4 Reasons You Should Keep Your “Compliments” to Yourself

International Anti-Street Harassment Week

It’s International Anti-Street Harassment Week, and there is a great movement started by Meet Us On The Street to reclaim public spaces through sidewalk art, protests, and other demonstrations. The goal of the movement is to show that what some people perceive as a “compliment” is oftentimes an unwanted, unnecessary, and violating sexual come-on. The reality is, MOST women just want to walk home, to work, or to their car without hearing what you think.

Here are five reasons you should keep your street compliments to yourself:

1. My name isn’t “Baby,” “Boo,” “Hey,” or “Girl:” If you can’t call me by my name, hell, even if you can, you definitely don’t need to tell me how my ass looks, that I’m fine, or that I should come talk to you.

2. I’m not a dog, so stop whistling: When did it become alright for you to whistle, clap, or hoot at a human being? Would you do that in a restaurant? Would you do that to your male friends? Probably not, but even if you would behave like that to someone else, you don’t know me, so stop it.

3. I’m not smiling for a reason, so don’t demand that I smile: Telling me to smile, or informing me that “it’s not that bad” is rather presumptuous of a stranger. Maybe my life is falling apart, and I don’t want to smile. Or maybe I’m deep in thought. More important than all of that, who are you to tell me what to do? I do not smile for you. I smile to express happiness, not to please your senses. So please, stop asking me to perform for you.

4. Every thought that enters your mind does not need to be shared: This one is pretty simple. You can think all of the grotesque things you want, but you don’t need to share them. You think I look sexy? Great, but keep that shit to yourself, I’m trying to walk to work.

For a look into what street harassment is like for women, especially women of color, watch this stirring video:


  1. Maverick says:

    I love the video and agree with all but #3 of your points. Men today treat women as objects. Ironically, I see it more the younger the men are even though many argue that women were treated worse years ago (not saying they weren’t, but it’s just an interesting observation).

    My problem with #3 is not with guys that are jerks and literally DEMAND a smile. Those guys are jerks. But some guys, truly do mean to help you feel better. They are trying to offer kindness that can never be as surprising as when it comes from a complete stranger. Also, it is not always presumptuous to state ‘It could be worse.’ Living in America means it most definitely can. Dying from AIDS and malaria at the same time with no support group or while being in a war-torn country where at the age of 8-10 you are afraid your village will be burned, the women in it sold as sex slaves or raped and pillaged, while you get toted off to be one of the soldiers doing it to the next village…yeah that is worse than anything that can happen to us here in the US.

    I’m not arguing that is what those people mean though. Some of us mean “It sucks, but life gets that way sometimes. I know I don’t know you, but I do hope life gets better for you. No one deserves to suffer. Even if no one else does, I care. Why? Because you are like me. You have emotions and feelings that can be hurt. I always wish people would give me reason to smile when I am feeling down, maybe I can do that small thing for you.” It’s very cynical to believe that every man that asks a woman for a smile is harassing her. It’s honestly sexist, and I don’t like using that term. I think there is some sexism out there, but I also believe it is a tool used by many to received biased responses IN their favor.

    I would love to hear your view on it or if I am misunderstanding your third point because I am not following you to harass. I am actually following to hear your views (I don’t disagree with all of them obviously).

    • slcfeminist says:

      To your first point, “yeah that is worse than anything that can happen to us here in the US.” I have to say: just because something could be worse, doesn’t discount what is going on in a person’s life. By that logic, no one ever has the right to feel sadness. It also discounts the atrocities happening in the United States, which are real, despite the differences relative to war torn countries.

      In response to, “It’s very cynical to believe that every man that asks a woman for a smile is harassing her”: In isolation, a man TELLING a woman to smile is bad enough, but it occurs in the context of cumulative harassment. From bra snapping and butt pinching in school, to hoots and hollers walking outside, most women live in a world where they are constantly verbally assaulted (harassment is generally compounded depending on the socioeconomic status, skin color, ability, size, and/or gender performance of a woman).

      Also, this article is colored by my real world experience, in which older men flirtatiously tell me to smile as a way to hit on me, and this has happened more times than I can count by men who are old enough to be my grandfather. There have been times when I ignore the “smile, sweetie” and I am immediately called a “bitch,” “cunt,” or “stuck up.” Thousands of women have stories where the disagreed with the “just smile” directive, and were brutally beaten (this is the lived experience of women being TOLD to smile. Search the endSHweek hashtag on Twitter, and I think you will be surprised).

      The larger problem is that men tell women what to do, because their privilege makes them feel entitled to do so.

      My advice is that when a woman, or a group of women, tell you that a particular behavior is perceived as harassment, in this case men continually TELLING strange adult women how to behave, you should take that at face value. If a woman is cynical, it’s because she has to be cynical in a country where 1 in 3 women are raped, and she’s cynical because simply saying that something is harassment requires a protracted defense.

      I sincerely appreciate your comment, and I hope that my response sheds some light on the piece.

      • On the first point, just because there are worse things doesn’t mean you can’t be sad. It merely is some people’s way of helping with grieving. They realize they need to move on because it simply is ‘not that bad.’ Also, as the next paragraph started by explaining, I don’t think people mean it in that way. I am merely saying that it truly is “not that bad” if you use the right lens.

        Your second point, though, never touched on the point I made. I stated there are many guys who are not flirting or demanding a smile; I am one of them and I know many others like me. We are just trying to help someone feel better when they are visibly upset. Your point talks about the men who are faking sincerity to cover their true intentions. I have no trouble accepting that those men are disgusting pigs and need to hear the message you are conveying (I even mentioned such in my first post).

        As for taking anything one group (men or women, black or white, young or old, etc.) has to say at face value, I am a scientist. I take nothing at face value. I question it, wonder why it is or how it came to be, or if it is even true. Once I have come to a conclusion, I stay with it until new knowledge is provided to make me question that. Your logic dictates that if a large enough group of men claimed that women talking was harassment, then women should take that at face value (even though it is obviously not the case).

        Your statistic is wrong as well. It is 1 in 6 who are raped; 1 in 3 are sexually assaulted. While technically much ‘better’, it is still a horrific statistic and I get the point you are trying to convey. There are other problems with those statistics, but I won’t get into it as that is not the point of this post. However, I would argue that being cynical is different than being wary. I agree women need to be wary of strange men, but that doesn’t mean they need to jump to the conclusion that they simply want to sleep with them. Wary means avoid talking in a lightly populated area or walking back to your place with them or even just stating you don’t want to talk right now; cynical means blowing a rape whistle, peppering them, or accusing them of trying to get in your pants. One protects you while still being cordial; they other can be equally damaging to the men who are merely trying to be helpful in a time of need.

        Finally, this is not a part up for debate. I am sincerely sorry for any issues men in your life have caused you. Guys nowadays are often real jerks. I wish there were some way I could remove those feelings. I was never sexually assaulted, but was beaten throughout my childhood; I can relate even if I can never fully understand. I only know you from here, but you seem to have a purpose to drive you which usually means it’s a little easier to move on from a damaging past. I wish you the best of luck regardless of whether I agree with your points of view.

      • slcfeminist says:

        Thank for pointing out the typo in the statistic. I appreciate that.

  2. Maverick says:

    Sorry for the random comment, but I once again failed to click the little check box. Hope you can forgive me 🙂 lol

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