A young woman is standing by herself at a coffee shop. She is dressed exquisitely—her outfit is on point, her makeup flawless, and her hair placed in an elaborate coif. She had just gotten her order when a man comes up to her saying, “Hey, I just want to say that you are gorgeous.” She thanks the man with a straight face and goes to sit at a table alone. He follows her over and sits down saying, “Seriously, you are fantastic. I’ve never seen someone as wonderful. I was thinking maybe I could get your number and we could go out sometime?” She again thanks the gentleman, but tells him that she’s really not interested and apologizes. He tells her, “Yeah, whatever you’re just a stuck up bitch” and leaves. Her cheeks are hot with embarrassment and she waits until the man is completely out of sight before quickly existing the shop herself.
There are many who would just find an issue with the man’s last statement, him calling her a bitch, and wouldn’t perceive anything else wrong with this interaction, but there is something wrong. Now, I’m not saying that a man can never pay a woman a compliment or anything. It’s just that there is a fine line between giving a compliment and causing a woman so much discomfort that it’s actually harassment. The first line of this hypothetical situation was fine (though there are always problems of basing a woman on her appearance, but that’s another post), but the second line is crossing over into harassment. Wait! You’re probably saying, he was trying to make a date there’s nothing wrong with that. Well, on most occasions that may be true, but within this situation she gave no indication of interest—no smile, no additional remarks, and she didn’t linger in hopes he said more, in fact, she walked away immediately.
Yet, this still does not dissuade the man (though a hypothetical situation there are many real life men who also can’t take a hint) and he continues to hassle and bother the woman. The worst part is not even the moment she gets called a bitch or runs away from the store just to feel safe, but it’s the moment that she apologizes. Women are constantly apologizing, often for things that they should not have to be, including their lack of interest in another person. Regardless of gender, you should never be made to feel guilty because you don’t show interest in another person this includes friends (check out my post on my issues with the friendzone).
Now, I know some of you still think that this isn’t a big deal, but imagine this scene playing out in a place other than a public coffee shop. How about at work? Or late at night when she was alone? Just as easily as the interaction could have stopped after the first line it could have escalated way past the last one. This is what it means to be a women in our society, you never know if a compliment is just going to be a single happy compliment or if it’s going to progress into something much more dangerous. There are those who claim that the woman shouldn’t have been dressed so nice if she didn’t want the attention. So, does that mean that if a woman wants to be left alone she has to go out looking like a wreck? Or should she just stay inside and avoid it all together?
Again, I’m not trying to say that you can never approach or compliment a woman. I’m just asking for understanding a woman may just not feel like talking, she may be wary of your intentions, or she might not even bat for your team. Regardless, pay attention, if a woman shows no interest back this is not an invitation to try harder, it’s one to leave her alone.
What’s your opinion on the line between compliments and harassment? Is there one? And how do you find it? Let me know in the comments!