Bad Feminist

Left-handed compliments are the right way to go for me

Bad+Feminist

Photo by Carolyn Mennecke

Cute. Sweet. Little. Adorable.

If I get called any of the above, I’d probably look a little bit like Bashful from Snow White. I’m always flattered to be called anything sweet. It makes me feel lovely, dainty and feminine  — all characteristics I aspire to be.

But, being called “cute” or “adorable” is also incredibly demeaning.

Someone might call a dog or a baby chick or a fluffy little bunny “cute,” but calling a fully-grown, adult, professional woman “cute” is totally different. That overlooks every single characteristic a woman may have besides how cute she is, like her professional accomplishments, her work, her passions, her hobbies and so much more.

The Guardian described how “cute” is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “attractive or pretty especially in a childish, youthful or delicate way.” By describing them as “youthful,” it shows women are still being judged in a physical way — that is, their appearance is still judged by standards of how young and beautiful they look.

Not to mention how society talks about appearance nonstop. I’m not even kidding. Take a look at magazine stands or billboard ads or even media attention on celebrities like Kate Middleton or Megan Markle and the outfits they wear.

We teach little girls that being “cute”— this infantilizing compliment — is something we should aspire to be. But, being called “cute” is something I have loved since I was a girl. I used to love playing dress up with princess dresses, pretty scarves and sparkly tiaras. If any of my relatives called me a pretty princess, I thought it was the highest compliment. This is probably feeding into a patriarchal system, but it’s what made me feel good about myself and gave me confidence in myself.

I still feel the same way. If I’m feeling good about myself, and someone calls me cute, I’ll be feeling twice as good about myself later in the day. And that confidence shows.

When I feel good about myself, I can absolutely kick butt. Even when I have my shortfalls, when someone makes me feel good about myself, I feel like I’m more able to overcome those shortfalls to continue on my merry way. And being called “cute” is one of those ways I feel good about myself.

So maybe I’m a bad feminist in that way.

I should value when someone calls me “smart” or “intelligent” rather than “cute,” but I think I honestly value either compliment. I’m not picky. It’s the way I like to view myself: cute, little, adorable. It’s how I identify.

I’m never going to take offense when someone calls me “cute” because I get they’re just saying nice things about me. And I want to be cute. That’s not a sin. I’m not opposed to nice things.

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected].