I Don’t Have To Smile For Anyone, So I Wish Dudes Would Stop Telling Me To

Whether it be some sleazy catcaller or your male co-worker, few things are as basely infuriating than being told to “smile more.” As a woman who’s used to walking around with a stony-faced expression, this is a comment I get far too often, and I’ve just about had it with this sexist remark. Here are just a few of the million reasons why it’s no one’s business to tell me—or anyone else—what I should be doing with my face:

  1. Has he ever considered that maybe I’m having a bad day? Thankfully the random man on the street doesn’t know me or my life. He doesn’t have any idea if I just got into an accident or received some terrible news about a family member. Just in case that nonsense is happening to me, it’s better if he just keeps his nose out of my business and his comments to himself.
  2. I doubt he would have told the grumpy business man next to me to smile. Right, I forgot men are allowed to be serious and focused while women are supposed to be constantly joyful and carefree. SILLY ME. Ugh. I have bills to pay, assignments to remember, lists I’m making, and political issues I’m mulling over in my brain. A dude expecting me to paste on a grin on my face while thinking of all this is absurd.
  3. I’m not going to smile to make him more comfortable. My apologies—did my blank expression ruin his commute? Sour his afternoon coffee for him? I’m not sure why the state of my face is affecting a stranger so much, but it’s not my job to make him or anyone else comfortable. And if he has the nerve to ask me to do so, odds are I’m going to make him MORE uncomfortable than anything.
  4. The fact that he thinks he has the right to tell me what to do is infuriating. Everyone, please! The King of Expressions is among us. He alone has the power to command anyone to smile or frown. Who exactly does he think he is? Did he get some online certification that gave him the right to tell me how to look? No? Okay, bye!
  5. I would never do ask him or anyone else to smile. First and foremost, I have more important things to think about than the look on another person’s face—especially a person I don’t even know. Secondly, I know that how he looks (in any capacity) is none of my damn business. I wouldn’t judge him for not smiling, let alone ask him to smile more. All I ask is that he has the same respect for me in return.
  6. It’s terrible flirting technique. I’ve been told that this comment is meant to be interpreted as, “You’re too pretty to look sad/mad/distracted, you should be smiling!” The logic behind this is so flawed, I just cannot even. Just to put it all out there—very few women are going to be flattered by this. We’re not hearing “you’re pretty,” we’re hearing a command. See how that would make us mad?
  7. There’s a lot of sexualizing subtext to this comment. Some rando guy telling me that I’m meant to just smile diminishes who I am as a person, although it’s being said indirectly. By asserting dominance over me, by telling me to put on a happy facade, he’s trying to put me in the mold of a voiceless woman whose only objective is to be perky, pretty, and oblivious to real life problems. It might make him more comfotable to be around women in that role, but I’m not that woman and I won’t play that role. Deal.
  8. I have this expression on because I’m trying to protect myself. I might be genuinely distracted or mad about something, but odds are, I’m wearing my mental “armor” to protect myself from street harassment. I’ve been catcalled and screamed at on the street enough that I know the best way to combat these jerks is to look uncaring. In many countries, a woman smiling at a man has been enough for him to justify stalking and raping her, which is absolutely ridiculous but something that happens. I try to look “mean” to avert unwanted attention, and if I get that attention anyway, my mean mug prevents me from looking caught off guard. More men should keep in mind that this is something women have to think about every time we walk down a street.
  9. Yes, this is a form of catcalling. If a dude is guilty of asking a woman (or anyone) to “smile more,” he probably considers it a compliment. Catcalling is only reserved for construction workers hooting at women as they walk by, right? WRONG. Catcalling is defined as a “whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by.” Guess what? His asking me to look prettier for him by smiling is a comment of a sexual nature and I don’t want to hear it.