Do women mind if a man compliments their feet or toe nail polish?
July 12, 2013 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Since it is now summer and many women have taken to wearing open toed shoes frequently would it acceptable in a social situation for a young man with a liking to female feet to compliment a female friend and acquaintance on her toe nail polish or feet. In Canada women cover their feet for most of the year so it is a treat when they do show them.
posted by Jack V to Society & Culture (66 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Women are not a monolith. Individual women may well find it creepy. If you wish to avoid being creepy, I would reserve your compliments until such a time as you know the woman well enough to know whether she would fall into that category.
posted by KathrynT at 2:39 PM on July 12, 2013 [18 favorites]

Very high probably that this will come off as creepy.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Not creepy: "Hey, orange polish! Cool!"
Creepy: "Hey, I like your feet."
Creepier: "Hey, I like women's feet."
Creepiest: "It is such a treat getting to see women's feet."

You really have one option here. And you really can only say it to a lady you're friendly with. Once.
posted by phunniemee at 2:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [130 favorites]

This is not a simple yes/no question, unfortunately. Is there a way to do this that is friendly and obviously not flirty and complimentary? Absolutely! Is there a way to do this that is intrusive and creepy and leery? Absolutely.

In general, a quick "hey, I like your toenail polish!" said with a smile should be fine, in general, just don't stress your point too much. Or stare.
posted by brainmouse at 2:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Arrrgh. They're not showing their feet as a treat for you, they're doing it because it is more comfortable than having hot and sweaty feet when it's sweltering outside. That attitude that it's like a treat for you to see their feet is a big part of what will creep them out.

I think it would be fine to say, to a friend, "Nice pedicure," if she obviously got one. If you go around saying this to all your female friends you will become known as the foot guy, I'm just saying.

"Cute feet" would be just as creepy as complimenting her legs or clavicle or any other body part.

Don't go around saying this to random women unless she has a pedicure that is unusually eye catching that she has put a lot of work into, like it has crystals and complicated designs on it or something like that.

Do not say this in the workplace at all. Do not go around staring at people's feet in a social situation or in public either.
posted by cairdeas at 2:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [47 favorites]

Some women may find it to be a pleasant surprise that a man notices such things and other women will be creeped out. So complimenting a friend is probably safe-- mere acquaintance or stranger, probably not a good idea.
posted by lovelygirl at 2:41 PM on July 12, 2013

Yes making comments about other people's bodies and how they satisfy your personal fetish is creepy.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:42 PM on July 12, 2013 [52 favorites]

Etiquette is highly cultural, but in America and as far as I can tell in Canada, it's not generally appropriate to compliment a non-close friend or any acquaintance on their body parts themselves. "Wow, you have beautiful feet" isn't seen as a compliment, it's seen as a come-on.

Complimenting fashion choices like nail polish and clothing is more acceptable, but it's pretty context-dependent.

That being said:
In Canada women cover their feet for most of the year so it is a treat when they do show them.

It's really safest to assume that women in general are not dressing as a treat for you. There's no need to compliment them for the sole reason of pointing out that you get pleasure from it. That's probably not the reason they've dressed that way.
posted by muddgirl at 2:43 PM on July 12, 2013 [19 favorites]

Absolutely not. I certainly hope you would refrain from complimenting a woman's breasts, notwithstanding summer attire, "treat" though it may be to see them.

Same goes for feet. Women and their parts really aren't treats for you to enjoy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:44 PM on July 12, 2013 [18 favorites]

Saying "nice feet" would be the equivalent to saying "nice boobs". Would you say "nice boobs"? Probably not.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

There are too many things in play here (your relationship to the woman in question, how well she knows you, the general atmosphere of the get-together, your demeanor and delivery and a thousand shades of all of the above) to give a definitive answer, but basically - and I am not trying to be a jerk by saying this so I apologize in advance if it sounds that way - if you even have to ask this question, you should probably keep your observations about the feet of your female friends and acquaintances to yourself.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself.
posted by Jack V at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Compliment their nail polish, or pedicure, or cute shoes.

