How to Handle a Politically Incorrect Compliment

April 10, 2013 by Trina Bartlett
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My daughter has the knack for putting everything in perspective.

Other children may be athletic or graceful or artistic, but Kendall has the gift for keeping things real. Instead of sugar and spice, she’s made of pragmatism and common sense.

Which is why I always make a point of listening to her.

But, to date, she’s being completely quiet about the uproar over President Obama’s remark that Californian Kamala Harris is “the best looking attorney general in the country.”

Kendall admits she knows “a bunch of people are upset about what President Obama said.”

She just doesn’t want to talk about it.

Even when I pressed her, she wouldn’t render an opinion. At first, her silence not only surprised me, it worried me. She is my daughter in many ways, and I am a mom with a lot of opinions.  She’s fully aware about my feminist leanings and beliefs about equality and women’s rights. For the moment, she even holds those same beliefs.

But she’s also an 11-year-old in her first year of middle school. That’s a world where appearances often dictate the social order. It’s also a world where girls are suddenly very aware of all of their imperfections.

Just last week, Kendall said, “I don’t understand why so many pretty girls think they are ugly. They are so pretty, but they don’t even realize it.”

And now she’s heard that people are mad at the President because he publicly told a well-educated, powerful and successful woman that she’s good looking.

No wonder she doesn’t want to talk about the matter. Regardless of what she says, she is betraying someone – either her feminist mother or her friends who need to believe in their own beauty.

I get it, and I can relate.

I was infuriated over comments comparing Kamala Harris to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. No one should be judged on their appearance, and all people should be appreciated for how they behave and what they contribute to society.

But that’s in an ideal world.

In the real world, even I am a hypocrite regarding appearance. I  grew up with hopes that I would someday transform from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. People told me I was smart, but no one told me I was pretty. Sometimes being smart just wasn’t enough.

Maybe that’s why I am extremely appreciative when someone does give me a compliment about my appearance. As long as a compliment is genuine and not  lewd or overtly sexual, it always makes me feel better about myself.

Maybe there is no clear right or wrong when a powerful male compliments a powerful female about her looks.  The compliment may be awkward and politically incorrect, but it is still a compliment.

And maybe that’s why my daughter is remaining silent on the issue. She realizes that human nature and politics don’t always mix. And she also realizes the best way to handle any compliment is to simply say thank you and move on.

As always, she’s probably right.


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One Response to “How to Handle a Politically Incorrect Compliment”

  1. BobCNo Gravatar says:

    Preface: I am NOT an Obama supporter in any way. Yet I defend what he said in this matter 100%. He was being nice, complimentary, attempting to lighten a moment, and on top of all that letting himself be human. In this screwed up world anything that anybody says with the BEST of intentions can and will be twisted to seem incorrect, insulting, or degrading to some group somewhere. For crying out loud ! He said “the most attractive AG” , not “Hey nice ass , babe”. If he gave her a rose he grabbed off a bush they were walking by somebody would think he was trying to “do her”. Some racist jerk would be “Like LOOK, that Ni$$%$ is going after white women now” . Enough is enough.
    If I think a woman is attractive I will say so. If she doesn’t want to hear it, fine. I can ignore insanity easily. I open doors for ALL women. If I do not get at least a nod of “thank you” I clearly and not quietly say “You’re Welcome”. Politeness and being nice to anybody is never out of style. We need to remind ourselves of that.

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