they don’t happen. So, in a word, bullshit.

          Seriously, what world do you live in? Because I’d like to go there. In the world I live in, men have no problem with repeatedly harassing women who are clearly not interested, and nothing bad happens to them at all. Alas.

        2. Anon21
          Anon21 April 10, 2013 at 11:09 am |

          No, what I said was by only using non verbal signals as indicators of permission to engage in conversation with women, you potentially could be shot down, insulted, or physically attacked.

          1) When was the last time you were “physically attacked” for attempting to start a conversation with a woman?

          2) If your answer to 1) is something other than “never,” does your idea of “conversation” involve a) unsolicited physical contact, b) vicious, unprovoked insults, or c) unadorned sexual propositions?

        3. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

          What kind of conversational gambit are you envisioning that would result in being physically attacked or eighty-sixed?

          me and male bodied friends of mine have been told to leave bars because our mere presence across the room “was creeping out several women whom asked security to make us leave”, physically assaulted for not acknowledging women’s advances, told to leave school premises when picking up my little brother from school because female members of the faculty noticed me making conversation with some of the moms and assumed I was there strictly to make advances towards them, as well as countless other scenarios.

          In my rather extensive experience, not only do men not fear these things as a result of accidentally talking to a woman who is not interested in talking to them, these things do not happen.

          perhaps not to you, but since you are in fact a woman, its not surprising we would have different experiences regarding this subject.

          1) When was the last time you were “physically attacked” for attempting to start a conversation with a woman?

          last year

          2) If your answer to 1) is something other than “never,” does your idea of “conversation” involve a) unsolicited physical contact, b) vicious, unprovoked insults, or c) unadorned sexual propositions?

          no

        4. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm |

          Given that I know many, many men, none of whom report even one such experience, and I have been and know many, many other women who have been the recipient of unwanted male attention with no such consequences to the payers of said attentions, then I must say that what this suggests to me is that you and your friends are in fact doing something quite threatening to the women in your vicinity.

        5. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

          Given that I know many, many men, none of whom report even one such experience,

          It is possible those men do not feel comfortable expressing their feelings on such experiences in the same way some women do not feel comfortable expressing similar sentiments to their male friends.

          and I have been and know many, many other women who have been the recipient of unwanted male attention with no such consequences to the payers of said attentions,

          I made no attempt to refute the commonality of such exchanges

          then I must say that what this suggests to me is that you and your friends are in fact doing something quite threatening to the women in your vicinity.

          I am forced in the interest of objectivity to concede this possibility, however I do not believe it is in fact the case.

        6. LJC
          LJC April 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm |

          I am forced in the interest of objectivity to concede this possibility, however I do not believe it is in fact the case.

          Yeah, neither me, nor any men I know, have ever been asked to leave a bar for creeping on women. We also have never gotten into a physical fight with women just by talking to them, told to leave school premises, or “countless other scenarios.” The fact that you have had theses things happen COUNTLESS times kind of indicates that either you have been the recipient of countless wildly improbable events, or that the problem is with you.

          Take Occam’s Razor to that and see what it looks like.

          There’s a certain

        7. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

          It is possible those men do not feel comfortable expressing their feelings on such experiences in the same way some women do not feel comfortable expressing similar sentiments to their male friends.

          Men with whom I have had explicit conversations about these very issues? I doubt it.

          What you’re telling me is that numerous women in a variety of situations have found you threatening. I am in the habit of believing women in the absence of a compounding factor (are these all white women finding a large black man threatening in a situation in which they would not find a large white man threatening, for instance). So, either you have a gift for running across women who are delusional and/or particularly vicious, or you and yours are indeed doing something threatening and your male privilege blinds you to it. What seems more likely?

        8. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

          Take Occam’s Razor to that and see what it looks like.

          There’s a certain

          Occam’s Razor refers to probability, not certainty, as I understand it.

          (are these all white women finding a large black man threatening in a situation in which they would not find a large white man threatening, for instance).

          Well I am a very large non-white man, but it seemed a bit brash to assume that the reasoning behind such interactions was always racily motivated.

