Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fly Off the Handle (At a White Guy)

I got a compliment today. As far as compliments go it was pretty backhanded, but I actually enjoyed it. While lounging in the hot tub a man mentioned to me that I was, "Pretty jacked, for a girl." Now, let the race to disseminate that begin.

The first thing I noticed is that I was not offended. I've worked pretty darn hard at this body of mine and I like it when I get feedback that I haven't been wasting my time. I chose to focus only on the beginning of the sentence, and that's all compliment. I thought about that and concluded that the statement is not offensive if only I am aware of it because I am not offended. Why is that? Well, offending someone is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of making an offensive statement.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the statement that is untrue. (Well, allow me to be a little arrogant for a bit) I am pretty muscular, when considered against the average of most females. Can a true statement be offensive? I suspect so, and actually, it is more likely the truth that is the offensive aspect, since it cause us to come face to face with an uncomfortable reality, and the resultant cognitive dissonance is so unpleasant that we seek to shove it in someone else's face.

But what, if someone wanted to be offended by the statement (and it sure has the smell of something offensive) could be considered offensive? First, the idea that there needs to be a special category for women is a bit offensive. As though since women are conventionally less muscular than men there needs to be a different scale or competition just to help them win something. Secondly, it is a bit offensive that he felt the need to include the honorific, "for a girl" as if I could possibly forget and consider myself on the same level as a man. Finally, one could consider the fact that he wanted to let me know that he thought I was 'pretty jacked', but needed to curtail his praise with the diminuative phrase 'for a girl', is rather condescending and a bit patronizing. 

Anyway, this whole post is what is going through a woman's brain the next time you compliment her and she stares into the distance with a vague smile for a while. Compliments: Serious business.

The title is meant to remind the reader of the song "Pretty fly (for a while guy)", and is not meant to imply anything about the race of the gentleman in question."