The day and age we find ourselves living in is a rather complicated and confusing one. Never before have we as a society been faced with such a likelihood of saying or doing something that has the potential to offend someone, and it can be difficult to distinguish what is socially acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to language used in a variety of contexts.
As a young woman, I think recent movements and progression in terms of gender equality and respect in the past few years have been tremendously advantageous in terms of opening doors and windows of opportunity for women. The Me Too movement in particular has sparked significant discussion and awareness pertaining to sexual and non-sexual harassment and assault directed towards women, and while it has garnered a lot of attention and has forced a lot of us to recognize how flawed the treatment of women can be, it has also resulted in a lot of confusion and fear when it comes to interacting with women.
I’ve had more than enough experiences with both verbal and physical harassment and assault, sexual and non-sexual, and think I am well-versed enough on the topic to speak about it. I’ve been harassed more times than I can count and have been inappropriately touched by men without consent. The majority of unwanted advancements I’ve experienced have been creepy, uncomfortable and inappropriate, but I’ve also been the recipient of a decent amount of genuine compliments, and I thought I would provide some clarification as to what a woman might interpret to be creepy versus what she may interpret to be kind and sweet.
Scenario #1: Say I am out in a public place by myself, having a coffee in a coffee shop. I’m sitting at a table, minding my own business, when a man approaches. He doesn’t sit down, nor does he crowd my personal space. He simply stops to tell me he thinks I am beautiful, I thank him, and goes on his way without looking for gratification or reward for his sincere compliment.
Scenario #2: Say I am out in a public place by myself, having a coffee in a coffee shop. I’m sitting at a table, minding my own business, when a man approaches. He sits down without asking or places his hands down on the table I am sitting at and leans close to limit my personal space and somewhat decrease my ability to get up and leave. He tells me I am good-looking and I thank him, and he asks if he can buy me a drink. I politely thank him for the offer but explain I have just started drinking the coffee I am sipping on. He looks me up and down rather obviously and says he will wait until I am finished my coffee and then will buy me one. Again, I thank him for the offer but explain I am fine with the one drink. He starts to get visibly irritated and raises his voice slightly, telling me I should be grateful for his offer. I explain I am grateful but politely decline his asking to purchase another drink for me, and he begins insulting me, calling me a bitch and a slut.
The first scenario is an example of a genuine compliment, while the second is an example of an asshole being a creep. Language and body language can make or break a situation like this, and a firm comprehension of what comes across as genuine and what doesn’t is the best way to understand what is appropriate and what isn’t.