We’re perfectly aware of the difference between men and women. Ooh, such as men are assertive, while women are bossy. Men are firm, women are shrill. Men are confident, women are arrogant. We all know how it goes.
Now one woman’s Twitter thread has perfectly highlighted the latter mismatch by revealing what happens when women respond to men’s compliments with agreement – or even a simple thank you.
Feminista Jones, a feminist author and speaker, initially tweeted “Piss off a man today. Tell him you agree with his compliment of you.”
She later added: “I've had SEVERAL men tell me they found ‘thanks’ an offensive reply to a compliment given to a woman.
“I see it every day because that's my usual response. ‘Thanks’ and keep walking. I get yelled at. Cursed at. ‘That's all you gonna say?’”
Her tweet, retweeted and liked thousands of times, sparked a deluge of messages from women recognising the issue and describing how they too had been greeted with angry bemusement for daring to be confident in their appearance. Even though, y’know, it was usually an uninvited conversational opener from a stranger.
In one text exchange, the man opened the conversation with “Hi. Nice body”. When she responded, “I know right?” he quickly retracted the compliment, saying “actually you don’t really have a good body, need to hit the gym more”.
Another woman revealed how she’d replied “Thank you, I do too” to a man who said he loved her hair, which prompted him to warn, “Careful… Don’t make me like it less”.
One woman posted a screenshot of a message exchange where the simple response “Thanks” prompted a reply of “Wow. Never giving you compliments again”.
Another said she’d had a discussion where the disturbing idea of “innocence” being sexy was brought up.
Jones’ tweet drew the ire from the usual #notallmen corners and she later explained on Twitter: “Men, who don't (as often) have to deal with men retracting compliments when they agree with them are really upset in my mentions.”
In another thread, she further clarifies that just because one man does not do it, the women who say it happens are not to be dismissed: “So the men say they don't get it or that it isn't that deep but I just retweeted women from all over who say it happens all the time. Therein lies the rub: men don't always want to acknowledge women's negative experiences with other men as real because THEY don't do it.
“If they don't see it, it isn't real. Forget women saying ‘yes this happens’. Women's words don't ever matter.”
She added: “The expectation [is] that women should show no self-appreciation. And/or should be overjoyed by a someone (a man) saying something positive about them (that they weren't supposed to know already). 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.”
Many people tweeted that the idea was handily encapsulated in One Direction’s song What Makes You Beautiful (you know, the one pumped out to millions of adoring teenage fans) – that winning age-old combo of beauty and total lack of self-esteem resulting in the ultimate woman. Aka the one who will be so bowled over by your attention she’ll instantly go totes steady with you and be ever-adoring thereafter.
Some actual lyrics: “Don't need make up / To cover up / Being the way that you are is enough [...] You don't know you're beautiful / That's what makes you beautiful!”
The idea has come around before; in January 2015, a blogger started a similar experiment, posting the results on her Tumblr – with hostile reactions usually retracting the compliment or insulting her.
Of the recent tweets, Jones told Buzzfeed: “It's not a new idea, but in my own experience when [a man] complimented me and I say, 'I agree,' they get upset.
“It’s the idea that they bestow the compliment on you, and you’re not supposed to be aware of it.”
Main image: twitter.com/jennahlou