I'd say "Thanks!" to any of those compliments if they are brief and in passing -- any gushing or staring would be creepy regardless of the subject of the compliment.
posted by mibo at 2:47 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Say "nice pedicure" or "nice polish". I like compliments, and I do get flashy nail polish, etc. to show off my cute shoes and lovely feet, but I'm old and don't tend to get creepy young men slobbering over me. Some women do chose style, shoes, etc.. to attract the attention of others, some for their own enjoyment.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:47 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is going to depend on the intersection of:

a) how the person paying the compliment comes across on the spectrum of friendly to fetishy
b) how the person receiving the compliment feels about such compliments in general
c) how the person receiving the compliment feels about the person paying the compliment

The way you have asked this question here on AskMe makes me feel like you might fall further on the fetishy end of the spectrum than most women are going to be comfortable with. My immediate vibe on reading it was not good -- something about the way you describe yourself as a 'young man with a liking to female feet' and seeing those feet as a 'treat' for you. Nobody wants to be left with the feeling that they are tonight's fantasy fodder.

Complimenting them on some aspect of their feet rather than just their feet is not a huge improvement. If you're already quite good friends (not just casual acquaintances) with a woman and you might otherwise tell her that you like her new haircut, her sweater is nice or the color she was wearing today looked great on her, a compliment on her shoes might not feel out of place. But if you don't already have a complimenting sort of relationship with the woman, there is a good chance it will feel weird and out of place.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

"I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself."

I can't help but wonder why it's important to you to vocalize your appreciation of their feet at all. If it's such a "treat" for you, I think the absolute best option would be to enjoy seeing them and keep entirely mum, because this is a complex situation where you are likely to say something awkward (at best).
posted by telegraph at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2013 [50 favorites]

No, it would not be acceptable. I wouldn't even like it if my husband complimented my feet or toe polish in a social setting, though it is fine when he does it at home.

I don't think you should compliment women you aren't dating on their sandals, toe rings, or foot tattoos either.

Women aren't a collection of body parts for male enjoyment. Really. Not.
posted by bearwife at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself.

See, now it sounds like you're trying to find an okay way to let a woman know that you're looking at her feet.
posted by troika at 2:53 PM on July 12, 2013 [28 favorites]

(on complete lack of preview, what telegraph said)
posted by troika at 2:53 PM on July 12, 2013

Well, I'm giving you permission to compliment a woman on her nail polish, if you want.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one.

Are you really thinking "cool sandals!" or "that is an awesome foot tattoo!" or are you thinking something else and using those examples as an excuse to talk to a woman about her feet? You don't have to answer that question here, but you might want to think about it.
posted by k8lin at 2:55 PM on July 12, 2013 [17 favorites]

I like being complimented on my nail polish, but keep the language as nonsexual as possible, e.g. "I like that color" or "cool polish" and not "pretty pedicure."

The only time you should compliment a woman on her body parts is when you're actually trying to pick her up. And even then you need to be super cautious.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:56 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself.

I dunno; it depends on your motive. If you're trying to justify staring at her feet, this is not so great. The best option in this case would be to keep the comments (and eyes) to yourself. If you just really like her shoes (in an "appreciating her taste" rather than "being turned on" way), tasteful and very occasional comments are probably ok, but even this is going to depend on your tone and presentation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:57 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

(When you say that you have "a liking to female feet" and that looking at them is "a treat," I am assuming that you mean that you have a sexual interest in women's feet. If that is not the case, if your interest is 100% nonsexual, then the rest of this comment may not apply to you.)

Yes, this is creepy. If you are interested sexually in women's feet, it is creepy for you to engage them in conversation about their feet or anything involving their feet when you are doing so because the conversation turns you on sexually, and they're not aware and consenting to be a part of your sexual scenario.

