Cute : (adjective) \ˈkyüt\
2 : attractive or pretty in a childish, youthful, or delicate way • a cute puppy • a cute smile
3 : obviously straining for effect • The movie’s too cute to be taken seriously.
I am cute. Or at least that’s what people tell me and have told me throughout my life. My mother, the guys who message me on Facebook, my friends, my coaches, my dentist. “Thank you!” I say and have said. Over and over and over. Somewhere along the way, my subconscious registered the word “cute” as less of a compliment. Instead, “cute” became synonymous with “juvenile” and “naïve” and “air-headed.” The older I grew, the less I appreciated the “compliment,” which more often referred to my character than physical appearance. I often felt the need to appear both mentally and physically stronger than others, (wrongfully) deciding that rejecting feminine stereotypes would help me shed my cute characteristics.
I finally lost my cute patience my first year of college. I had moved three and a half hours north of where I grew up, leaving behind my friends and my reputation that I had spent years perfecting in my small high school. Of course, in my hometown people had called me cute. But they also knew that I was smart, witty, and a force to be reckoned with– I embodied a dynamic and layered character that went so far beyond cute. However, at my university, I had to start fresh, which was perfectly fine with me. I started gathering friends by being more agreeable and amiable and smiley than is expected of a person. Thus, I overwhelmingly earned myself the cute badge in several different social circles.
At first, I was flattered. My new friends liked me! But as every action I took was repeated labeled cute, my self-confidence decreased. I began to understand that being cute means being stuck at the kid’s table at family gatherings. Cute means that you’re not really serious, ever. Cute means that your credibility has to be questioned. Cute means that the knowledge you hold is juvenile. Cute means that you have to lower the pitch of your voice when you speak, cute means you have to ask for respect, cute means you need help lifting those boxes.
And hear me when I say this: cute has no favorite on the gender spectrum…women aren’t the only people being called cute and anyone can feel belittled when you repeatedly label them with what you believe is a compliment. When you call any person cute, you immediately diminish their strength, maturity, individuality. You suggest that they’re too naÏve to have earned a place at the table. You reduce and almost objectify them. A pair of shoes are cute.
I am opinionated. I am awkward. I am a dreamer. I am effervescent. I am so much more than cute.
Words hold power. We know this. So when you’re using words to describe a person, think deeply about their meaning, consider context, and be aware of undertones. Consult a thesaurus or a dictionary. We are all deserving of more than just a shallow label buried within a compliment.