Toxicity disguised as a compliment built over years of women seeing other women as competition
The other day, a friend and I were having a conversation. "What's the worst compliment you've ever received?" she asked.
I thought long and hard, and this is what I came up with — "You are not like other girls".
Most people I have met think this is a compliment. They believe it is okay to demean other girls to compliment me.
Over the years, I have heard several forms of this statement in various contexts. Here is what they sound like-
You are not like other girls.
Your favourite colour is not pink.
You don't wear short dresses to attract guys.
You don't gossip about other girls behind their backs.
You don't need makeup to look beautiful.
You don't have a "size-zero" figure. You are proud of your curves.
You don't need a man to buy you a house. You can get what you want with your own money.
You pick books over expensive clothes.
These statements are toxic because they imply that all girls act in one way and I am different. It creates a sense of competition when there is none — that to stand out, I must be better than other women. It creates the wrong impression that having "feminine" traits is looked down upon. That somehow, wearing makeup and short dresses is wrong, and because I don't do that, I am special. That preferring clothes over books is bad. That a woman wanting a man to buy them a house is wrong.
It tries to empower me by alienating me from my gender.
It is damaging because it disregards the choices other women make as frivolous.
Don't do it.
You don't have to praise me on being different by calling me special. If you must compliment me, you can praise my positive traits without bringing other women's negative traits in the picture. The world doesn't run on comparison and I don't live for you to tell me I am better than other members of my gender.
Here is how you can do that-
You are a strong, confident woman.
Your favourite colour is green.
It's interesting how you can talk about any topic under the sun.
Those jeans look amazing on you.
You are outgoing, affectionate, and kind.
Your ambition is inspiring. I hope you can make all your dreams come true someday.
Your love for books makes me want to start reading.
You know what, you are right. I am not like other women. All the women you know aren't like other women either.
Every woman is unique in her own special way
So, the next time when you must compliment a woman, tell her about her. Don't start by declaring the faults of other women.