Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are genuinely good guys who just don’t understand why their comments might be unwelcome. Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are creepy predators. Most are somewhere in between, and guess what? I don’t know you, I don’t know your life, and I have no idea if you’re going to leave it at “Hey, you look good in that dress!” or follow it up with “But you’d look better without it! Har har! C’mon, where’re you going? I know you heard me! Fucking cunt, nobody wants your fat ass anyway, bitch.”
When you compliment a random woman who doesn’t know you, no matter how nice you are about it, there’s a good chance she’s going to freak out internally because for all she knows, you could be that latter type. And I get that it’s really unfair that women would just assume that about you. I get that it sucks that sometimes, expressing totally reasonable opinions like “hey you’re hot” will make women terrified of you or furious at you. That’s not fair.
But if you’re going to lay the blame for that somewhere, for fuck’s sake, don’t blame the woman. Blame all the guys who have called her a bitch and a cunt for ignoring their advances. Blame all the guys who may have harassed, abused, or assaulted her in the past. Blame all the people who may never do such a thing themselves, but who were quick to blame her and tell her to just get over it. Blame the fact that if she stops and talks to you and then something bad happens, people will blame her for stopping and talking to you.
You know, I’ll go a step further and say - there are no “men who want to compliment random women on the street [who] are genuinely good guys who just don’t understand why their comments might be unwelcome.” There are guys who pretend that they don’t understand why their comments are unwelcome. But the man who whistles out his car window at me while I’m waiting for a light, the guy who stares at me while I ride past on my bike, the guy who says “Hey beautiful!” at me and my friend as we’re talking at an outdoor cafe - none of those guys want to make me feel good.
Not a single one.
I keep hearing about this guy! The good guy who catcalls and doesn’t get how it’s wrong, the nice guy who just wants to tell you you have beautiful eyes. And every time I’m told about that guy, it’s so that I don’t react, don’t glare, don’t respond negatively. Because who knows! Maybe he really super meant it in his heart and was just trying to pay you a compliment.
Because here’s the thing - here’s how I know that the nice guy ain’t real; because I always do react, always glare, always respond negatively. I always say, “No, that wasn’t okay. Don’t do that to me again.” And a nice guy? Would come back with, “Oh, man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. You’re right. I won’t do that again.” A nice guy who didn’t get it would say, “Wow, I didn’t think about it that way. Is this something that you think a lot of women feel?”
And that never happens - what happens is I get called names, or have coffee thrown at my face, or get shoved up against a wall, or get followed for fifteen blocks, or get shouted out from six inches away by a man who’s six inches taller and fifty pounds bigger than I am. What happens is that I’m shown, again and again and again, that these “compliments” are prologues to a story this guy’s just desperate to tell, the story of him scaring me, hurting me, making sure I know my place. And he can tell the story as loud as he wants, because he can always fall back on, “I’m a good guy! She’s the one who started it! I was just trying to pay the bitch a compliment.”
So stop telling me that there are good guys out there who just don’t understand, because there aren’t. What there are, are guys who will pretend to be good guys, right up until you don’t smile at them. And then they show who they really are.