A separate question is, despite the fact that it's creepy, could you get away with doing it without the objects (and I use that word deliberately, since you're objectifying people's body parts) of your "admiration" finding out that you're doing a creepy thing? And the answer is, maybe. In the same way that a person could say, "Nice dress," when what they really mean is "I am getting a sexual thrill out of talking to you about your body, and talking about your dress is a safer way of talking to you about your boobs, which I am thinking about sexually right now,"you could say, "nice nail polish," when what you really mean is "I am getting a sexual thrill out of talking to you about your feet, and talking about your nail polish allows me to talk to you about your feet while thinking sexually about them." It's still really creepy, but she might not figure it out, because some people say the same things you're saying, but in a non-sexual way. But intent matters.

It is not okay to include other people in your sexual activities without their consent. You can spend as much time as you want thinking about feet, or talking with other consenting adults about feet, or engaging in sexual activity involving the feet of any consenting adult who gives you permission to do so. But when you're having a conversation with another person, and the conversation is sexual for you, and the other person doesn't know that you're getting off on the conversation, that is creepy. And you may be able to get away with it, but that doesn't make it a good or nice or healthy thing to do.
posted by decathecting at 3:00 PM on July 12, 2013 [56 favorites]

Are you trying to do this in order to talk to them or possibly date them?
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself.

Position for what? What is your goal here? Are you trying to look at feet without staring (and so having an excuse)? Are you trying to talk to women and this is a thing you like and notice? Are you trying to get into a conversation with a woman about her feet? Are you just an appreciator of nail polish and are wondering if it's okay to share this with someone when you notice it?

Honestly, the way you phrase this question and your follow-up sound a little odd to me. There could be many reasons for this, so maybe it's just me, but if I were you I'd steer clear of the entire thing unless someone is a friend and even then I'd keep it to a minimum.
posted by jessamyn at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

There are obviously times when it's okay to compliment a woman on a body part that you appreciate. Those times are when you're genuinely romantically/sexually interested in that person, and you've already received signals from that person indicating that they are available and likewise interested in you.

If she is just a friend/acquaintance and has not already sent you CLEAR SIGNALS that she wants to be more than that, then absolutely not. But it would also be creepy to start telling a woman who has not sent those signals that you like her lipstick, her hair, etc, unless you have a history of talking about fashion, etc. (Trying not to discount that there ARE straight guys interested in such things, but this does not sound like you.)

Basically, the times this is okay are exactly the same times when it is okay to come out and say, "I think you're really hot." Which are fairly narrow. If you're not sure if you're reading signals right? Err on the side of not saying anything. And if a woman has not expressed something that clearly indicates she's receptive to advances from you, then staring at her body in any fashion is not acceptable, whether you're saying something or not.
posted by Sequence at 3:03 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's an oft repeated rule in the kink community is that it's inappropriate to involve people in your fetishes without their consent. I know you've expressed your appreciation for women's feet in softer terms here, but I think it is still somewhat applicable.
posted by Lorin at 3:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [22 favorites]

Yeah what are you trying to accomplish by saying anything? It seems to me that when a compliment becomes more about you than the person you're complimenting then it isn't a compliment and it's weird.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [25 favorites]

You can say "cute sandals" to someone. As to saying anything else about a woman's feet, absent a deep personal bond between you and that woman that has already encompassed this subject, I can only refer to an answer by Jacqueline in a previous unrelated thread.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:09 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

What makes this come off as creepy to me is in your original question: "a young man with a liking to female feet."

If you like someone's nail polish, say so. If it's a sex thing related to a foot fetish and you're looking for a way to work in talking about a lady's feet, keep your mouth shut.
posted by something something at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Do I think it is possible for a man to politely say "Cool pedicure color!" or "Those are cute sandals!" without it being creepy? Yes, absolutely!

