Columnist Christopher Bantick roasted after he said he can’t compliment women without being seen as ‘creepy’

A Melbourne-based writer is copping significant backlash after complaining that men can no longer compliment women on their appearance without being seen as creepy.

According to Christopher Bantick, the fact a woman may not appreciate a complete stranger approaching them and commenting on their appearance is a travesty.

In fact, he feels so strongly about this “issue” that he wrote almost 800 words on it, which were published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.

Throughout the article, titled Can you give a woman a compliment on her appearance? Not any more, it seems, Bantick laments that he no longer feels “comfortable” giving a woman a compliment on the street.

Back in the day, he says he would be able to approach a woman and tell her she looks “smart” or that her dress was “lovely” and it was perceived as entirely innocent with no ulterior motive.

“But if I were to give a similar compliment to a woman now, chances are it’d be seen as a bit creepy,” he writes.

But it isn’t only unsolicited compliments Bantick has to forego. Shockingly, he says he has also had to “give up” trying to read statement T-shirts because he runs the risk of his stare “offending” the person wearing the garment.

On this point, he not only argues, but “pleas”, that if a person doesn’t like being looked at by strangers on the street, then why would they wear a shirt with words on it and “invite unwanted stares”.

So why, in Bantick’s words, did he once feel it was “significant for a woman to know what [he] was thinking” about her appearance? Or what his motivations were for giving a compliment if his aim wasn’t to “pick up”?

His answer is that receiving a compliment can be lovely, adding that when he receives a compliment on his appearance he feels “amazed”.

Fortunately for Bantick, he reveals he may have found a way to still pay a stranger a compliment, saying he has had some luck in asking for a woman’s permission if he could comment on her appearance.

But even that just isn’t the same, with the Melbourne man writing: “It seems the line between compliment and feeble attempt at picking up someone has been completely blurred.”

All of this introspection has led him to question whether people even actually like having strangers approach them on the street and compliment their appearance.

He notes that there seems to be no issue complimenting a person on their achievements and concludes that the issue must lie in the personal nature of said compliment.

Bantick even “accepts” that a compliment could be seen as harassment in some settings, giving the example of a male employer “complimenting” a young female staff member on her short skirt.

Despite coming to this conclusion, the writer still claims society has lost the “ability to spontaneously make someone’s day” because men are now “too scared to give compliments to a woman lest their words be met with a withering rebuke”.

Unsurprisingly, Bantick’s opinion has gone down like a lead balloon with many readers, with both men and women quick to inform the writer that he has missed the mark.

One commenter claimed that unsolicited compliments from strangers on a person’s appearance has “always been creepy” but the only thing that has changed is people are more confident in calling out this behaviour.

“It’s not her job to care about and navigate your thoughts about her appearance,” they said.

“I don’t care what you think about how we look. It’s only your opinion. Keep it to yourself unless asked,” another wrote.

Other people were so stunned by the article that they claimed they genuinely thought it must be satire at first.

One man simply said: “This one could have stayed in the drafts, buddy.”

In fact, the opinion piece caused such a stir that it sparked another opinion piece in response, also published by The Sydney Morning Herald.

The piece by columnist Kerri Sackville, titled How to compliment a woman without giving her the creeps, details how exactly a man can compliment a woman without making her feel uneasy.

The first point she makes is a very simple one: “If the woman is a stranger, and you are walking past her in the street, do not give her a compliment.”

She notes that there is no way to know how a woman will interpret your comment and that if a man genuinely wants to brighten a woman’s day, then he should “smile and step aside” so she knows he isn’t a threat.

“If there’s one thing we women enjoy more than a compliment, it’s feeling safe when we walk the streets,” Sackville writes.

She also notes there is no need to compliment a woman’s appearance in her workplace or if there is any sort of power imbalance in the relationship, saying that simply being polite and letting her do her job is more than enough to make her day.

She also noted that, even if a woman was a friend or family member, a compliment on her body was not OK – unless she was a romantic partner and you knew this would be received well.

Sackville’s opinion was met with a much better response, but many lamented the fact that an explanation was even “necessary”.

“Excellent response from Kerry Sackville to yesterday’s tone deaf piece. It’s quite simple, don’t compliment someone you don’t know, and don’t give any compliment unless you know the person will unequivocally feel good about what you say,” one reader said.

“Kerry Sackville you nailed it 100%! We prioritise feeling safe, and would prefer to be acknowledged for the work we do, equal pay, and to share the workload at home. We are not there for the male gaze,” another wrote.

However, it seems there are still some people who share Bantick’s view, with one reader claiming he was taught to be a “gentleman” to women and claiming it was “sad” that people are not better off keeping to themselves so as not to offend anyone.

“Can’t say anything much these days. so over it!” another wrote.

There were also women who claimed they enjoy compliments from random men, with one saying a “wolf whistle” used to leave people with a “big smile” on their face.

“The young today are missing out on so much,” they claimed.

For some reason, I don’t think the absence of cat calling and wolf whistles would have a negative effect on how our society operates.

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