• Me Too, Sexual Harassment, and the Workplace: Compliment Accomplishments, Not Physical Appearance

Yet another complaint I’ve read or heard from “Me Too” Twitter trend objectors centers around men saying they are now reluctant or fearful to compliment a woman on her physical appearance at the office.

Some men now say they are afraid that an innocent, well-meaning remark to a woman co-worker meaning to praise her for looking nice at the office may be misconstrued as sexual harassment.

If you are a man, rather than compliment a woman boss, woman co-worker, or woman subordinate on her physical appearance, why not compliment her on what truly matters: her work-place accomplishments?

Why do you, if you are  a man, feel it’s necessary to tell a woman she looks lovely?

Why do you assume all, or most, women live to have your validation regarding their appearance? Why do you assume women need or want you to affirm their physical beauty, or to do so rather than praise them on matters having nothing to do with their looks?

If your co-worker Susie Smith delivers a really great sales presentation at your weekly staff meeting, why not tell her so?

Tell Ms. Smith how informative you found her presentation. If you did so, Ms. Smith would probably appreciate that much more than a male co-worker telling her, “I like that new dress you’re wearing.”

I do believe since the dawn of time, and certainly in American culture of the last several decades, far too much emphasis has been placed on the female form.

Women are told, or get the implicit message through media from the time they are girls, that men and culture value them only for their beauty and youth.

In the last decade or there abouts, there has been an uptick in society placing more pressure on boys and men to look physically attractive, to the degree that more and more men are going to cosmetic surgeons to get nips and tucks, and more boys are developing eating disorders.

But still, a greater, disportionate amount of pressure to look sexy and pretty at all times, and to appear to be 21 years old (even into one’s forties or older) falls on women and has for many decades.

Women are still judged more by beauty standards than men are. Men get judged more so by accomplishment, not by how sexy and physically fit they are, or are not

Girls and women get constantly compared to the airbrushed and perfect standards in magazines, TV adverts, music videos, and billboards.

So well-grained is this sexist swill that the only value a woman brings to the world is her looks (which is always linked to her youth – supposedly a woman’s sex appeal or beauty fades instantly once she reaches the age of 35), that we see nonsense such as this:

Geraldo Rivera: Youth Is the Best Thing Women Can Bring to Marriage


Rivera further damaged his already lumpy track record by expressing some archaic ideas about women as part of a discussion about rise of “beta marriages.” (Because he’s had “a lot” of beta marriages, he’s an “expert” on the subject.):

(Quoting Rivera):

….. But what I think a woman brings to a marriage more than anything else, to a relationship, is her youth. Youth is a fragile and diminishing resource. So if a woman were to invest two years into one of these marriages and then to be rejected by the man, I think that she has given up a valuable asset that is unequal – in other words, the man gets everything and the woman gets nothing from this arrangement.

I have never in my life seen a man (or a woman) say to or about men generally, that a man’s most valued asset is his “youth” or physical appearance.

Even Christian complementarians are guilty of teaching girls and women that one of their primary purposes is to be sexy and attractive to men, and this is supposedly justified they feel, because complementarians teach that God wired men to be more visually oriented than women.

Even though the Bible does not teach any of this.

The Bible does not state anywhere or even allude to a notion that God created men to be more visually stimulated than women. This is something that complementarians merely assume to be true, the same complementarians who have the audacity to say they are sola scriptura and take the Bible seriously and literally.

When I was engaged, my ex fiance, whom I shall call “Bart” in this post, would never shut up about my looks. “Bart” was always telling me how “beautiful” he thought I was.

This grew to be very tiresome by the second year of our relationship. I eventually asked “Bart” to find something else about me to comment upon, anything but my looks.

I actually felt de-valued by “Bart” in that he did not seem to care or show an interest in me as a person, or in the things I was proud of about myself, such as my boss complimenting me on my job performance.

Rather than act happy that I was commended by my boss for performing well at the office, Bart would remain silent on issues such as that.

The only thing that man would compliment me on was my appearance.

Nothing else.

