ASK AMY

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Life - Con­tact Amy via email: [email protected] dick­in­son.com.

Dear Amy: Iama young woman whose phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance is oc­ca­sion­ally the sub­ject of com­ment or “com­pli­ments” by men (strangers). Ran­dom men some­times stop me and di­rectly “com­pli­ment” me on my ap­pear­ance while I am walk­ing to work, driv­ing, or in an el­e­va­tor. It is un­wanted at­ten­tion and it feels creepy to be ob­served and com­mented upon by (of­ten older) men whom I do not know.

How should I re­spond? If I re­ply with a curt “Thank you” or “That’s nice of you” it will only af­firm the male gaze and en­cour­age them to con­tinue com­ment­ing on the phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance of ran­dom women.

If I say some­thing like “Leave me alone” this will (and has) in­cited a ver­bal altercatio­n (or more awk­ward at­ten­tion).

When I’ve ig­nored the com­ments al­to­gether, I’ve been shouted at: “You’re sup­posed to say, ‘Thank you’ when you get a com­pli­ment!”

I feel like any re­sponse that’s not “thank you” will likely be re­ceived with mis­placed in­dig­na­tion or even ver­bal threats.

How should I re­spond in a way that will dis­cour­age men from con­tin­u­ing to com­ment on my phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance and not bring me fur­ther un­wanted at­ten­tion?

No Good Op­tions

Dear No Good: I don’t know any woman who gen­uinely wants to re­ceive a “com­pli­ment” from a stranger when she is on her way to work, car­ry­ing her gro­ceries, out for a run, or mind­ing her own busi­ness on an el­e­va­tor.

Some­times, these un­wel­come re­marks and veiled “com­pli­ments” can lead to threats (or worse), and women who re­ceive them have nanosec­onds to some­how de­code the mo­ment and fig­ure out which re­sponse will gar­ner less at­ten­tion.

On an el­e­va­tor, you are ba­si­cally trapped in a locked box un­til you ar­rive at your des­ti­na­tion. In that case, I think you should say a non­com­mit­tal, “Thanks” and im­me­di­ately reach over and press the but­ton to the near­est floor to exit. This po­lite re­sponse and abrupt exit may send the mes­sage that you don’t wish to en­gage fur­ther.

Oth­er­wise, I vote for ig­nor­ing. If a man re­sponds by yelling, “You’re sup­posed to say, ‘Thank you!’” you could try re­spond­ing, “I know I’m at­trac­tive. Thank you … for leav­ing me alone.”

I’ll wel­come reader re­sponses.

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