Compliments or Insults?
Sexism and racism can come in all different forms and sometimes such comments can be hidden under a layer of what appears to be kind words. Subjectively, these ‘compliments’ appear to be positive and encouraging yet underneath, you will find that they are rooted in stereotypes that confine a certain gender or race into categories.
For example, telling someone, “you speak so well, how are you so articulate?” for a certain race is most definitely not a compliment and has very problematic connotations. That implies that the person wasn’t expecting the latter to sound educated enough for their stereotype. It is based on this belief that ‘sounding white’ is the proper way to speak, that all other dialects and manners of speaking are straight-up wrong. Propping up an individual by downgrading their identity, saying how they’re different than most women, most gay people, most whatever, is simply prejudice.
“Wow, you know so much about sports for a girl!”
“It’s nice to see a man being so sensitive and sweet!”
Why does knowledge about sports and sensitivity have to be tagged along with gender norms? There is nothing about these things that are inherently masculine or feminine. They can be given as a compliment separately from one another.
Compliments are meant to be kind and add positivity to someone’s day. Estranging someone from a certain community because they don’t ‘act like it,’ should not be tolerated. These kinds of ‘compliments’ are dangerous; people can easily use them to manipulate others into thinking they’re being nice to them when really they’re being stereotypical, sexist, racist, or homophobic. Sometimes, these easily pass over our heads and it isn’t until later when we notice something off. It really does feel good when someone compliments your intelligence, beauty, personality, etc., but we have to be careful. Don’t let the exterior fluff blind you from the true heart of their so-called compliment.
It’s easy to see racism through slurs and threats, similarly with other discriminatory issues our world still endures. It is these subtle cues that are harder to pinpoint. Sometimes, the perpetrator doesn’t even mean to be racist or sexist in any way and they truly believe what they said is kind. Those that are ignorant need to be brought to the light and educated. Depending on how they react, that will show the quality of their person.
Words matter and they can be destructive without us even knowing it. If a ‘compliment’ somehow degrades and discriminates against a certain group or community in an attempt to raise the status of an individual, then it is not a compliment at all.
Writer - Jasmine Kwok
Editor - Priyam Kusundal
Illustrator - Lily Tan
Graphics - Akshaya Shankarganesh