        9. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm |

          “Well I am a very large non-white man,”

          You’re a very large man and you seriously expect us to believe you think you’re likely to be attacked by a woman for talking to her?

          What the hell are you saying or doing to get all these negative reactions? You’re the common denominator in all this. Maybe you should just stay away from women altogether after all.

        10. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 8:10 pm |

          Well I am a very large non-white man, but it seemed a bit brash to assume that the reasoning behind such interactions was always racily motivated.

          Is it always only white women who have these reactions? Or are they responding to your largeness coupled with some kind of threatening behavior?

          Quite frankly, I think it’s far more arrogant to assume that women are just irrational and likely to get you eighty-sixed at the drop of a hat. Either you’re dealing with a bunch of racist white women, or you’re doing something threatening, or both.

        11. trees
          trees April 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

          klaymore you remind me of faithless, and kersplat before him. Do y’all happen to share an ip address?

        12. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 8:28 pm |

          Damn, you’re right! I have had this conversation before– I thought I was having deja vu!

        13. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

          You’re a very large man and you seriously expect us to believe you think you’re likely to be attacked by a woman for talking to her?

          I place no expectations on your beliefs

          What the hell are you saying or doing to get all these negative reactions? You’re the common denominator in all this. Maybe you should just stay away from women altogether after all.

          Indeed, not interacting with people in general unless they choose to interact with me has proven to be a some what effective strategy.

          klaymore you remind me of faithless, and kersplat before him. Do y’all happen to share an ip address?

          I have no idea who those people are

        14. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

          So, trees, do you think we should send a giraffe alert?

        15. trees
          trees April 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm |

          So, trees, do you think we should send a giraffe alert?

          Yes, that’s a very good idea. What is the exact phrase you use?

        16. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

          I believe it is…

          We need a giraffe here.

          [Moderator note: Thank you for sending a giraffe alert.]

        17. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

          I place no expectations on your beliefs

          Riiiight. You’re making all these claims about how dangerous it is for you to, y’know, breathe in the same room as a woman in case she attacks you or calls security or whatever, without expecting anyone to believe what you’re saying.

          Either you’re lying right there, or that’s the weakest troll reveal ever.

        18. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm |

          Riiiight. You’re making all these claims about how dangerous it is for you to, y’know, breathe in the same room as a woman in case she attacks you or calls security or whatever, without expecting anyone to believe what you’re saying.

          My comment was simply that instead of attempting to decode when is and or is not appropriate to communicate informally with women in a professional setting, it is much safer to not do so at all and simply adhere to professional language 100% of the time. The other comments were responses to questions asked of me, not part of anything I originally wished to submit to the thread as topics of discussion themselves.

        19. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl April 10, 2013 at 9:46 pm |

          Well I am a very large non-white man, but it seemed a bit brash to assume that the reasoning behind such interactions was always racily motivated.

          JFC, Klaymore, cut it out.

          Here’s what pisses me off the most about trolling like yours, it seeks to make a mockery of the real racism that POC face every damned day in this country. I actually do know POC, men in particular, who have been followed around in stores or bars or wherever by staffers, or treated with hostility and suspicion by others walking down the street, or on the subway, and even removed bodily and violently from places of public accomodation simply because of their racial minority status. All because some white person got their scared on because they just knew “that person” was up to no good. Those experiences are all too real, and they are just some of the horribly discriminatory ways in which people succeed in ostracizing POC and treat them inhumanely.

          By your admission that does not appear to be the case with your personal experiences. So really, shut yourself down and move the hell on.

        20. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

          My comment was simply that instead of attempting to decode when is and or is not appropriate to communicate informally with women in a professional setting, it is much safer to not do so at all and simply adhere to professional language 100% of the time. The other comments were responses to questions asked of me, not part of anything I originally wished to submit to the thread as topics of discussion themselves.

          Bullshit. You went straight into this “dangerous advice” crap and about how men are likely to be told off (oh, the horror!) or physically attacked by women, and how terribly terrible it is for you and happens everywhere you go.

        21. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

          By your admission that does not appear to be the case with your personal experiences. So really, shut yourself down and move the hell on.

          I said I did not assume it was entirely racial motivated, not that there was no racial component. I can not tell you for sure why those people did what they did, I am not them.

