Attention everyone, everywhere*. Please stop telling women to smile.
I’m not sure if this is a North American thing — certainly, I don’t recall it ever happening when I lived in the considerably masculine culture of Australia — but in both Canada and the U.S., it seems to be perfectly acceptable for a random man on the street to tell a woman to smile. Or to inform her that she would be much prettier if she smiled. Or to be told “it’s not so bad, just smile!” if she isn’t beaming as she stomps along umbrella-less, soaked in Vancouver’s early fall rain. Or something.
There are a few points that have been made excellently on this topic already, but since it’s personally occurred to me several times recently — often framed as a compliment, but always incredibly creepy — I’d like to point out:
- Unless performing as a living statue, inciting slam poetry and/or flash mobs, or actually busking, women are not here for your entertainment. We do not need to smile precisely unless we feel like it.
- Maybe use your imagination if you can’t work out why a woman does not feel the need to grin at every random man that passes her way in the street.
- It’s really not our job to make you feel more comfortable about sharing the streets with non-men.
I realise this isn’t the hugest issue in the world, but the fact that women are seen as objects floating through a man’s world just seems to be more glaringly obvious — and more annoying — as I get older. With another birthday approaching, I figure I might as well get cranky now. So by all means, feel free to interact with strangers — but try to hold back from barking weird things under the guise of a compliment. It’s not cool.
*But actually, mostly just men. Since it’s only ever been men that have asked me these questions — and I’m yet to meet a man that has been asked to smile by a stranger that isn’t taking their photo for the school yearbook.