I just got one of those compliments that at first glance seems like it's ok but if you listen to the nagging, churning of your stomach you realize it's really just some exceptionalist bullshit meant to keep well within patriarchial guidelines.
'You look like one of those cool moms that's a partner in crime with her son or her man. Not the garden variety Seattle area mother hen growing old in fleece pullovers and mom jeans and Birkenstocks and fanny packs! You know what I mean?'
My first reaction was to be the superbitch I know I can be and throw the same kind of "compliment" right back at him with a "wow you look like the kind of black guy who's articulate and doesn't show his ass in baggy jeans while listening to gangster rap! You know what I mean?" But he doesn't know me and that kind of sarcasm would be lost without the fuller context. For the record both comments, his and mine, are tools of the patriarchy. So I refrained and you all get a post instead.
Compliments that aren't really include some method of setting you up against your own group as better than. You are the exception. You're supposed to be grateful because someone has just told you that you're better than the group you belong to. In my case, mothers are supposed to be boring, sexless old kill-joys, but I'm hot and fun so I can be the superhero sidekick to a penis-waver! Sweet. All I have to do is agree that people like me suck, do everything I can to not be like people like me and maybe I can get a number 2 spot to a child or man.
There isn't actually anything wrong with being a mother hen growing old in fleece and birkentstocks. That shit is comfy and I freely admit to spending more time than I should in yoga pants (though I don't own birks, fleece or mom jeans. But that ain't the point). There is also nothing wrong with being a black man who wears baggy pants and listens to gangster rap. (Though I'm not a fan of the misogynist rap, but again NOT THE POINT). The construction of compliments like this are meant to keep us isolated from others like us who might, I dunno, all come together to say "Fuck you and your crappy system! I don't have to be pornorific hot all the time, or ever to be valued! I don't have to shed all of my cultural markers just so that the oppressors find me worthy of second-class status!"
So instead of being straight up bitchy, this is what I sent back:
I'm sure you think that was a compliment. But it's not actually all that different than if I said "Wow you're articulate". I don't need to hear insults to other women to feel good about myself. Thanks for trying though.