Compliment v. Harassment: Where’s Your Line?

March 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

In response to some of the great posts written recently about street harassment and inappropriate comments, I’d like to share one of my own stories. 

I was in a deli on Friday when a young man said “Miss, you have very nice eyes.” I thanked him and continued on with my day, not phased or annoyed at all. 

Had he picked a different body part, particularly a female-specific body part, I probably would have freaked out. But he picked my eyes- a body part that everyone (hopefully) has. He could have said the same thing to a man or to a transperson. Is the difference between a compliment and harassment that a compliment is gender- neutral? 

I also appreciated the tone he used. I obviously couldn’t gauge his intentions, but from what I could tell, he really just wanted to tell me that he thought that my eyes were nice. I guess I’m saying that I didn’t sense guile or malice in his voice, and it didn’t make me feel degraded or self-conscious. But how do we define a tone that makes us comfortable v. a tone that makes us uncomfortable? 

Ultimately, all of this is personal. Some people argue that no person should ever make a comment about your body, regardless of their intentions, tone, etc. 

But what do YOU think? What is a compliment and what is harassment? What makes you feel comfortable and what creeps you out? Where is that line? 

Have a productive Sunday night and a painless Monday!

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