Do I think it is possible for a guy (you) who is attracted to women's feet to say those things without it being creepy? No. In this case, it's less what you're saying than why you're saying it, which makes it no more appropriate than saying "Hey, nice tits!"
posted by mostlymartha at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]

In my experience, it's fine so long as you have the personality to do so in a way that comes of as genuine rather than creepy. If you're using the compliment as an opening line, that's something entirely different. I wouldn't do it. But if you're just being genuinely nice, that's fine. Be genuinely nice.

This is probably nice: "I love your toenail polish. That's really cute!"
This is definitely creepy: "You have such great feet."

...note that I said 'probably' since it's all about how you pay someone a compliment. Some people excel at being genuine. Others totally suck at it.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:15 PM on July 12, 2013

It seems to me that when a compliment becomes more about you than the person you're complimenting then it isn't a compliment and it's weird.

This is really great advice. It's like the difference between giving a friend a gift that you think they will like to say "thank you" or to celebrate an occasion and giving them a gift to get them to do something for you. The first is an act of friendship; the second is manipulation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:15 PM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

Just feel fortunate that it's socially acceptable to look at sandal-clad feet, whereas staring at many other body parts is not. Ogle all you want, but don't say anything.
posted by wryly at 3:26 PM on July 12, 2013

As a woman who goes out in public just about daily, my feeling is that your opinion of me is none of my business, so please keep it to yourself.
posted by Lexica at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [17 favorites]

I'm a woman. Compliments from men I'm not friends with generally feel creepy to me. It's unwelcome and feels gross and intrusive. To me, it's like a stranger telling me to smile. YUCK.

Given your personal interest in women's feet, it's quite likely that 'compliments' from you will come off as creepy.
posted by quince at 3:30 PM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

I've had men, both strangers and passing acquaintances, compliment my feet/shoes. I didn't find it creepy (though I think a lot of other women would) but depending on context I found it either puzzling (That's so odd, do you think he was trying to sell something?) or hilarious (Wait till he's around the corner and LMFAO at him.) If said guys had been my friends and I knew that they were really into beauty/fashion and typically noticed women's style, it would have been fine. Had they been my friends and not the type to normally discuss clothes and makeup with female friends, or wear nail polish themselves, it would have been awkward and weird, at best. In general, if you want to compliment someone and you really mean it, just go with "You look nice today."

a young man with a liking to female feet

I feel the best position to take... it is a treat when they do show them

These sentences, I will say, I find to be pretty darn creepy.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:33 PM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's usually okay to compliment women on things like their hairstyle, clothing, accessories, shoes and sometimes their makeup color choices. This is because you are ostensibly complimenting them on their good taste and style, rather than singling out one of their body parts as sexually arousing for you.

For example, "Did you get a new haircut? It looks great!" is a perfectly nice compliment, but "Your hair looks so soft and pretty," is creepy. "That's a cool dress," is fine, but "I like the way that dress fits you," is creepy. "Nice pedicure, I like the purple," is alright, but "You have beautiful feet," is creepy.

You have to be especially careful when it's a body part that is commonly sexualized and/or fetishized. Feet are definitely off limits when it comes to giving compliments. They're right up there with boobs and butt. Telling a woman she has gorgeous eyes or an amazing smile is socially acceptable even though it's obviously flirty. But telling a woman she has a fantastic rack or a great booty is uncouth at best, and is sexual harassment under most circumstances. So telling a woman that it's a treat to see her feet is not socially acceptable, and it would probably be an unwelcome remark.

And yeah, all the above comments that a compliment is not a compliment when it's more about satisfying your own urges are right on. If you're getting anything out of striking up a conversation with a woman about her feet, don't even start.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:34 PM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

If you were a boob guy would saying to a woman "nice boobs" be considered weird, just because it's summer and they are wearing strappy tops. If you think yes to that then you have your answer. A one off "nice pedicure" or "I like that colour nail polish" might work, as it would be a bit like saying nice top, but it would have to be once and never again or you will come off as creepy guy. Nothing wrong with liking women's feet (or boobs or whatever for that matter) but guys openly and verbally admiring female friends body parts drifts into creepy territory very easily.

