How to Compliment a Woman

The other day, a friend posted a new video on Facebook in which she and her male colleague were being interviewed about a project they are launching. It’s a brilliant idea, and much needed in her industry.

When I watched the video, though, I couldn’t help but notice how good she looked. She’s been working on her health and well-being lately, and it showed. In the comments section, I wrote “Great job. You look fabulous!” Afterward, I regretted my comment.

See, social media has been flooded lately with videos entreating us not to comment on a woman’s looks, but rather to focus on her intelligence and expertise. We are being lead to believe that noticing a woman’s appearance is akin to dismissing her talents.

I’ve long considered myself a feminist, and I understand the rationale behind these arguments, but I think we may be taking things a bit too far. Our clothes, our hair styles, our jewelry, even our tattoos, are outward expressions of our style. They are part of the “art” of being us, and like all art, when they come together in a flattering manner, it brings pleasure to the viewer, as well as to the artist.

If you think about it one way, women are lucky. If a man had posted that video, I would have said, “Great job. A much-needed service.” He would have gotten one compliment — on his work alone. But my friend got two. Because you see, part of the reason she looked so amazing is because she was radiating confidence and experience and excitement related to how strongly she felt about the work she was doing.

My husband is a sharp dresser. He loves it when someone compliments his maroon oxfords or his brightly colored dress shirts in a meeting, and he never feels those comments dim the quality of his work. So maybe instead of taking something away from women, we should level the playing field by making sure a woman can feel confident that a compliment does not diminish her in the eyes of her peers.

As with everything else, it comes down to respect. If a woman’s accomplishments warrant our respect, she should get it, first and foremost, just as a man would. She should never feel that her appearance would, one way or the other, dictate her success. She should never feel required to “dress the part” in order to succeed.  Neither should she feel the need to apologize for looking good.

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