Guys, we know you don’t always mean it, but sometimes you just say the wrong thing about a girl’s body. As much as we love you, you don’t quite know what it’s like for women today to hear so much criticism about the female body. There’s a lot of talk about what women look like, and it seems like guys always want to chime in. Whether you mean it or not, sometimes your innocent comments just perpetuate the issues we have with our own bodies. Your girlfriend may not tell you that these remarks bug them, but they actually might be upsetting. So here’s what you’re saying…and what we’re hearing:
1. “I like that you have a big butt.”
What Women Hear: “You have a big, fat butt but it’s fine.” You may think this is a compliment; for some ladies, it is. For others, especially in communities where thinness is valued above all else, it feels like a slap in the face.
2. “Don’t you want to eat healthier?”
What Women Hear: “You should be dieting.” You may have the best of intentions here, but comments like this usually come off as passive-aggressive. Women want to be told that they can and should eat what they want. But unless she is dangerously overweight, it’s probably better to stay away from any remarks about the food your girlfriend is eating.
3. “You should work out more.”
What Women Hear: “You need to lose weight.” You may just want to help her tone up and feel better about her body. But her instinct to work out needs to come from within, or she won’t stick to it. Most of us are looking for any excuse to start body-shaming, and comments like this make it easy.
4. “You’re so small. It’s cute.”
What Women Hear: “I like that you’re petite and need someone big and strong to protect you.” Some women just love the idea of a man who is their protector. But for some women, being reminded that you’re small (believe me, petite women already know they’re little) feels silly. Why point out the obvious? It comes across as a way of saying, “You’re not strong; you need someone to take care of you.” Small women get insecure about their bodies too. Most women don’t want to feel diminutive and powerless.
5. “Do you have fake boobs?”
What Women Hear: “You’re trying too hard to look good.” OR “Your boobs are too big. You look funny.” Women blessed with large boobs don’t always feel great about their bodies, either. A comment meant to praise a woman on her larger chest comes across as an insult when it’s equated with fake boobs. When you naturally have a particular physical attribute, someone accusing you of having surgery to achieve it is just plain insulting. It can also make it sound like someone is criticizing your size, or implying that you’re overeager to look a certain way.
6. “She lost a ton of weight, and then she met her husband!”
What Women Hear: “Guys only want thin girls.” When a man, especially a parent, tells this to his child, it immediately translates in her mind as never being good enough. It also equates her sense of self worth with a number on the scale. Some people can never be thin, at least not without starving themselves. And that’s just not worth it.
7. “That cake’s gonna go right to your hips, sweetie.”
What Women Hear: “People are paying attention to what you eat in public, so order something like a salad.” Ever wonder why we always order salad? Women who face criticism for what they eat from men (and other women) in their lives may be embarrassed to order food that they actually want in public.
8. “Thin girls don’t eat Pop Tarts.” (Meant as a joke…newsflash, it’s not funny)
What Women Hear: “You can’t eat what you want if you hope to look good.” So guys can have hamburgers, French toast, pancakes, and hot dogs, but women need to stick the oatmeal and granola? Girls and guys always seem to have very different food preferences, but his is often cultural rather than actually preferential. Because let’s be honest, when it comes down to it, most women would choose a hamburger over a salad too.
9. “No, I don’t think she looks better than you. She’s too skinny.”
What Women Hear: “There’s no winning. You’re either too big or too small.” Sometimes it’s reassuring to hear from a guy that there is such a thing as too thin. But sometimes, hearing a girl is unattractive because she’s too thin is just a reminder that there’s always some way for a person to criticize your body, no matter how large or small you are.
10. “You’re so pretty, but you’d be drop-dead gorgeous if you lost twenty pounds.”
What Women Hear: “There’s a strong relationship between weight and beauty.” No, this is not a compliment. No, we don’t want to be told we should lose weight to be prettier. Especially since losing 20 pounds would put some of us in the danger zone.
11. “How do you eat so much?”
What Women Hear: “You eat like a pig.” Don’t comment on how much we eat. Period. You may mean to say that you think it’s great, but we’d rather you not comment on the quantity of food we’re putting down. Some of us work out a lot, and need the calories. It’s not worth discussing.
12. “I can’t imagine you doing a Super Spartan race.”
What Women Hear: “You don’t seem fit enough to handle that.” Sometimes, we’re a lot stronger than we look. You don’t need to call attention to it.