• Mary Kathleen Toner

5 Things You Should Never Say to a Woman

And 5 things that are fine!


International Women's Day was a few days ago, but the barrage of inspirational posts that took over my social media feeds are still rattling around in my head. And, well, I guess they did their job, because I feel motivated to share some of the common phrases that personally bother me most, as well as some that I feel empowered by.


Disclaimer: I am not saying that only men say these things, that all women are affected by them the same way or even similarly, or that these types of comments don't bother men! I'm simply speaking from my personal experience as a woman, and from the shared experiences of my female friends. :)


1. DON'T Tell Me To Smile

This bothered me long before I knew why it bothered me, which just goes to show that this "HaRmLeSs CoMmEnT" is thrown at us almost as soon as we've left the womb.


At surface level, this likely seems like a positive remark to anyone who hasn't thought much about it.

"Smile! Life ain't so bad! Look on the bright side! Blah Blah Blah!"

But, have you ever heard anyone tell a boy/man to smile? I don't mean for a photo, I mean have you ever witnessed a stranger tell a male who is minding his own business, maybe just waiting in line to use the restroom at a bar with his regular 'ol face on, to SMILE?

Probably not.


When my face is at rest, it is at rest. It is not, "resting bitch face," because I'm not smiling, it is simply a face being a face because that's how faces work. I do not walk around in full grin mode because no one who isn't a psychotic killer clown does that, ya weirdo! I also do not exist to make others feel comfortable, so don't "compliment" me by saying, "You look so much prettier when you smile!" Dude, you look prettier when I can't see or hear you. BYE.


1. DO Tell Me I Have a Pretty Smile

And just leave it at that. Or, express literally any genuine compliment if you know the person you're complimenting! (While kindness from strangers doesn't bother me personally, a lot of people like to be left alone when they're out and about doin' their thing.)


2. DON'T Ask Me About My Weight

Even if it looks like I've lost weight and your intention is to praise me, don't. Whether purposeful or not, women are taught from a young age that their worth is tied to their looks, and weight is probably the most emphasized aspect when it comes to physical appearance.


I don't make this point from the perspective of simply worrying about mine or someone else's feelings being hurt, but because it can actually be life-or-death-dangerous to comment on someone's weight. It is likely you already know someone who has/has had an eating disorder, whether you're aware of it or not. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, "10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes."


Eating disorders are second only to opioid overdose as the deadliest mental illness Americans face.

Do. Not. Comment. On. Someone's. Weight. Whether they can hear you or not doesn't matter, either; if you're speaking to someone else, that person can hear you, and then they can assume where you place their value- with their weight.


2. DO Talk About Your Own Body In A Healthy Way

If you want to! Positive and healthy body talk is contagious.

"I feel so strong today!"

"That workout gave me so much energy."

"I'm excited I might hit a PR."

"I'm allowing my body to rest this weekend."

"I was able to focus so well today, maybe there is something to green smoothies!"


When in doubt, just talk about the weather or what you're watching on Netflix instead.


3. DON'T Use My Period As An Excuse To Be Rude

"Did she just cry over a Publix commercial!? Must be that time of the month!"

"It's been 42 seconds since she last smiled...Aunt Flow must be visiting."

"Wow, she's in a bad mood - must be on the rag."


Yeah, I MIGHT BE. Do you understand the complexities of the female anatomy and the delicate balance of hormones needed for it to function smoothly? There's no need to add negative social commentary to the situation, even if it's just offhand to your buddy.


We don't get to miss work or stop taking care of kids or drop any and all responsibilities during this time, even though for many of us it can feel like we have a bad case of the flu- weakness, soreness, cramps, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, etc.


We take some Advil, grab the necessary sanitary products, and get our ess-ache-eye-tee done. No one is asking you to cut us slack, we're just asking that you do your part to end the "jokes" that have been perpetuated for far too long.


3. DO Learn About Menstruation

I have dated exactly one person who has not been "grossed out" by period talk, and that is my husband. To his credit, his dad is a fertility doctor so he definitely grew up with the subject as a topic of conversation that could easily come up at dinner, so it's not exactly foreign to him.


I appreciate that it is foreign to many people, however, and that's ok! Google is a wonderful thing and if there's anyone in your life you feel comfortable asking, I'm sure they'd love a chance to tell you all about what a nightmare it can be, but also how cool the complexities are. Honestly, I'm still learning to see the beauty in what my body can do, too, so you're not alone.


Normalize period talk! Discussing health and understanding the differences in all our bodies should not be taboo, but encouraged.


4. DO-freakin'-NOT Ask Me When I'm Going To Have Kids

I don't know! And if I do, it's none of your business unless I decide to tell you!


I really don't think I need to tell you all the many reasons why you should never ask a woman if/when she plans to PUSH A LIVING HUMAN OR HAVE ONE CUT OUT OF HER BODY, because not only do these reasons classify as common sense, but this no-no has made it's way around the Internet already. This is just a simple reminder. :)


4. DO Ask Me About My Interests

Or other goings-on in my life, because my worth isn't tied to whether or not I've given my husband a child or my parents grandchildren or done ANYTHING to add to this already over-populated planet.


Everyone is worth something simply because they exist, and I'd like to talk about the things that make my existence enjoyable. For some, that is their human children. For others, it's their cat(s) or the small business they started or the show they just finished or the book they can't put down or the fishing tournament they have coming up or the new workout they're dying to try or the recipe they've perfected.


5. DON'T Compare Me To Other Women

I cannot stand it when someone compares two women with the idea that the differences might make one less than the other in some way, or that the two are locked into some competition simply because they're both the same sex.


Just because she's pretty doesn't mean I'm not.

Just because she's smart doesn't mean I'm not.

Just because she's accomplished at X doesn't mean that my accomplishments in Y are any less admirable.


We should celebrate each other's successes and help each other when we need it. There's already enough pressure living up to our own standards- we don't need to live up to someone else's, too.


5. DO Treat Me (And Everyone) With Kindness & Respect

Because we're all human, we're all significant, and we're all imperfect.


::gets off soapbox::


Thanks for reading!

Mary Kathleen

Mary Kathleen is Functionize’s Social Media & Marketing Manager. She lives in Atlanta with husband Brian and their three furry children: Cotton (pup), Burlap (pup), and Knuckles (kitty). She is the owner of Velvet & Vine Boutique.


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