You’re Not Being Cute: Stop Telling Women to Smile

Since childhood, one of my biggest pet peeves has been being told to smile.

I never cared if it made me “look prettier.”

Or happier.

If I felt like smiling, I would be smiling. I always found it so annoying to be ordered to smile in an “I’m not a clown for your entertainment” type of way. Back in the day, I considered it to be more of an annoyance than an act of sexism, but recent movements (and a newfound sense of female empowerment) have made me reconsider.

How often are guys told to smile by strangers? Probably never, right? (Well, except for Larry David.)

The assumption in telling females to smile is that she should be pretty, approachable, and happy all the time – which 99 per cent of us are not. Nor should we be as human beings.

When UK-based media personality Whitney Way Thore posted on Facebook, though, calling out a smile-ordering culprit, the response was overwhelmingly divided. Some called her rude for her abrupt reaction to the stranger’s seemingly innocent and friendly request.

Thore called the incident sexist, emphasizing that she shouldn’t be “commanded,” “bribed”(she was told to smile by a cashier in exchange for the processing of her purchases) or “manipulated” to smile.

She isn’t the first to voice her concerns on the matter. Back in 2012, Brookyn-based street artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh made headlines with her public art project “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” which used street art of women who have been catcalled to highlight sexual harassment.

Not only is it sexist, it’s also selfish.

Asking (or ordering) a woman to smile, as Fazlalizadeh points out, is to make her more approachable and to make the man more comfortable – not to make her life any better. Not only that, it restricts her ability to express her own emotions.

So, no, I won’t smile unless I damn well want to.

But I am happy to hear your thoughts on the subject. Let us know how you feel on Notable’s Facebook page.