What Is So Wrong About A Compliment?


Maybe I just don’t get it.

I’m one of those people who is effusive in giving compliments. I’m known for telling men and women alike that I love certain aspects of their outfits, or their hair, or that I think they’re beautiful.

With full realization that receiving compliments can often be awkward, I still don’t understand why President Obama is catching so much flak for commenting at a fundraiser that California District Attorney Kamala Harris is, “by far, the best looking attorney general.”

The President even prefaced his compliment on her appearance by also acknowledging her brains, guts, and dedication to her job. Now he is being called out by a constituency that is generally a fan of his, Democrat women, for being sexist.

When I initially asked about the outrage the question posed to me was, well would a straight man say that about another man? Yes, absolutely! Maybe it is just my experience, but I know my fiancé frequently makes comments about other men.  “Adam Levine is beautiful man,” he’ll tell me, and I don’t see anything wrong with it. Being appreciative of beauty is a sign of openness, security, and maturity. There is quite a difference in admiring the way someone looks and demeaning a person by objectifying them.

Remember all the shirtless pictures of then-candidate Obama that came out during the 2008 campaign? I certainly remember a lot of people talking about how “sexy” he was. Ditto with the “Obama Girl“, whose video hardly screams, “I’m voting for you because you are promoting policies I like.” And let’s not forget Lena Dunham’s allusion of voting for Obama being like losing your virginity.  Many have complimented Obama on his appearance, and he is allowed to do the same to others.

I’m completely open to being shown why I’m wrong, but I just haven’t seen any strong arguments.

Many critics are saying that the harm is in the discussion of her beauty outweighing the talk of her accomplishments and the quality of her work. But wait, isn’t it those critics who are driving the distraction? Obama said 62 words about her toughness, ability to do her job well, and friendship, and only 17 about her looks.

I understand that commenting on someone’s appearance isn’t necessarily professional, especially from someone in a position of authority such as the President, but being candidly unprofessional in front of a friendly crowd of people who are your supporters is not sexism, and I think to call it so is to cheapen the actual instances of work-place sexual harassment that still occur every day.