          Bullshit. You went straight into this “dangerous advice” crap and about how men are likely to be told off

          I said it was an eventuality, I never said it was likely

          or physically attacked by women

          again, eventuality, not likelihood

          and how terribly terrible it is for you and happens everywhere you go.

          I made no such claim, I was asked if it had ever happened to me before, and answered in the affirmative. I was then prompted for examples, so I gave specific accounts

        22. BrotherPower
          BrotherPower April 10, 2013 at 10:17 pm |

          Thank you, Lolagirl.

          klaymore, you either live on Mars or are a liar. As a largish black man myself, I face discrimination based on people finding me threatening all the time. It is something that I honestly worry might end with me being killed (I’ve been drawn on by the police before, unarmed and not committing any crime). What I am not worried about is white women flipping out and attacking me for no reason or getting into dangerous trouble for getting on to elevators. Sometimes white women might hold their purse close or cross the street instead of walking past me, which maybe hurts my feelings a little, but even then I appreciate that I am not psychic and cannot tell when someone is doing that because I am black or because I am a man. On the other hand, I have seen other black men (and white men) harassing women in all sorts of ways, including a guy who pulled out his penis on the train, and none of them ever, ever got hit by the women they were harassing. Just being a man is not “dangerous”. Men don’t face physical harm for being creepy or paying compliments or whatever thing you are concern trolling about. There are real dangers in being seen as threatening or scary in our society, but what you are talking about is nonsense.

        23. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm |

          I face discrimination based on people finding me threatening all the time. It is something that I honestly worry might end with me being killed (I’ve been drawn on by the police before, unarmed and not committing any crime).

          Join the club, as I said, I am not white

          What I am not worried about is white women flipping out and attacking me for no reason or getting into dangerous trouble for getting on to elevators.I’m glad you have Sometimes white women might hold their purse close or cross the street instead of walking past me, which maybe hurts my feelings a little, but even then I appreciate that I am not psychic and cannot tell when someone is doing that because I am black or because I am a man.

          Then I am glad you have been able to avoid some of the nasty experiences I have had

          On the other hand, I have seen other black men (and white men) harassing women in all sorts of ways, including a guy who pulled out his penis on the train, and none of them ever, ever got hit by the women they were harassing.

          I am not negating that these things happen as you have described.

          Just being a man is not “dangerous”. Men don’t face physical harm for being creepy or paying compliments or whatever thing you are concern trolling about. There are real dangers in being seen as threatening or scary in our society, but what you are talking about is nonsense.

          I dissagree

          this isn’t a post that’s about how life is so scary and dangerous for men.

          Agreed, as I have stated several times now, I made no attempt to alter the subject of dialog within the thread, I responded to questions that were asked of me, and provided specific examples when prompted as a result.

      2. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll April 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm |

        Yup. Same guy. Same exact bullshit.

    2. A4
      A4 April 10, 2013 at 10:54 am |

      Stop it. This obtuse act of yours, as well as your overwrought descriptions of the consequences for men if they do not engage with the “safest” course of action are a total crap attitude.

      This is advice, not an algorithm. Advice is like a traffic light. The light tells you whether to go or stop. On the other hand, if a situation were to occur where you must ignore the light to keep people safe, then you can do that, because it’s just a light.

      The point is that the light’s advice is not useful if someone does not intend to practice safe driving.

      Thus so with this advice. It is for people who truly want to consider difference ways of thinking about professional interactions between men and women. If some dude like you finds a way to “follow the advice” and still sexually harass women, that is HIS fault for having stupid shitty intentions.

      You telling us that men will find ways to harass women no matter what women say is not news, nor does it make it “dangerous” for women to offer their opinions.

      The fact that you’d frame this discussion around the dangers men face when interacting professionally with women shows that you are a disingenuous shitface.

      1. klaym0re
        klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm |

        If some dude like you finds a way to “follow the advice” and still sexually harass women, that is HIS fault for having stupid shitty intentions.

        I made no claims to the contrary.

        You telling us that men will find ways to harass women no matter what women say is not news, nor does it make it “dangerous” for women to offer their opinions.