By the way as a female that has big boobs and has guys comment on them all the time just because that's the body part they find attractive , thanks for thinking of how the other person would feel about this and asking advice first.
posted by wwax at 3:48 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Compliments like, "Whoa, that is a kickass color/pair of sneakers!" from virtually everyone make me smile. It's genuine, it's usually said in passing, I like having my awesome shoes recognized.

"Cool feet!" or "Cute toes" would make me like to run far, far away. No one here is likely go along with masking a fetish as a compliment. Don't lie to strangers to indulge yourself.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:49 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one.

Several years ago a male coworker of mine used to compliment another coworker's shoes (high heels) about once every 6-8 weeks. Generally it coincided with her wearing a brand new pair, so he was obviously noticing her shoes daily. To this day she and I still joke about his very obvious foot fetish whenever either he or shoes come up in conversation.

Bottom line: you may think these comments are subtle and/or welcome, but they aren't. Just silently enjoy the scenery and let the women with pretty feet maintain the illusion that they aren't being objectified - everyone wins!
posted by gatorae at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

In Canada women cover their feet for most of the year


so it is a treat when they do show them.


When I finally get to put on sandals it's because I am so frickin glad the temperature is finally above 15 degrees outside, not because I'm providing a "treat" for anyone to look at.

My advice is to avoid talking to women about their feet at all, because the way you phrased your question struck me as creepy...and you're not even here in person to stare at my feet.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:59 PM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]

There's nothing wrong per se with having a fetish, but you're coming across like one of those people who is so wrapped up in their own fetish that they forget that not everyone else in the world is wrapped up in it too. I admire your ability to at least take the first step outside of yourself to ask a bunch of strangers what the correct etiquette would be, but the way your question is phrased indicates you have a long way to go. In a word, the whole thing comes off as creepy. If you admire, admire silently, non-obviously, and from afar.
posted by matildaben at 4:00 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's an oft repeated rule in the kink community is that it's inappropriate to involve people in your fetishes without their consent.

Seriously. What you are trying to do is not cool, and it is 1000% creepy and disrespectful.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:12 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I like being complimented on my nail polish, but keep the language as nonsexual as possible, e.g. "I like that color" or "cool polish" and not "pretty pedicure."

I agree completely. I like sporting fun toe-polish colors; I admit that part of it is the performative value. Normally I get squicked out when random guys comment on my appearance, but toe-polish seems really harmless. Just don't talk about the feet themselves.
posted by mirepoix at 4:32 PM on July 12, 2013

Telling a woman she has gorgeous eyes or an amazing smile is socially acceptable

Speaking as a woman, I don't care for this. Instantly puts me in a weird position and I don't know how to react and I don't know if a polite "thank you" will lead to an unwanted conversation. I really really don't like when strangers approach me for looks-based reasons; it's odd to me, the idea that you should walk up to someone and start talking just because she's attractive. Lots of people are attractive... big freaking deal.
posted by mirepoix at 4:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [20 favorites]

The constant barrage of unsolicited comments on physical appearance by total strangers is just one of many microaggressions that women have to deal with on a daily basis for much of their lives. The fact that you intend to do this not out of the kindness of your heart but out of a desire to satisfy a personal fetish makes it even more troubling.

I am aware that sometimes part of satisfying a personal fetish comes from the thrill of indulging that fetish with those who are unaware of your pleasure but this is pure objectification and it's really unpleasant to be on the receiving end of this behavior.

There are web forums dedicated solely to the appreciation of women's feet and footwear, and in which women who enjoy this kind of interaction participate enthusiastically; I suggest you enjoy yourself there rather than at the expense of strangers in public.

However, I think there is little harm in quietly enjoying women's feet and footwear in public, without having any verbal contact with the unsuspecting enjoyees. It is still objectification but I personally think it is less offensive and overt than very obviously staring at a woman's breasts, for example.