That tendency of “Bart’s” made me feel like a thing, an object, not a full-fledged person.

I often wondered, if I were to get into an automobile accident and my face was re-arranged and deformed as a result, would Bart have broken up with me?

If Bart didn’t value me for who I was but only for what I looked like, what if I gained 200 pounds, or all my hair fell out?

What if I got breast cancer and had to have both breasts removed, would he have kicked me to the curb over that? What about when I start to get wrinkles?

Bart was always happy to tell me about 100 times per week that I was “beautiful.” But that jerk of a slob never once paid me a compliment on the creative pursuits I was involved in, or awards I won, or having any of my work published.

As someone who spent the first part of her life being rejected or jeered by males over her looks, I don’t enjoy or want the opposite: men and boys who are only happy to value me and treat me with kindness once I dropped the bit of weight, or the acne cleared up.

I do not want to be hated, liked, loved, or disliked due to what I look like.

Growing up, I went through a nerdy phase.

I was chunky at one point, I had acne as a teen for awhile, and I used to wear thick eye glasses. I didn’t gate dates then.

No, boys would mock me for being ugly until I cried. Then they’d laugh at me for crying.

In junior high, when I went through my dorky phase, I’d have boy classmates point to photos of women models wearing bikinis taped to their book covers then tell me, “I wish you bet you could look like that. But you don’t.”

Around that same time, I had boys prank call me at my house pretending to like me, tell me they liked me and wanted to date me, but then, they’d blurt out how ugly they believed I was, laugh hysterically, then slam the phone down on me.

Somewhere along the way, guys started finding me attractive.

My sister put my photo out in her homes, and her single male friends would see my photos and ask her to be set up on dates with me.

When I modeled for a life drawing class, the instructor snapped several photos of me (and several other students) for other students to use as references to draw from.

The art instructor would use these photos as a reference library students could check out: she’d pin these photos up in her office, so art students could borrow them to draw from and return them later.

I later found out from female classmates (who took classes on different days from me), that the male students saw my photos pinned to the instructor’s office wall, they thought I was very pretty, and they asked my lady classmates if they knew who I was and if I was single.

You may be thinking I was delighted by all this, after having spent years as the nerdy girl all boys felt was too ugly to date.

No, I was not happy about this. I was angered by the hypocrisy.

I was the same person inside the entire time. But did boys care about my intellect, talents, sense of humor, or any other qualities? Did any of them take time to get to know me as a person? No.

Most boys and men have always been more interested in the “outer packaging” than they are with the person who is on the inside.

I have observed this on dating sites, as well. My friends talked me into joining dating sites a few years ago.

My experience on dating sites has been as follows:

Most men don’t care about your profile, your hobbies, your career, your hopes and dreams in life, or anything else you write about on your profile page.

All most men on dating sites care about is your profile photo. If they think you are attractive, they will contact you.

I can’t begin to tell you how many men did not even bother to read my profile page, and it was glaringly obvious they had not done so based on the comments and questions they would send me.

I would say on my profile page that my favorite color was red, and I loved, say, ice skating and skated all the time.

The typical male respondent would write me, ask what my favorite color was, and if I had ever been ice skating.

I would reply, “Did you not see on my profile I already mentioned what my fave color is, and that I’ve already been ice skating?”

The man in question would write back, very sheepish, and admit, “No, I did not read your profile.”

I had that happen repeatedly to me on dating sites.

This is a common phenomenon for almost all women on dating sites.

So much so, I read an article once where a woman posted photos of herself on a dating site and said in her profile that her favorite hobbies were being a serial killer who decapitates men on first dates, and she loves stealing candy from babies. (This may be the article.)

She wanted to see if any man would actually respond to her after claiming to be a violent, hate filled wacko in her dating profile.

She was still inundated with flirts and winks from men on those sites. Her conclusion: men don’t read a woman’s profile or else don’t care about what’s on the profile. Most men just obsess over the woman’s physical appearance, so they gravitate towards the woman’s photos.

It’s time for culture and men to stop valuing women only or primarily for their physical appearance and to stop discussing it all the time.