        I made no such claims

        The fact that you’d frame this discussion around the dangers men face when interacting professionally with women shows that you are a disingenuous shitface.

        I did not frame this conversation, I am merely a participant in it.

    3. Chataya
      Chataya April 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |

      So the men might get nervous in social situations due to their interactions being interpreted as sexual interest?

      How horrid.

      1. EG
        EG April 10, 2013 at 11:01 am |

        Truly, we women know nought of their suffering. How do they struggle on?

      2. klaym0re
        klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm |

        How horrid.

        I made no such value judgement.

        1. igglanova
          igglanova April 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

          Such a value judgement is implicit in your statement of hyperbolic melodrama here:

          If the person in question didn’t in fact want your attention, you have just opened your self to a very public and potentially vicious or perhaps even violent social reprimand by attempting to speak to them as if they were perusing a conversation.

        2. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm |

          It’s implicit in your use of the term “dangerous.”

        3. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

          high risk does not mean bad, nor did i attempt to imply so, if I thought such interactions were inherently negative I would have stated it.

          I simply stated that sticking to the suggestions posted above will not IMHO “will not keep you safe” from being judged as a misogynist at the office and could potentially provide a false sense of security when engaging in conversation.

        4. LJC
          LJC April 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

          I simply stated that sticking to the suggestions posted above will not IMHO “will not keep you safe” from being judged as a misogynist at the office and could potentially provide a false sense of security when engaging in conversation.

          If anyone legit think that it’s likely that they will be “judged as a misogynist” by people that they see and talk to every day and who know them well, that someone has a lot bigger things to work on than finding out when to compliment women’s bodies.

        5. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm |

          If anyone legit think that it’s likely that they will be “judged as a misogynist” by people that they see and talk to every day and who know them well, that someone has a lot bigger things to work on than finding out when to compliment women’s bodies.

          Personally I consider anybody who does not assume that people are constantly analyzing each other for signs of opinions that do not match their own in order to eradicate them (and subsequently the people who hold them) willfully ignorant at best, or at worst, arrogant.
          In my experience, people are typically extraordinarily unwilling to adopt a model of social treatment that does not 100% match what they consider to be the “public standard” (even tho the definition of this is inherently relative for all people). Assuming that people are actually willing to compromise on their definitions of “civil treatment” is a very naive perspective IMHO.

        6. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia April 10, 2013 at 9:50 pm |

          Personally I consider anybody who does not assume that people are constantly analyzing each other for signs of opinions that do not match their own in order to eradicate them (and subsequently the people who hold them) willfully ignorant at best, or at worst, arrogant.

          Do you really think most people consider killing their neighbors with differing opinions? This shows more about you than it does about society, and I hate to be the to tell you, but, in the modern age, your behavior is aberrant. Since you think it is normal to seek to “eradicate” people who have a differing opinion, I can see why you think talking to someone routinely gets a person attacked.

        7. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

          I find it kind of narcissistic. Like, you really think people are standing around analyzing your opinions? I…actually am not that interested in you, dude.

        8. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

          Do you really think most people consider killing their neighbors with differing opinions?

          I think most people are unwilling to compromise on some issues, and fear those with other opinions on those issues than them, and that that fear can and sometimes does translate into violence.

          Since you think it is normal to seek to “eradicate” people who have a differing opinion,

          I think its common place, that doesn’t mean I consider it a desirable trend in society and I don’t wish it would change, but I do not believe it will, certainly not anywhere near my lifetime anyway.

          I can see why you think talking to someone routinely gets a person attacked.

          eventually, not “routinely”

        9. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia April 10, 2013 at 11:35 pm |

          100% match

          some issues

          Which is it?

          in order to eradicate them (and subsequently the people who hold them)

          sometimes does translate into violence.

          Which is it?

      3. Tim
        Tim April 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

        Well, he didn’t say it was “horrid,” but it’s not nothing, either. For example, men need to be careful in isolated situations that they are not appearing to be threatening. I have avoided getting on elevators if it would result in there being just me and a lone woman, and waited for the next one. Or maybe changed routes and gone a different way or held up and waited a few minutes so the woman didn’t think I was following her. Not horrid, just a minor inconvenience really.

