In a previous life, I worked at a health insurance company. A woman coworker and I headed a large, complicated project together, and often had to give presentations and hold meetings. We managed to navigate it pretty well, and our boss (also a woman) often told us as much. How we both reacted to the compliments surprised me, though. I’d always say thanks, but my coworker noped out, saying things like, “Oh, it was nothing.” Except it wasn’t nothing. What we did took a lot of work, and it frustrated me that my teammate downplayed it.
From birth, it’s ingrained in women that we need to demur, that we need to be modest. If someone likes your dress, call it old. If someone compliments your hair, say it’s just a good day and otherwise it’s a rat’s nest. If someone praises your work, tell them it wasn’t really that hard and anyone could do it. The phenomenon is a holdover from an antiquated concept that women should be modest—thereby putting men in a position of power and stamping down the women yet again. And it’s infected us. “Be modest” has been drilled into our brains for so long that we don’t know how to do anything else, even when receiving compliments from other women. In fact, studies have shown that women, upon hearing praise from other women, only reply with a positive response that doesn’t negate the acceptance 22 percent of the time. We don’t want to be seen as cocky or overly confident—because that’s not being modest.
Well, ladies, I think it’s time to start accepting our own fabulousness. If your jacket’s completely amazing, own it. When someone compliments you on how obviously smart you are, tell them they’re right. Throw modesty to the wind and start accepting the praise people are giving you. And if it irritates them or makes them think less of you, too bad—now you know if they were being genuine. Especially when it comes to men, who often compliment us with ulterior motives.
Author and activist Feminista Jones pointed out on Twitter that a woman saying “thanks” and nothing more to a compliment from a man offended the men.
Piss a man off today: Tell him you agree with his compliment of you.
— ♈☀#BlackWomensHistoryWeek 🌙♌ (@FeministaJones) May 12, 2017
Literally offended them, as if we’re supposed to giggle and blush and fawn over them for thinking so highly of us that we’re deserving of their magnanimous compliment.
I’ve had SEVERAL men tell me they found “thanks” an offensive reply to a compliment given to a woman 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
— ♈☀#BlackWomensHistoryWeek 🌙♌ (@FeministaJones) May 13, 2017
That women have the audacity to be confident instead of humble and ignorant of our own greatness–how dare we!
For any men reading, yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s not “all men.” Instead of complaining you’re being unfairly lumped in with a larger group, try standing up for women if you see this happening. Cut off the offended person and thank them for complimenting us as well. Explain to them why their offended reaction is ridiculous. Point out that we don’t need to demur. Otherwise, really, you’re being just as bad as the person paying the “compliment.” Oh, and hey, just so we’re clear—saying “hey beautiful” or something like that? Not a compliment. It’s just you trying to get laid. Collectively, women will reject this. Swipe left, delete your eHarmony message, scowl at you as you shout it from your car (don’t ever do this), leave if you’ve only just met her and say it instead of something more genuine. Be thoughtful. Seriously.
So ladies, let’s take a page (yet again) from Jones’ book and piss off a man today. Say thanks and agree with every compliment you’re given. For that matter, say thanks to insults, too. That’s even funnier to watch.
And if a woman compliments you, accept that too! Don’t demur. You deserve to bask in your own glory.