As for people with whom you are already friends, it is up to you to judge whether or not they will find your compliments uncomfortable to receive.
posted by elizardbits at 5:00 PM on July 12, 2013 [29 favorites]

If you must say something, just give a big smile and a "Good morning/afternoon/evening! Isn't the weather great!"

That's it.
posted by jgirl at 5:08 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would find it creepy.

If you're taking a poll.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:33 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think that your phrasing in this Ask is creepy enough that doing it in person would probably be 100x creepy.

I've had plenty of men try to subtly approach me with a variety of tactics, and it's always painfully obvious when they are not genuinely interested in speaking to me as another human being, but want to slyly hit on me and, I dunno, somehow in the space of three minutes get me to like them enough that I'll ask them out or take off all my clothes or something.

And you know what? I'd rather get wolf-whistled than deal with that manipulative crap; at least it's honest and often less agressive and creepy than the guys who think they are sly. That kind of action is Nice Guy TM behaviour- right down there with PUA's and those dudes whining about how they are so great why are they always friendzoned. It's not nice, it's transparent and squicky.

I also suspect based on your writing style that you may be a non-native english speaker? If that's the case, you're likely to face even more pushback and discomfort if you're approaching women this way. For whatever reason, foreigners (especially brown ones, but really any non-english speakers except maybe french) tend to be regarded with even more suspicion than locals when it comes to this sort of thing. People aren't going to welcome your advances, but instead of just being squicked out they may actually find you threatning. I'm not saying that's right or fair, but it's true.
posted by windykites at 5:50 PM on July 12, 2013

Funny, just a couple weeks ago a woman told me I have nice feet. I didn't find it creepy, just a little off-kilter, but the response was easy: "Thanks, I grew them myself!"

(what I'm saying is that this doesn't have to be creepy--it's in the delivery, imo)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:56 PM on July 12, 2013

Nthing "women are not a monolith", but here's one data point:

- "Nice toenail polish/pretty nail polish/cute pedicure/etc" = totally OK to compliment someone on. It's like complimenting their shirt.

- "You have beautiful feet" = ick, unless it's your SO or you're saying it in bed. It's like complimenting someone on their tits.
posted by Sara C. at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2013

Wow, lots of really uptight answers here. I paint my toenails in the summer and have no problem with people (even men, and even foot fetishists) noticing them. If I didn't want them to be looked at, I wouldn't paint them a bright color and parade around with them sticking out of my flip-flops. You like my toes? Go ahead and tell me that. Geez.

I told a female friend of mine she had nice feet, and she puffed up so happily, said she looooves her feet, and was so disappointed no one ever noticed. Apparently she has been hanging with this crowd, and received nary a compliment about her beautiful feet.
posted by Capri at 7:36 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

If the female is a friend, I don't find anything wrong with complimenting a pedicure. A male friend told me that "my feet were so tan" last week. I didn't find that offensive at all. I get regular pedicures and wear red toenail polish, sometimes blue, and it solicits compliments. I'm not offended.
posted by Fairchild at 7:55 PM on July 12, 2013

If I didn't want them to be looked at, I wouldn't paint them a bright color and parade around with them sticking out of my flip-flops.

With total respect to Capri, I just want to make sure the OP knows that very very few women see themselves as "parading around" showing off their feet just because they happen to be wearing summer footwear. They are just going about their business feeling comfortable.

Lots of people who wear bright nail polish wear it because they like it, not to show off for other people. Some people paint their toenails because they dislike the appearance of their feet/toenails and want to do what they can to improve how they look in sandals, but are still really self conscious about them.

Just wanted to make sure you didn't get the idea, OP, "She's wearing bright toenail polish, that definitely means she wants her feet looked at!!"
posted by cairdeas at 8:31 PM on July 12, 2013 [31 favorites]

Would you say the exact same thing to a man? Compliment their sandals/toe ring/tattoo? Pedicure?

No? Then you probably should not say it to a woman.