        Some women can get very angry if their advances are rejected, possibly even physically violent although that’s probably rare. Just the same, if I meet a single woman who doesn’t know me I feel it prudent to let her know as soon as possible that I’m gay so she doesn’t waste her time and there isn’t any disappointment later.

        1. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

          For example, men need to be careful in isolated situations that they are not appearing to be threatening. I have avoided getting on elevators if it would result in there being just me and a lone woman, and waited for the next one. Or maybe changed routes and gone a different way or held up and waited a few minutes so the woman didn’t think I was following her. Not horrid, just a minor inconvenience really.

          Except that those are all things you do out of consideration for the woman in question. If you get on an elevator alone with a woman, push your button, lean against the wall, watch the floor counter, and get out at your floor, you can be quite sure that nothing dangerous is going to happen to you. The worry isn’t for you. The woman in that situation does not have that assurance, and, quite frankly, the use of the word “dangerous” to denote the miniscule risks men are supposedly taking in these situations is absurd.

        2. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

          If you get on an elevator alone with a woman, push your button, lean against the wall, watch the floor counter, and get out at your floor, you can be quite sure that nothing dangerous is going to happen to you.

          I disagree, and I would consider men who believe that quite naive.

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date April 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

          Just the same, if I meet a single woman who doesn’t know me I feel it prudent to let her know as soon as possible that I’m gay so she doesn’t waste her time and there isn’t any disappointment later.

          How considerate of you.

        4. Donna L
          Donna L April 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm |

          How considerate of you.

          And generous, and magnanimous, and all those things. I have to say it reminds me a little bit of what the woman who was my very first office mate in my very first job out of law school, when I was 24 (back in another lifetime), decided to casually mention the very first day we shared an office in the course of recounting the story of her life, namely, “I don’t date short guys.” Which was about the furthest thing possible from my mind in that situation (never mind my gender issues), but it was still incredibly embarrassing to me. (Perhaps not as embarrassing as my second office-mate telling me that she’d decided I was her daytime husband, with her shower massage playing the role of her nighttime husband, but still.)

      4. LJC
        LJC April 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

        Personally I consider anybody who does not assume that people are constantly analyzing each other for signs of opinions that do not match their own in order to eradicate them

        So, in your opinion, misogyny is “an opinion that doesn’t match their own?”

        Protip, real talk, if you’re not a misogynist, virtually noone will ever think that you are.

        If you’re upset that people don’t like misogyny, I’m not sure what to tell you.

        1. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

          So, in your opinion, misogyny is “an opinion that doesn’t match their own?”

          no

          Protip, real talk, if you’re not a misogynist, virtually noone will ever think that you are.

          the law of averages says that since everybody has their own definition of what they consider misogyny, eventually somebody will think you are one, and it only takes one person to call you one publicly for it to have drastic consequences, especially in the professional world.

        2. Librarygoose
          Librarygoose April 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

          The law of averages also says most of what you claim has happened to you is blown wildly out of proportion. Maybe you freak people out because you’re constantly evaluating everything they say and do so you can “eradicate” them?

        3. EG
          EG April 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

          it only takes one person to call you one publicly for it to have drastic consequences, especially in the professional world.

          Yes!

          Cower, men, before the awesome power of One Woman Who Thinks You Are a Misogynist! None can stand against her!

          I wish I knew where Klaymore lived. I want to move there immediately.

        4. igglanova
          igglanova April 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

          it only takes one person to call you one publicly for it to have drastic consequences, especially in the professional world.

          I want to know the name and location of this alien planet.

        5. LJC
          LJC April 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm |

          It’s a damn shame that not one, but actually several, women have called Rush Limbaugh, Bill Mayer, and Mitt Romney misogynists. Their careers showed so much promise, and now they’re stuck in the poorhouse.

        6. klaym0re
          klaym0re April 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

          It’s a damn shame that not one, but actually several, women have called Rush Limbaugh, Bill Mayer, and Mitt Romney misogynists. Their careers showed so much promise, and now they’re stuck in the poorhouse.

