What's an Appropriate Way to Tell a Woman She is Attractive? Advice From a Sociologist

As a feminist, how could a man talk about a woman's attractiveness, or the importance of women's attractiveness? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Koyel Bandyopadhyay, Sociologist and Photographer, on Quora:

It doesn't matter whether or not you are a feminist on whether you could feel certain things. You are entitled to feel whatever you want to feel. If you feel someone is attractive, sure, go and tell yourself: "She is attractive".

What you are not entitled to do--and this is just not restricted to being a feminist or not--is act upon every feeling of yours, when that action could make others uncomfortable, or attack their space, or dehumanize them, or infringe on human rights; whether or not you are male or female or a feminist or an MRA--nothing gives you the right to dehumanize other people based on your feelings.

Historically, women's attractiveness has been used as a justifying strategy to attack and abuse them. Acid attacks, cat-calls, eve-teasing, stalking behaviour, molestation, physical and sexual assaults of various kinds--all have those basic premises of "she's so beautiful", or "she has a nice ass", or "she's curvy in the right places," or "she drives me crazy the way she looks," etc.

Therefore, being rated as "attractive" by men, is not perceived to be a safe feeling for many women.

Women like being complimented on their looks, just as men do, but when their attractiveness becomes the whole of content to rate them as a person, that runs the risk of being categorized as dehumanizing; in that way, the attractive woman is just another thing for your consumption--nothing else in her matters.

Further, though I do not really understand the need to address the fact of women's attractiveness every time one feels so, unless it's directly relevant to the question (say, for modelling), here are some ways you can channel those feelings, without infringing on other people's spaces:

  1. Talk about that attractive woman to your alter ego. You can start by facing the mirror.
  2. Write anonymous poetry and keep it to yourself. Many people hate poetry unless you're Lord Byron.
  3. Create music eulogizing the woman's attractiveness and release it only under pseudonyms so that neither that woman nor you have to face the brunt of it.
  4. Make a movie expressing your emotions.
  5. Make paintings. Like Leonardo da Vinci did it years back and it's still talked about. Who knew?!

When men have channeled their feelings in a productive manner, celebrating the human (or the idea of the human) they find attractive, they have achieved fame. When men have infringed on spaces of the human they find attractive, that is a different ballgame. So, choose and act responsibly.

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