If men are now so afraid to pay a woman co-worker a compliment on her new dress, or having had lost ten pounds, or whatever it may be, this does not concern me.

These men should have been focusing on that woman colleague’s work performance from the out-set and complimenting women co-workers on that basis, not on her new skirt or weight loss.

Additionally, if men not now feeling as free to compliment women on their looks while at work in any way cuts down, or halts, sexual harassment against women in the world of work, I fail to see how that is a bad outcome.

For you ladies who whine and moan that you enjoy, or look forward to, male co-workers being flirty with you at work, and you enjoy the external validation of your looks, and you will miss this sort of male attention (and sadly, there is a tiny percentage of female “Me Too” haters who say they like the flirty male behavior at work), go join a dating site or start attending night clubs on your own time for that sort of thing.

The workplace is not an appropriate venue to look for getting raves on your sex appeal, your cute new blouse, or to get flirty comments from men.

I, like many other women, have had to endure a life time of boys and men judging me on my sex appeal, body, face, level of prettiness, and letting me know if they believe I fall short on any of that, and I’m fed up with it.

I’m tired of being judged on my appearance by men (and by culture generally) and treated like a sex object, whose only purpose or value is being delightful to the eyes of men, or in how sexually alluring men may find me.

I’d like to be noticed or valued more for my qualities that have nothing to do with my looks, such as my intelligence, my writing, my kindness, my creative talents, and so on, and I think many other girls and women share this sentiment.

I have no idea why so many men believe that the highest, or only type of, compliment they should be giving a woman on a job has to do with the woman’s sex appeal or looks, when they really should be looking past a woman’s appearance to take note of how well she is fulfilling her job duties.

More On This Blog:

You’re At Your Job To Do A Job – Not Flirt And Get Dates – Regarding the Backlash Over the “Me Too” Sexual Harassment Awareness Movement


One thought on “• Me Too, Sexual Harassment, and the Workplace: Compliment Accomplishments, Not Physical Appearance

  1. This topic crosses my mind quite often. Many of my Christian college and seminary friends rushed into marriage because they were told by their families and other evangelicals marriage would fix all their problems. When you add in that many guys simply chose wives based on how hot they thought they were, and the women believed that God would make the guy absolutely perfect for them once they got married–it was a mess. Now many are divorced. A few have remarried in the exact same pattern.

    I’m pretty sure the main reason I’m single today is out of exasperation for the way Christian guys treated me. I just got to the point where I didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. One of the guys that assaulted me was in a Christian group of friends. Other men in that group berated me and spread rumors when I not only rejected him, but tried to tell them what a horrible creep he was. It took him harassing and assaulting multiple women before they finally got a clue. I’ve also had guys at church harass me for long periods of time, try to trick me into dating them (like that would work?), demand that I date them, and more. Stalking seemed perfectly acceptable to many of them and most acted like the women were completely at fault for not wanting to be stalked. And nearly all either lectured women or just passively stood by when men stalked women in the group. When stuff like that happened, it was the women that had to put a stop to it, though often the men just acted like they had no idea why anybody was upset.

    I also had so many Christian guy friends that clearly only targeted women based on their looks. I noticed it even applied to the way they chose friends. Then you got books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” which basically advised people to get married without knowing someone. And not once have I ever heard a sermon on seeing people the way Christ sees them or on choosing spouses and friends purely based on who they are as people. In at least 3 sermon series I’ve heard about marriage, the pastor only referred to his wife as “my hot wife.” Not inspiring me with your marriage wisdom in that phrase.

    In most of the larger churches I’ve attended, single women outnumbered men. And I sadly knew so many desperate single Christian women who wanted the wedding more than a life partner. I do think that ties into this belief that somehow God will make marriages perfect once you say “I do.” Many churches treat single women like anathema, so it’s no wonder many just marry the first guy who shows interest.

    Nobody seems to question all this, either. Not until they are on the other side of a divorce or just seen too many people crash and burn like I have. I’ve never heard a sermon on not looking at the appearance of others. Probably because many of those pastors chose their wives and friends in exactly the same way.

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