Blog · Feminism

Unsolicited Validation

I have an app called QuizUp. It’s what it sounds like, a quiz app. I’m a little obsessed with The Great Gatsby and Teen Wolf so I do a bunch of quizzes on here with people all over the world and I’ve had some nice conversations with people who have similar interests with me. The only downside is the constant harassment I receive from men, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Now, this app isn’t a dating site but even if it were, a lot of this would still be completely unacceptable.

The first type of messages I get are off men giving me compliments. Nothing else, but hear me out as to why this is a problem. I love compliments. People definitely need to learn to compliment others more, rather than tear them down. But when it comes to men complimenting women, there’s an underlying sense of control. If a woman is complemented by a man, we’re supposed to be grateful, as if he’s just validated us and told us we’re worthy of existing. As soon as this is recognised and seen for what it is, men have less of a stand over women, less control of our existence and who we are.

I’m sure a bunch of you are shocked at such a sweeping comment, and I understand that some men are genuinely sincere. But look at the root of the compliment, the intentions behind it and you’ll see that this isn’t an extreme, man hating view at all. I had one man say “I just HAD to let you know that you’re beautiful” which, sure, may be well intentioned but let’s just look at that for a second. He “had” to let me know? Of course, how could I find myself beautiful without the approval or say so of a man? He had to “let me know” which is assuming that I don’t love myself already, or find myself beautiful. A woman is expected to need validation off a man. We live in a society where it’s acceptable to hate your appearance, or find yourself unattractive. This society also ingrains in us the fact that men have to be the ones to unlock this for us, to let us know we’re beautiful, to allow us to look at ourselves in a good, positive way. But, like I said, only if it’s coming from a man.

Still don’t believe me? Try changing your response to these compliments to “I know” or something along those lines and you’ll see men do a complete u-turn. If you already deem yourself beautiful, have already found out how to love yourself, men are threatened by this. They’ll respond strongly, probably something along the lines of “wow, I take it back, you’re a bitch/you’re self absorbed/fuck you then”. They don’t like the fact that you don’t require their validation to love yourself.

On the other side, I also get ridiculously disgusting messages off men, assuming that I’m straight, single and interested in their dick. Sometimes these are in response to a “thanks!” after a seemingly innocent comment, sometimes they’re completely unprovoked. It’s always something along the lines of wanting to sleep with me, though I won’t go into too much detail about some of the graphic and disgusting messages I’ve been sent without me doing anything. This is the online version of catcalling. Messaging me completely uninvited with an aggressive and inappropriate message, expecting me to be thankful, or interested. Luckily with the internet these people can be gotten rid of easily. Block them and they’re gone. On the street though, it’s a lot scarier situation. Anything could happen in that moment.

In a world where there’s still a very strong rape culture, women are still seen as property and still aren’t treated equally to men, something as seemingly simple as an unwarranted compliment can have negative consequences if handled in the wrong way. I spoke a lot about the internet here as this is where it’s been happening to me a LOT recently, but this has happened to me in real life. Nights out, walking down the street, wherever it may be, most women are familiar with catcalling. I’ve had men in clubs compliment me and expect something in return for the compliment. I’ve had to physically fight men off me more than once, as they thought a compliment and the fact that they’re a man granted them access to my body.

On one hand, compliments are fantastic. On the other hand, they enable men to exercise their superiority over women. If you’re giving a compliment to an unsuspecting stranger, next time think about your intentions, and if you receive one, try to understand the motivation behind it. Of course you’re beautiful and all of those good things, but don’t let a man have control over your identity or let a man validate you. Be flattered by compliments, sure, but don’t let them define you. Claim back ownership of your own existence. Tell yourself you’re enough, don’t let anyone else have that power over you. Give compliments, but give them without an ulterior motive. Give them to make someone else feel good, not yourself.
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