          I imagine those people would have been much more severely impacted by the criticism generated by their statements if they were not already extraordinarily wealthy people. I also have no idea how if at all their social lives have been impacted, but I would suspect there has been some significant fallout within their personal groups.

        7. trees
          trees April 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

          I also have no idea how if at all their social lives have been impacted, but I would suspect there has been some significant fallout within their personal groups.

          This literally made me laugh out loud and I’m still laughing as I type this. I enjoy laughter, so thanks!

          We need a giraffe here

          [Moderator note: Thank you for sending a giraffe alert.]

    4. hellkell
      hellkell April 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

      Oh, quite it with the “dangerous.” Maybe YOU shouldn’t talk to women at all, since it seems to fraught for you.

      Jesus.

      1. hellkell
        hellkell April 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

        Sorry, complete writing fail on my part.

  9. Henry
    Henry April 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm |

    Trees: You’re calling for a giraffe – you know what they eat right?

    1. trees
      trees April 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

      @Henry
      Ha, Ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t think of that! …tucking my leaves under my hat…

      Thanks for the levity!

  10. Tim
    Tim April 11, 2013 at 12:40 am |

    And generous, and magnanimous, and all those things. I have to say it reminds me a little bit of …

    I think maybe what I said was not said very well and gave the wrong impression of what I meant. I was just saying that, in certain situations, it may be a good idea to make it clear right away that one is not “available,” to avoid misunderstandings or awkward situations. It seems like that is not quite like what you said happened to you; both incidents sound very unpleasant. I’m sorry they happened. You were being specifically singled out, and I would never say stuff like that to anybody.

  11. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT April 11, 2013 at 10:30 am |

    What he said was unprofessional. When I speak of my co-workers, I don’t comment on their hotness. It’s pretty simple, really. O screwed up here. He apologized, which is good, but the apology could’ve been better.

    Some (of the vaguely reasonable) folks going on about complimenting coworkers appear to be conflating a 1-on-1 conversation wherein you might mention a nice new hairstyle or outfit vs. a speech where you’re talking about someone else – not to them, but to the… well, to the world, basically (’cause, you know, POTUS). Those really aren’t the same.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims April 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

      “Some (of the vaguely reasonable) folks going on about complimenting coworkers appear to be conflating a 1-on-1 conversation wherein you might mention a nice new hairstyle or outfit vs. a speech where you’re talking about someone else – not to them, but to the… well, to the world, basically (’cause, you know, POTUS). Those really aren’t the same.”

      I agree they are not the same. IMHO, I think it’s best to keep all relationships at work on a professional level including 1 on 1 conversations. Your behavior at work should not be anything at all like it is when you are at your favorite bar or other social venue. I think we can all be courteous, respectful and friendly while still maintaining a professional attitude and never making any comments about how good looking or how well dressed a female co worker is. Keep compliments entirely focused on job related issues and never about physical appearance. And any time you have any thought your words may not be well received, just don’t say them.

  12. Wonderkitty
    Wonderkitty April 11, 2013 at 11:35 am |

    You don’t need to learn the rules, you need to change your ridiculous dinosaur brain.

    QFFT.

    Which is also why I kind of tl:dr scrolled past the long debates of whether or not certain “guidelines” were good or not.

    The point is that looking for ‘guidelines’ is bullshit. It’s a big world, full of lots of people, some of them are women, some of them are men, some are neither/both/fuckyourbinary. There’s no single set of “rules” or “guidelines” that’s going to make all the interactions in your daily life pleasant and uncomplicated.

    That being said, treating all people with the same level of respect is certainly a good idea to integrate into your life. Some might even say it’s necessary to meet the minimum standard of being a decent human being.

    1. A4
      A4 April 11, 2013 at 11:53 am |

      How can you both say that looking for any guidelines is bullshit but then offer your own guideline?

      treating all people with the same level of respect is certainly a good idea to integrate into your life.

      This isn’t very straightforward when it comes to real life applications. What is respect? What are its different levels? How can we integrate these concepts into our life in a concrete fashion?

      Are these questions bullshit?