Yes? Consider how you would feel if a man twice your size said the same thing to you and you thought they were thinking what you are thinking when you are considering saying this to a woman. How would you feel about being assessed in this way? Would that be uncomfortable?

Think really hard about that.

Think some more about that.
posted by bilabial at 8:45 PM on July 12, 2013 [20 favorites]

As for the arguments that if you didn't want to be looked at you wouldn't paint your nails...let me just say that's exactly the argument people make about "complimenting" women who wear short skirts or low cut tops.

It is not ok to ogle or suggestively "compliment" women no matter what they are wearing.

Of course this is a tone argument. Sometimes the exact same words in one tone are fine, but in another tone are beyond the pale. And this is infuriating, because when a woman narrates the incident back to another person, she is often told "maybe you misunderstood."

The undercurrent of the OP is definitely, "I take pleasure in feet. I feel like I have a right to enjoy these sexy sexy feet that women are flaunting in front of me. How can I thank them for sharing their feet with me?"

When in fact, they are not sharing their feet. They are dressing their own bodies for summer, which they only get to do for a short time each year. Bear in mind that summer bodies are sort of fraught for many women (have you not seen the cover of a women's magazine from February through August? Where it's all about honing your best bikini body, ten crash diets that will only make you half as miserable as last summers crash diets, and the one crash diet that might kill you so avoid it, but we're going to give you all the details anyway. But don't do it. Body politics is crazy. But it boils down to women's bodies are not in existence for you to enjoy unless you are so invited.)
posted by bilabial at 8:52 PM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

I get pedicures regularly. Of all the compliments I've ever received in my life, I'd say that .05% of them concerned my feet. Of that .05%, I think about 80% came from male strangers and were creepy as hell, 15% came from female friends, and 5% came from boyfriends.

In my opinion, there's a special brand of creepy that sometimes attaches when a stranger or acquaintance comments on a physical attribute that is not normally commented on, even absent a sexual undertone. E.g., "Your eyebrows have such a perfect arch." Compliments in that vein make me uncomfortable because they imply that the speaker is observing me very, very closely, and then making me aware of that scrutiny. Compliments on my feet, and definitely on my toenails, usually fall into that category. Ew.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't think there's ever a good time to compliment a woman about her body parts. If you are sexually involved with her, then it might be "reasonable" behavior, but even then I still don't think it is the best idea.

If the situation is appropriate, I try to stick to overall compliments for them as a person or more often congratulatory words that acknowledge specific accomplishments.
posted by 99percentfake at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2013

It's inappropriate to comment on bodies (hey nice feet, wow you have big boobs, my god you've got a fat ass, i really like your nose, etc).

It is acceptable to comment on things that embellish the body (cool tattoo, awesome nail polish, i like your new hair color, etc) but generally don't do it to strangers because you don't know them and it's none of your business. If you want to meet someone, don't do it via a conversation based on an aspect of their appearance.

Also do not assume that people embellish and then "parade" their bodies to please anyone but themselves. I love nail polish and I give myself a pedicure weekly. Even in the winter, when no one sees my toes but me. Because I polish my nails for me. I don't give a fuck what you think about them.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:37 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a foot tattoo, used to have a toe ring and regularly get pedicures in wildly inappropriate colors. I do this for me, so that when I go to yoga I have something fun to focus on, as an alternative to negatively scrutinizing myself in the mirror.

The way people choose to present themselves to the world is a complicated subject, and in a lot of ways you can't win for losing. It's unsettling to learn a stranger has been surreptitiously evaluating your appearance. That the stranger enjoys the way you happen to look does not improve the experience of being objectified and judged.

It's clear this borders on fetish territory for you, so let me repeat what others here have said: it's not cool to involve others in your fetish without their consent. Either keep it to yourself or enjoy it with other consenting folks, but leave random women to enjoy their summer sandals in peace.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:08 AM on July 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

I feel the best position to take would be to compliment them on their sandals or a toe ring perhaps, or a foot tattoo if they have one. Instead of complimenting on the body part itself.

