At a rally Monday night, President Trump said that he can’t call his daughter Ivanka “beautiful” anymore thanks to political correctness.
“Now I don’t know if they’ll say this is nepotism, but the truth is she’s a very, very — you’re not allowed to use the word beautiful anymore when you talk about women, you’re not allowed, no, no, it’s politically incorrect,” he said, according to Newsweek.
“I will never call a woman beautiful again, and every man here, every man here, raise your hand, you will never say your wife, your girlfriend, anybody is beautiful, right?”
“I’m not allowed to say, because it’s my daughter Ivanka, but she’s really smart,” he continued. “And she’s here — shall I bring her up?”
Even Ivanka seemed surprised by her father’s comments. “Wow. Hi, Ohio,” she said when she got to the podium. “That was some introduction.”
The president actually is incorrect, Jaclyn Friedman, author of books on sex and power including Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Men and anybody can comment on the looks of people under certain circumstances,” she says. “But you should never comment on the appearance of somebody you don’t know or anybody in the workplace. Just don’t do it, even if you think they look great.”
“The way I try to frame this is in what circumstances or in what way would you tell your mother or your sister that she’s beautiful?” Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“You wouldn’t say to your sibling or your mother something sexual about being beautiful, and you wouldn’t say it in the workplace.”
Experts weigh in
These aren’t gendered rules, Friedman says—no one should be commenting on anyone’s physical appearance in these situations.
“Men like Donald Trump want to make this about men being oppressed, but this is common courtesy,” she says. “Don’t comment on people’s bodies in the workplace. Nobody wants to think that you’re looking at their body in the workplace.”
Power dynamics come into play
Power dynamics also matter, Saltz says: “It can seem like a demand or request where there is an unequal footing, power to be gained or lost.”
When it comes to complimenting someone on their appearance, “how you’re doing it and how often you’re doing it matters,” Friedman says.
If you’re constantly complimenting people on their appearance, it gives them the impression that the most important thing about them is how they look. But if you compliment their appearance along with giving compliments on their accomplishments or actions, a different message is conveyed.
“It’s really about the ratio,” Friedman says.
Giving unsolicited compliments
Men should understand, though, that women may be wary of receiving unsolicited compliments on their appearance.
“Women know that sometimes if you get unwelcome comments about your looks, violence may follow,” Friedman says.
“We’ve all heard stories of women who have gotten hit on who tried to turn down advances and were attacked or murdered for it. Women go to great pains to avoid that kind of leering attention because we know our safety may depend on it.”
Saltz acknowledges that men may feel a little confused these days.
“To some degree it’s an understandable reaction to a movement that has made it clear that a lot of the things that have been going on for some time are not OK,” she says.
But, in general, she says men (and women) are usually OK to call someone beautiful when they’re already in a romantic situation or relationship.
As for Ivanka, Friedman says that she doesn’t believe that the president thinks he can’t call his daughter beautiful.
“And, for the record, his daughter is a senior White House adviser. He has brought it into the workplace,” she says.
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