Every woman, whether she’s having a bad day, whether she smelled something rank or just because she suffers from Bitchy Resting Face (which is my entire life summed up in three words), has been told some variation of “Smile a little bit!” or “Cheer up!” by a complete stranger.
I have two choice words for those strangers. You can probably guess which ones.
Of course, I’ve talked to many people who don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling a girl to smile. The intention might be pure–you’re trying to brighten her day. People frowning makes you sad. Well, first of all, she has every right to have a bad day. Second of all, that’s just too damn bad.
Women are thinking, feeling, emoting humans. Telling a woman that she needs to smile more implies that you want something pretty to look at. You’re uncomfortable with someone displaying her sadness. You’re not cool with objectifying someone when they seem like they’re actually human rather than an emotionless, expressionless blowup doll. Blowup dolls don’t have a bad day, but women do.
Another reason it pisses me off to no end when I’m told to “Smile,” is that it suggests that a woman’s judgment can’t be trusted. She can’t possibly be frowning for a good reason. If a man is frowning or visibly sad, something must be wrong. Let’s leave him alone. If a woman is frowning, she’s probably just on her period or being a bitch. It’s just another method of controlling and undermining women.
The subject of telling random women on the street to smile has sparked a lot of discussion from women and men alike. It inspired an art series titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”
Of course, not only men are telling women to smile. In high school, a teacher I didn’t even know would constantly stop me in the halls, asking me what was wrong. Nothing was ever wrong, and I was never upset. But her stopping me, unwarranted, without knowing me certainly did make me upset.
Of course, if a good friend of mine asks me if something is wrong and offers to talk to me about it, we have a different situation. But friends and strangers are two different relationships; a stranger has no interest in who I am or why I’m sad. They want me to smile because it’s making their day worse. “You’re pretty, I want to find pleasure in your appearance, I’m having trouble doing that when you’re frowning.” A friend, on the other hand, knows me and knows whether it’s just my BRF condition or if I’m actually sad… but then again, when is the last time someone close to you yelled out, “SMILE!” instead of approaching you with understanding and sympathy?
So don’t tell me to smile. I don’t know you. My feelings are legitimate and my face isn’t here for your viewing pleasure.