NinjaPenguin sent in an amazing link on men asking women to smile more. Quotes from the post:
So here’s the take-home lesson, ladeez. Smile and dress nice and act like a lady – and you will be considered to be a silly, thoughtless, insignificant girl. Don’t smile and dress for comfort and you will be considered to be a ball-busting, man-hating lesbian bull-dyke – or, possibly, Ozzy Ozbourne. You will be called a trope, or a caricature feminist, or a reverse sexist, or a slut, or frigid. You will be said to have fucked too much, or in need of a good fucking, or your problem will lie in the fact that no one wants to fuck you, in which case you need a good fucking but are unlikely to get one. But no matter who you are, and what is wrong with you – because, mark my words, something is ALWAYS wrong with you – there will always be some damn asshat around the corner just waiting to cheerfully insist that you smile, smile, smile!
What I found really interesting about the idea of obligatory smiling is how often I experience it in the context of street harassment – after my husband deployed in July, I couldn’t step outside my apartment without some “helpful” gent suggesting that I smile… because obviously my personal turmoil is less important than my role as a scene-setter in someone else’s glorious summer-time promenade. Perhaps next time I’ll remember to color coordinate with the flowers and brownstones, so that it is truly a perfect day. After all, women aren’t allowed to be the main character in their own stories — me, walking around, thinking my own thoughts and doing my own thing… well, it’s like a prop suddenly realizing that a film about the adventures of Wilhelmina the Light Bulb could be absolutely fascinating. It’s SILLY, it is, and that light bulb? She needs to be reminded that she’s a prop, that her story’s about being the bright light in someone else’s day.
More seriously, though, it’s scary for me when someone tells me to smile. It’s a command, generally from a stranger, and is an attempt to reduce me to an object. It’s also an attempt to force a literally primal kind of submission – primates give an appeasing smile when backing down from a dominant group member, to demonstrate that they are afraid. Plus, this kind of heckling can escalate very quickly.The scariest time actually happened to me a few weeks ago: I was kneeling down to tie my shoes, and this guy leaned out the bus window to take a picture of me. He said, “Smile, big tits!” And then laughed, grinning back at me, like he must’ve just made my day. I called the police, since taking that kind of voyeurism is illegal in the US… but as you’ll see from some of the links I’m including, something being illegal doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable. Being female-bodied means that you cannot assume any reasonable or enforceable expectation of privacy, regardless of whether we’re talking emotions (“Smile! It can’t be THAT bad!”) or physical (“We can’t let women make their own decisions about their bodies!!”) or visual (“If she didn’t want her picture taken, she shouldn’t have gone outside!!!!”). Because sexual harassment like this falls on a spectrum of behaviors where women’s bodies are objectified, Hollaback engages in so many types of activist work not centered on street harassment.
Thoughts? Any good come-backs for when someone tells you to smile?