Is Gender Equality Really Possible?

Gender equality is a big buzz word lately. But we can't ignore the fundamental differences between how men and women interact in our culture. Modern Manners Guy explores the gray zone in gender relations.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #332


March 8th was International Women's Day, which celebrated a greater awareness for women’s equality across the world. Sadly, this is only a daylong holiday. Honestly, if you can’t respect women for everything they do – ahem, propagate the human species, ahem – well, you’re stuck in the 19th century and need a much deserved kick in the shins..

But even though I’ll gladly stand up for gender equality any day of the week, we can’t deny that there are fundamental differences between how men and women operate. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise.

So this week, let's take a look at 3 aspects of life in which the differences between the sexes are most pronounced in our culture. 

How to Give a Compliment

Compliments motivate us, make us feel good, and give our egos a little nudge in the right direction.  

But not all compliments are created equal and nowhere is this more obvious than when a man tries to compliment a woman and accidentally veers off into creepy, awkward territory. The reason? Women and men perceive compliments differently and if you want to hit the mark, you need to adjust your approach depending on your compliment's intended target.

Here’s a perfect example. I was at the gym last week and overheard the following conversation between two men: 

Greg: “I like those jeans, man!”

Alan: “Thanks! Yeah, I’ve been looking for something a bit nicer to wear to work on Fridays that doesn’t look like what I’d wear to wash my car.”

Greg: “I like that they’re not baggy. I’m done with loose fitting stuff.”

Alan: “Gotta show the ladies the results of all this time in the gym, you know!”

Greg: "I was going to mention, dude, your pecs are looking huge!"

(Then they laughed)

Both guys walked away feeling good about themselves and that was that.

Now, let's imagine that Greg was talking to a female gym-goer named Sherri. If he said to Sherri, “Great top! Your chest looks amazing in it!” do you think Sherri would have reacted as cavalier as Alan did? I doubt it. Why? Because Greg has just crossed the pervy line and waded waist-deep into inappropriate ogling territory.

Sure, he may have meant it as a legitimate compliment with all the sincerity in the world, but when you compliment the body of a woman who isn't your significant other, 9 times out of 10 it will backfire.

However, there are ways to compliment a woman that let her know she looks great without sounding like a complete sleazeball. Try something like, “Nice outfit today! Blue is totally your color” or "That's a beautiful dress. You look great today."  

Not, “Nice outfit...especially that v-neck sweater” or “Great pants. I can tell you've been hitting the treadmill." See what I mean. The difference is in the details. When a man compliments a woman with whom he isn't romantically involved, it's best to stay away from focusing on specific body parts.

It's So Touching (But No Touching!)

Let’s be real, it’s 2015 not the Victorian era, which means it’s absolutely proper for a man and woman to hug hello, or kiss on the cheek, without there being a “perv alert.”  However, there are certain boundaries that still must be observed, or else a friendly greeting can quickly turn uncomfortable.

I believe this comes down to the length of time an embrace takes place. For example, when I see a good friend that I’ve known for years, I’ll hug and kiss her hello, but the amount our bodies spend in direct contact will be pretty minimal - maybe 1-2 seconds tops. Anymore than that and you veer into creepy John-Travolta-at-the-Oscars territory.