“You look pretty with make-up on” - 15 sexist compliments you should stop saying

Portrait of young afro woman with bright make-up. Picture: Stock image/CoffeeandMilk

Portrait of young afro woman with bright make-up. Picture: Stock image/CoffeeandMilk

Published Jul 4, 2023


There are many phrases that we may think are compliments, but are really just borderline rude and sexist remarks. Both men and women are guilty of these, myself included.

Comments on physical appearance, intelligence and a devaluing of so-called “feminine” traits are popular topics when it comes to sexist commentary.

Here are 20 compliments, hand-picked from Reddit, Tiktok and the depths of the interwebs, that are actually sexist and should really stop being given, to both men and women.

1.“It's great that you enjoy drinking beer.”

Beer and sometimes whiskey or brandy, are often thought of as drinks solely reserved for male consumption, if a woman enjoys a pint or Jameson on the rocks, it’s seen as an anomaly. However, more and more women enjoy drinking beer these days, and there’s nothing gendered about enjoying one style of alcoholic beverage over another. On the flipside, it is also not OK to hassle a man for enjoying a fruity cocktail or other stereotypically “girly” beverages or cocktails.

2.“It’s cool that you know so much about [insert sport, business].”

Women can know just as much (if not more) about stereotypically male-centred topics such as sports or business. Things like soccer, cricket, and executive management are not solely for male enjoyment.

3.“I never would have guessed you could lift that.”

Believing that women are the weaker sex is a great injustice to the incredible feats of strength they perform on a daily basis, including dealing with you. This can also be said to men by those who perceive themselves to be physically stronger.

4.“You really like to eat, don’t you?”

This is just hands down a huge no-no. This compliment not only shames a woman for her appetite, it also places needless value on her weight and appearance, suggesting that she should be acting in a different way.

5.“You look pretty with makeup on.”

You may as well just tell women that their value as a person is based solely on their appearance. Men aren’t expected to make themselves up to get through their day-to-day life, and neither should women.

6.“I love that you’re not overly sensitive.”

Throughout history, women have been told that they were too hysterical for this, and too emotional for that. Telling a female that “it’s good that she’s not overly sensitive” does great disservice to acknowledging and validating the value of a person’s emotions.

7.“You’re so in touch with your feelings.”

Said to a man, this is a snide way of making fun of him for having and expressing feelings. Is it surprising that I am in touch with my feelings just because I am a man.

8.“You’re so easy-going, I love that.”

This is another way of telling a woman she’s interested in downplaying her feelings and emotions. Can we just all agree that there’s nothing wrong with a woman who shows passion?

9.“You’re so cute when you’re mad.”

No, women are not cute when they are mad. They’re cute in general but that is not the point. They are mad when they are mad. Stop devaluing women’s emotions and do not use the word cute for anything other than a new fit.

10.“I never knew you were so funny.”

Women can tell jokes just as well as men—you only need to watch any show or film that Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey has written. Telling a woman she is surprisingly funny makes light of her intelligence and creativity, and is totally sexist.

11.“You look great, like you’re not even trying.”

Again, placing value on a person solely for their looks is just ridiculous. Why can’t someone take pride in caring about their appearance and trying to look their best? People should be able to dress how they like without a focus of doing it for someone else.

12.“You sure know a lot about politics.”

Just because someone has two X chromosomes doesn’t mean that they can’t be knowledgeable about current affairs and world events.

13.“You look great! Have you lost weight?”

While often said to women, men get this too. No matter how well-meaning, it’s never OK to comment on a person’s size, they could have a health issue or eating disorder you don’t know about. Even if they were lazy and unhealthy, it’s none of your business. Just say “You look great!” and stop there.

14.“That [piece of clothing] really shows off your [great body part].”

No matter who it is said to, this is one backhanded compliment that’s sure to make the recipient feel icky. Please, stop commenting on the appearance of other people’s bodies.

15.“It’s amazing how dedicated you are to your job, even with a child.”

No one in their right mind would ever say this to a man, so why should it ever be said to a woman?! This implies that she values her career over her family, and that there is something wrong with that. Newsflash, there’s not!

We’ve all been guilty of saying one or two of these “compliments” but there’s always room to learn from our mistakes and be kinder to those around us. No one is perfect but we can, at the very least, try to be.