I had an encounter with a guy on the metro over the weekend that was interesting to say the least. As I was standing and waiting for a red line train toward downtown DC, a young man walked up to me and told me that he thought I was beautiful, but I would be gorgeous if I smiled, to which I said nothing. Apparently my participation in the conversation was unnecessary for him because he immediately moved into a diatribe about how I was dressed the way a respectable woman should be dressed and it was good thing that I wasn’t ignorant like most of the women that he had encountered. I guess my indifferent expression didn’t resonate with him because he kept going by giving a list of things that women should do to be considered wife material. At that point I’d had quite enough and my meditation tactics started to wear off. I finally said, “Sir, did it ever occur to you that your opinion means nothing? You are not a woman and it’s clear that you don’t interact with a diverse group of women for you to feel it necessary to walk up to me and tell me what it takes to BE a woman. I would suggest that you walk away right now.” He looked at me like I’d just punched him in the eye. Then he says, “I was just trying to talk to you. I didn’t mean no harm.” Bruh, what? Anyway, he walked away. I was only a little disappointed because I didn’t get to quote Janelle Monae by saying, “Sit down. I’m not for male consumption.” Maybe next time because this is clearly a common encounter that I’ve experienced before as well as other women I know. Men telling women how to handle the woman thing.
I’ve seen quite a few posts and online articles written by women telling men to take several upon several seats on the matter of what a woman should remember about being a woman and how to respect herself (to which I replied an emphatic PREACH!). Of course these articulate ladies were DRUG through the mud by the very guys who see themselves as the champions of the female body and psyche; which, might I add, is counter intuitive to uplifting the woman…but I digress.
Just to be clear about my opinion, I have nothing against the idea of a woman choosing a more submissive role in a relationship or deferring to a male partner in her life and taking his opinion into consideration. I understand that everybody’s experience is their own and the power of choice exists. I get it. I see the value in it. I even champion it if everyone involved is exercising free will and are unharmed with that choice. But what I do have a problem with is a man asserting to a woman how to take ownership of her femininity when she is in fact already the owner and chief of said femininity.
I’m all about positive male attention and men acknowledging the beauty of women they encounter in a respectful way. Hell, I’m clear on the fact that I like to be flirted with and told that I’m beautiful by a man, but I think it’s safe to say that if this aforementioned man told me that I’d be beautiful if I dressed (or undressed) a certain way or that I would be able to respect myself more if I removed (or added) my makeup in public, he might be crossing a line. To me, and this is my opinion, he’s entering territory where being able to get pregnant and have a baby and the ability to menstruate live. You know, the things that have been scientifically proven only women are able to do. I won’t even leave it at being physically born a woman, I’ll include people who choose to live as women.
I’ve had a really close (and well-meaning) male friend voluntarily offer me advice on things that I can do to attract more people (he meant men) to me. He even told me how I should change my body language to be more inviting to which I replied Bitch Please (I later apologized for my very unfiltered, albeit honest response). For those who are close to me, they know that I’m pretty ok about my body language and I’ve reached that sage stage of life that serves one’s self-confidence pretty well. I always dig a genuine compliment, but give me a break on trying to shame me (and my fellow ladies) who may be calculated but are confident in the personal choices that display themselves as clothing, hairstyles, or make-up tutorials on YouTube.
Every woman does not have the same exact thing in mind when it comes to how she presents herself to the world. It’s absolutely a matter of preference. I’m not angry about this, I’m just very clear that there are certain boundaries that should not be disturbed and for me this is one of them. I believe in the delicate, yet powerful balance of gender energies and that it should be honored.
The message is this: it feels good to receive a compliment that’s based on the things that make me who I am and my ability to make choices and think critically. The statements that start off with, “you’d be beautiful if” or “if you would just do this then” are compliments that are backhanded in nature and reduce the intent of kindness to nothing more than ignorant judgement. Just let us women and girls live please.