It should be the simplest thing in the world, but somehow, accepting compliments is fraught with tension.
Last week, activist Feminista Jones put this "challenge" out on Twitter: "Piss a man off today: Tell him you agree with his compliment of you."
Piss a man off today: Tell him you agree with his compliment of you.— TheDevil's Sidechick (@FeministaJones) May 12, 2017
The basis for the statement was her experience after saying "thank you" when a compliment was doled out by a man, and the reactions of men she knows to hearing that response:
I've had SEVERAL men tell me they found "thanks" an offensive reply to a compliment given to a woman 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂— TheDevil's Sidechick (@FeministaJones) May 13, 2017
Men as teachers. Men as validation. Men as approval. Men as decision-makers of what is "hot". Men as arbiters of praise. Men in control.— TheDevil's Sidechick (@FeministaJones) May 13, 2017
The responses from women around the web flooded in, many with anecdotes from online dating sites, as well as the random compliments they receive from strangers on the street. The general impression? Men don't want to be agreed with when they give props, they just want to dole out judgment.
But is this only the case when it's men praising women, or is there something bigger at play?
In a 2013 skit from "Inside Amy Schumer," the comedian portrays a group of women getting together and giving each other compliments, only to have the recipient immediately shrug it off. And when one woman says a simple "thank you," well, everything falls apart:
Speaking about the skit to The A.V. Club, Schumer noted, "I think one of the things women are taught is that it makes you more attractive when you hate yourself. To be accused of having any sort of an ego is really frowned upon. There’s a fear of somebody being jealous of you or envious of you, because then they won’t like you, and you want to be liked. So we think it’s attractive to be humble."
And while men struggle with taking compliments too (as this "how to" guide would suggest), there are many factors that point to women having more difficulty with the praise, and yes, that's thanks to how society has raised us.
And its impact is felt far beyond giving or receiving compliments.
"There’s a fear of somebody being jealous of you or envious of you, because then they won’t like you, and you want to be liked. So we think it’s attractive to be humble."
As Ethan Mollick, a management professor at Wharton, noted from research he conducted on the topic of male vs. female entrepreneurs, "[Men are] much more likely than women to believe that their success is because of their own doing and failure is someone else’s fault. Women actually have a more accurate judgment of risk in this particular way.
"On the other hand, it’s called the male hubris, female humility effect. Men have more hubris. Women, in addition to having a lower hubris, also have higher levels of humility. Humility means that in the face of actual success, you’re less likely to attribute it to yourself and you’re less likely to take advantage of it."
So what's a woman to do in the face of this impossible situation? We say, take the damn compliment (and the etiquette experts back us up). If whoever has given it can't handle you thinking you're amazing, you don't have time for them anyway.
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