“You’re in such good shape,” he said to her.
Then, turning to her husband, he said again, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.”
Most people will probably find nothing wrong with what he said. This wasn’t a series of tweets about “crazy Mika,” or an awkward comment about his daughter’s beauty. It was something more subtle – just out of place enough to spawn a few news articles, but not shocking enough to get CNN to hit the big, red “Breaking News” button.
Explaining what’s wrong with a statement like this is difficult. It takes a nuanced approach and an empathetic listener to understand how such a simple compliment could turn sour. It’s easy to criticize a man when he makes fun of a woman for being fat or for having an ugly face, but should men also be criticized for complimenting a woman?
In this situation, yes.
It would be different if Trump was on a date with the First Lady. On a date with Trump, the First Lady would have also clearly expressed her attraction for Trump by agreeing to meet him. A compliment about her body in this setting at least has the chance of being well-received.
This isn’t to say that Trump was lusting after Mrs. Macron, or that any sexual or ill intent was involved. It does show, however, that his focus – at least initially – was completely on her body. What a person says is usually what they’re thinking; this is less than true for most politicians, but hits the nail on the head when it comes to Trump.
At least at first glance, it seems that Trump has a hard time seeing past a woman’s body. You can see this in the way he compliments and insults women – both of which are almost always centered around physical features.
He isn’t alone either. Many men think to compliment a woman’s body when they first meet. But do men treat other men similarly? In a professional setting, would a man think to compliment another man’s biceps during their first encounter? Maybe, if their conversation was somehow steered into gym memberships and workout routines – but not if they were celebrating Bastille Day and talking about the future of the US and France.
Women like compliments just like everyone else, but no one likes a compliment that brings you down in another way. When you’re hoping to be respected for your accomplishments and the position that you’ve worked for, your body is likely the last thing on your mind. If it’s the first thing on someone else’s though, it’s not being dramatic to say it’s at least a little jarring.
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