“Hey beautiful, smile!”
“You’d look prettier if you smiled!
“Hey try smiling!”
There are many ways that disciplinary practices of femininity are imposed on women on a day to day basis. Society often attempts to control or generalize the movement, posture, and body language of women. One attempt in particular has been experienced by many women, the classic moment when an individual on the street tells a woman to smile. There is nothing wrong with smiling in theory, smiling is fantastic, it emulates joy, happiness, warmth and a contentment with life in that moment. Yet why is it that generally only women are asked to smile by random strangers? What influences this phenomena? Is this a way of flirting? Is it someone trying to be friendly? Or is it more than that?
I believe that the intentions of asking a woman to smile are generally harmless, flirty, or friendly. However, it is safe to say that no one knows what is happening in an individual’s life, what bad news they might have just received, perhaps they were laid off work, there are a myriad of reasons. Now when people tell a woman on the street to smile they ignore the fact that the woman might genuinely be very upset about something and yet they insist she smiles. People then are ignoring that women are entitled to their own emotions and that it is generally women who have smiles demanded of them, not men.
There are many ways to make a woman smile, or to make anyone smile for that matter. Strike up a conversation filled with jokes or buy them coffee. It is dehumanizing to demand an individual to create an emotion out of thin air, even with a good intention in mind. In fact when women are asked or (demanded) to smile it has quite the opposite effect, many women feel more agitated than anything else. This “friendly” or “flirty” attempt ends up becoming nothing more than a breeding ground for resentment. Next time you wish to REALLY and I mean actually GENUINELY want to make someone smile, do something nice for them. I can tell you right now it will create a joy that cannot come from a command.