Last week our beloved President Barack Obama, was admonished by several media outlets for his comment/compliment of California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris. Only if you have been residing under a rock, or ingesting constant re-runs of reality television, then you should be very familiar with the opinions spewed from the likes of Jon Stewart, to writers for Business Insider and New York Times and even comedians on Saturday Night Live surrounding “Compliment Gate.”
Now, let’s get this record straight. Attorney General Kamala Harris is a beautiful woman. She very well may be the best looking Attorney General in the history of the United States of America. She and President Obama may even be good friends who go way back and each understand between the two what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to say to and about each other, especially on a national platform. But President Obama, who by all intents and purposes was just giving his beautiful pal a compliment as “the best looking Attorney General in the country,” ruffled some stiff feathers with this one. Was his comment appropriate? Or, was his compliment of this beautiful and smart woman extremely distasteful considering its stance of possibly overshadowing her impressive career in politics?
From my days as an intern to my days working for other partners and business men (I have only had one female boss in my 17 years of working), I have received a compliment a time or two from a boss. A majority, if not all of them, were not in bad taste. Some things as simple as: “You look nice today,” “Oh, did you change your hair? It looks great!” to “Dang girl you are wearing that dress!” (my days at Rap A Lot) were all standard comments I received maybe three or four times throughout my career. I never thought them to be inappropriate and/or creepy and I think I carried myself in such a way that my bosses knew not to come at me in an inappropriate or creepy manners either.
I have even been given advice from my male bosses to use my looks to my advantage and that “a smile from a pretty woman could go a long way in a business deal.” Again, I thought nothing of it.
The difference between the harmless compliments I received in the workplace and (what I perceived to be) a harmless compliment given to Attorney General Harris, is my received compliments were not broadcasted and exploited by media outlets and my bosses were not the President of the United States. I mean, President Obama did apologize for recognizing the beauty of his friend and fellow politician, but was the damage already done?
Do I think President Obama’s comment was harmless; yes I do. Do I think he should have said it out loud, in front of nit-picking political critics and haters……AND Michelle????…. not at all. I guess in a society of extreme criticism, a compliment from a boss or fellow colleague, no matter how much it may lack malicious or salacious intent, is not a priority and should be kept to oneself.
So what do you think? Are compliments on beauty and looks inappropriate for the work place?
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Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.