“Would you like me to get you some tea from the coffee machine pretty face?”…A very nice gentleman colleague of mine recently said. My heart skipped a beat. No- not in a ‘swoon’ type of way, but in a ‘did he just call me pretty face?’ type of way.
My colleague is in his early thirties, hard-working, loud and opinionated, smart, proud and a generally respected character in the organisation. A family man…and so…I was taken aback by the name-calling. I sat at my desk, sat in traffic on my way home trying to unpack the startled reaction I had the moment I got called ‘pretty face’. I concluded the following:
- If we were close friends, outside of the work environment, I would be ok with my friend calling me ‘pretty face’
- To most people that’s a compliment, I get that but I found it context inappropriate
- Being called ‘pretty face’ in a work environment almost feels like someone saying ‘ok, I get that you are intelligent, hard working and share all those attributes that I am respected for, but to me you are just a pretty face…’
I continued with my trail of thought and went on to wondering; what is the male equivalent of being called ‘pretty face’?….’handsome’?…I certainly do not see myself throwing that term around in a work environment. When complimenting my male friends, my brothers and good-looking lads I fancy- definitely! But at work- no ways.
So what is it?…gendered language.
Steep generalisation, what I have noticed is that gendered language tends not to be context specific when swung around by men and yet women take careful consideration of the contexts in which they throw words around?…
Or (I continued to try and reason)- as a father, a husband and a son he is used to complimenting women all the time that in his habitual language flattery is the order of the day?
Either way- South Africa marks the “16 days of activism for no violence against women and children” campaign.
As most human rights activists will advocate, the plight of this campaign is one that should be fought on a daily basis.
In the spirit of the festive season- let us be safe, let us speak words that affirm and empower the people we interact with, especially our mothers, daughters and women. Our brothers, sons and fathers need the positive affirmation and love as well, let us collectively contribute to building a safe, loving (South) Africa.
Upward and Onward- Wishing you the best and see you in 2015!