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca April 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

        Yeah, I think those questions are bullshit. If a person has gone this far in life and is to the point where they are reading a feminist blog, and they still don’t know what respect is or how to display it to people, I think that person is unlikely to start truly respecting people based off of reading someone’s answer to the question “What is respect?”

        1. A4
          A4 April 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

          LotusBecca, you’re pretending that intent is magic.

        2. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca April 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm |

          No. . .I’m just saying if someone is still stuck at the level of “what is respect?” they aren’t likely to start respecting people by a person telling them an answer to that question. If someone is like. . .”I want to respect you, but you’ve been indicating to me I’m fucking up. How can I treat you in a way that you’re more comfortable with?”. . .well, that’s a different matter. But someone needs to have come up with some basic concept of respect on their own through their life experience. Someone is not going to become a decent human being via questioning random strangers on a blog (in my opinion).

        3. Willard
          Willard April 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          Asking “What is respect” and not having an internal understanding of the concept are two entirely different things in my eyes. The former opens up the possibility of expanding philosophical conversation into virtue ethics, while the latter indicates very poor socialization. Calling all discussion of the foundations of interpersonal interaction bullshit is disingenuous at best.

          That said, I do agree with what Mac posted earlier about questions with the intent to troll.

          I have a working definition of respect, but my own is far from the normative framework I would like it to be, and I still find value in questioning what and how extensive respect should be.

      2. matlun
        matlun April 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

        I am with A4 here. It is actually not that easy a rule to follow.

        As the OP discusses, the impact of giving an appearance based compliment depends on gender. It is not the same complimenting a man as complimenting a woman.

        So “treating all people the same” does not work.

        Instead you need to have a deeper understanding of the personal and group dynamics in the situation where you (possibly) give the compliment. Whether you respect the person you compliment or not is not necessarily critical.

        I have no reason not to believe that Obama respects Kamala Harris, and yet he made this comment. I do not think simple respect is enough. Or as A4 said: Intent is not magic.

        1. A4
          A4 April 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

          Right.

      3. TomSims
        TomSims April 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

        @A4

        “How can you both say that looking for any guidelines is bullshit but then offer your own guideline?”

        Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy.

        1. LC
          LC April 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

          See, I think guidelines are all we can have. It’s looking for rules that is bullshit.

          (I might use “an ethic” rather than “a guideline”, but that’s nitpicking.)

          Rules result in people arguing about the letter of it and demanding exceptions and what have you. A guideline implies the fact that it is plastic, context dependent, and needs to be implemented with some thought to what is actually happening.

  13. Lovely Links: 4/12/13
    Lovely Links: 4/12/13 April 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

    [...] In the wake of Obama’s compliment-related gaffe, Caperton breaks down the politics of complimenting a woman on her looks. [...]

  14. Georgia Platts
    Georgia Platts April 13, 2013 at 1:48 am |

    I think context matters. As was pointed out, Pres. Obama has complemented men on their good looks, too. Also, he didn’t only say that she was attractive, he also mentioned her abilities as an AG. So he wasn’t reducing her to her looks or to being a sex object.

    And I think there are more important things to worry about.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims April 13, 2013 at 9:34 am |

      “And I think there are more important things to worry about.”

      I agree completely, but it appears there a good number of feminists that think otherwise.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 1:56 am |

      “I think context matters. As was pointed out, Pres. Obama has complemented men on their good looks, too. Also, he didn’t only say that she was attractive, he also mentioned her abilities as an AG. So he wasn’t reducing her to her looks or to being a sex object.
      And I think there are more important things to worry about.”

      I agree completely, but it appears there a good number of feminists that think otherwise.

      Have you read Caperton’s OP? She specifically mentions context. She gave a number of instances of context where a compliment is perfectly acceptable.

      It’s not just feminists who think like this. I was buying a pair of jeans the other day, and the sales girl told me that my ass looked good in them. I would not have been fine if some random woman on the street or in the subway told me my ass looked good. However, in the context of dropping a lot of money on a pair of jeans, that is important information.

    3. Past my expiration date
      Past my expiration date April 17, 2013 at 6:19 am |

      And I think there are more important things to worry about.

      There is nothing stopping you from worrying about them! Hooray!

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