Smart vs. sexy

Why you can give a compliment to a woman that she is smart and that her logic is perfect, but not that she is sexy and that her buttocks are well shaped? Aren’t both something we more or less get born with and then through more or less work shape in the direction we want or don’t shape and just leave it be? Isn’t both something to appreciate and cheer and compliment? Isn’t both, what we count as smart and what we count as sexy, something culturally defined and a social construct?

I am afraid that in the fight against sexism we forgot the difference between sexism and sexuality. Making a sexual compliment does not make it immediately sexist. In fact, making a compliment to a concrete individual based on her real (or perceived) properties is by definition not sexist. Because sexist means that you would make a compliment solely based on her sex, that you would make a stereotypical compliment.

Luckily, there are still eyes. You can still say to her “You have beautiful eyes” and nobody will attack you that you are objectifying her. But be careful when you touch upon the buttocks, breasts, waist, legs or any other possibly physically and sexually attractive body part. Then you are on a slippery slope. Then you made her an object of men’s desires incapable of individual thinking and all her achievements are a sole consequence of her body’s curves. Why exactly? Because women cannot be both sexy and smart at the same time?

I understand that this fear of a sexual compliment signaling a person sees her only as a sexual object comes from millennia of oppression and discrimination against women. I understand that unwarranted sexual attention women are regularly exposed to is an issue. That most situations are not time and space for it. But we should be careful that we in our fight against sexism do not overdo it and again create a taboo from anything sexual.

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