You seem to be searching for a chink in the armor of propriety in order to acquire permission from the community to engage women in your fetish while attempting to keep those women unaware of the part you have chosen for them to play. Trust me: When a man approaches a woman with a "compliment" of this nature, we know what you're doing. Pseudo-compliments only serve to remind us of our perpetual inability to escape the role of object, gift, provider, or (to use your own rather ghastly terminology) "treat." Pointedly engaging in this behavior means you are embracing the continuation of insults, great and small, which are inflicted upon women in an interminable parade.

Society is not a gallery in which women choose to how display their bodies so that they may be judged and commented on by an audience, least of all by men (regardless of whether they are friends or acquaintances). I live in a climate similar to Canada's, with freezing winters and sweltering summers, and while you'll pry my sundresses from my cold, dead hands, I don't ever wear open-toe shoes anymore because the first time I got a creepy remark from a man "complimenting" my feet was so disconcerting that I wanted to make sure it would be the last. Echoing many statements above, it is deeply unsettling to be alerted to the fact that someone has been closely observing your appearance and features while you're just going about your day.

Women are simply trying to exist as comfortably as possible with as little fuss as possible, just like everyone else, and it is maximally creepy to realize you have been drawn so pointedly into a man's sexual fantasy when you were only trying to catch the damn bus. I suspect you know this is the case, although you are still looking for someone to tell you it is OK.

tl;dr - Although you feel entitled to it, you should seriously reconsider your stance if you would like to join us in perpetuating an atmosphere of basic human respect. Women do not make sartorial choices with your gaze in mind. At minimum, keep your feelings about our bodies to yourself.
posted by divined by radio at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2013 [25 favorites]

Jack V, imagine that instead of living in a world that's 90% straight, you lived in a world that was 90% gay. Every time you left your home, there were a large number of men who could easily overpower you, men that you had no sexual interest in, sizing up every aspect of your appearance. Imagine that they then told you which parts of your appearance were the most attractive to them, in a tone that implied that they were going to be thinking about you later as they masturbated.

Imagine that if you didn't return these "compliments" with a smile, it often led to an altercation where you were publicly berated for being a "little bitch." No passersby ever intervene in this verbal abuse, by the way. It's like everyone thinks you're asking for it. Imagine that when you bring up these experiences later in mixed company, people draw an analogy between your body and a red flag waved in front of a bull. Imagine that women tell you wistfully that they'd love to get that kind of attention from men.

Imagine that this verbal abuse has, at least once, escalated to actual physical contact. This is a common experience for women. Sometimes the altercation starts with physical contact.

Would you be flattered by the attention you get in warm weather, when more of your body is exposed? Would you be comfortable walking in an urban area, being leered at and occasionally accosted? Or would you find yourself looking for reasons not to go out? Would you respond to every "Excuse me..." from a strange man with a sense of looming dread?

There is no benefit in saying anything to the owners of the feet you admire; it works counter to your interests, actually. If you think that these "compliments" will encourage women to expose and paint their toes to get more attention from you and your ilk, you could not have it any more backward. Imagine how it would influence your pants selection if gay men twice your size regularly told you how fine your ass was.

posted by cirocco at 6:27 PM on July 13, 2013 [12 favorites]

I would say it is okay to compliment a female's friend's toenail polish, if what you actually mean is "hey, cool toenail polish!"

If you're saying "hey, cool toenail polish!" when you mean "it's such a treat to see your feet!" that is probably not okay. Complimenting a woman's pedicure as a way to let her know that you like feet and are interested in her feet is pretty creepy.

Also, most likely, women who you compliment in this manner will be completely aware of what you are doing. Do it enough and don't be surprised if women start wearing sneakers more often around you.
posted by inertia at 12:08 PM on July 15, 2013

If a man complimented my feet in any way I would instantly think foot fetish.
posted by futz at 4:18 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

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