Her Response To An Unwanted Compliment Shows Why Such Interactions Can Be So Problematic

"You’re SUPPOSED to say thank you."

Many women have been there before. We're out and about, minding our own business, when we receive a spontaneous compliment from a stranger; oftentimes, a man. Women are usually expected to have a particular reaction to these sorts of unwanted compliments — and when they don't, things can go awry, as evidenced by one woman's recent encounter at a Target. 

In a series of tweets from Rebecca Mix, Mix explains what happened when she was browsing for makeup. 

"I was picking out lipstick at Target and some older dude said in a pretty condescending voice, 'You don't need that stuff, you're already beautiful,'" Mix writes. Mix adds that she wanted to tell the man off, but instead she said, "I know." Apparently, he didn't like that.

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Things continued to the point where the man was actually insulting her.

"You're SUPPOSED to say, 'thank you,'" he tells her. "Vanity is ugly. And you're actually quite plain. I was being nice."

Of course, every situation is different, but Mix is calling upon a feeling that she's sure other women are familiar with. 

"I've gotten a lot of support, but it's … interesting how furious some men are," Mix tells Scary Mommy. "The tweets they've been making and tagging me to make sure I see them calling me a whore/ugly/telling me to die are wild."

She continued, "Honestly, I feel like men with that kind of toxic masculinity are so used to responding with anger that when someone says, 'Hey, this behavior isn't okay,' they perceive it as a personal attack instead of a problem with the larger culture as a whole so they automatically lash out."

Women should be able to react to these types of experiences however they please without feeling like they'll receive backlash for their responses. 

"Most people like to hear kind words about themselves, but sometimes 'compliments' given to women can border on sexual harassment or contain ulterior motives. It can be hard to know how to respond to unwanted compliments because when the complimenter's malintent is covert, it's easy for them to paint you as the bad guy," Bustle writer, Suzannah Weiss, explains. Weiss suggests various ways to respond: ignore them, turn it around on them, or, like mix did, say "I know." 

Mix's story only helps to highlight how often women are put in these situations, and that harassment, in any form, is wrong/ Stop Street Harassment (SSH) commissioned a 2,000-person nationally representative survey in the USA with firm GfK. The 2014 survey found that 65 percent of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23 percent had been sexually touched, 20 percent had been followed, and 9 percent had been forced to do something sexual. 

With so many encounters taking a turn for the worse, it's no surprise women are wary of what some men might consider a harmless, unwanted compliment. 

While women can continue standing up for themselves in these situations, men also need to be allies. Vice suggests that when it comes to catcalling, men need to stop ignoring it, say something, and stop telling women to take things as compliments. 

Cover image bDean Drobot / Shutterstock

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