Don't compliment women on their body, compliment their brain
Society teaches women the most valuable thing about them is the appearance of their bodies, and this is so problematic.
I understand that compliments are a nice gesture. I think its appropriate to tell someone they look nice today or that you like their hair, etc. But complimenting women for their body size/shape is really damaging. Well meaning compliments like “Have you lost weight? You look great! What diet are you on?” or “Wow, look at her body. I wish I looked like that!” cause more harm than good. It reinforces the lie that in order to be healthy or worthy, we must be thin.
We often have no idea what’s going on in a person’s life, whether it be illness, disordered eating and over exercise, limited access to food that led to weight changes or being in a certain body size. We have NO idea what they are having to do to maintain that body size.These behaviors are being validated by the incoming stream of compliments, essentially confirming the person should continue behaviors that could be ruining their life. What we see on the outside cannot tell us what their mental health is. Are they obsessing about their weight? Are they happy? Do they have an eating disorder? Are they missing out on life because they are so invested in trying to make their body size something it was never meant to be?
When we comment on someone's new “body” we are essentially saying there was something wrong with the before picture. Something that needed to be fixed. When biology kicks in and someone regains weight (95% of people), this creates feelings of shame and failure. Not to mention, but people come in all shapes and sizes. Some people are meant to exist in bigger bodies-this is acceptable- and yes they can still be healthy. We are not all meant to be thin.
Women are far more interesting than their body size, what they eat or their exercise routine. They are smart. They work hard. Women are resilient in a patriarchal society.
There are far better things to compliment women on other than their bodies. See list below.
- Work ethic
- Etc etc etc!
And if you receive comments on your body, here are some ideas for what you can say:
“And I really care about others”
“This is just the body I exist in, I’m much more interesting my body”
“Thanks, but my favorite thing about me is my personality-I’m really funny!”
And what you can do:
Ignore the comment
Smile and change the subject
Educate if a person is open minded
Set boundaries-don’t be afraid to tell someone not to comment
What would you add? Do you hear these “positive” comments about your body and feel icky about it? Let me know!