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Stop telling women to smile

January 30, 2014

 

SCHILLING

SCHILLING

Hannah Schilling
Managing Editor

 

I was sitting in class, listening intently to the lecture, when I was called out for the way my face was arranged.

 

“What did I ever do to you?” the professor said, mid-lecture, looking in my direction. I turned to look behind me, confused, but he clarified, “Yeah, I’m talking to you. You always look at me like I killed your cat or something.”

 

Little did he know, if he did kill my cat, he would get a lot more than a look from me, but I composed myself and said, “I’m listening to you. Would you rather me grin at you for your whole lecture?” He laughed it off and moved on with class.

 

It was embarrassing, to say the least, and detrimental to my education in that class. Now I had to think about the way my face looked instead of what he was teaching me.

 

I thought I was the only one who suffered from the condition playfully named “Chronic Bitch Face,” but it turns out women are told all the time how their faces should be arranged. There is even an art project by an artist named Tatyana Fazlalizadeh called “Stop Telling Women to Smile” that attempts to address gender-based harassment by placing drawn portraits of women, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces.

 

And that is just what it is, isn’t it? Harassment. I have been told things like “You should smile more; it’s good for you,” or “You are so pretty, but you would be much prettier if you would just smile more” by people who do not even know my name.

 

I am at a loss as to why the way I arrange my face is a concern for anyone, or why women are expected to grin 24/7. Maybe it is because smiles are less threatening than an intense, neutral stare, and these face dictators think women should appear in the least threatening way possible. We all know a strong woman is a detriment to our society, right? This sexist mindset, and the sexist comments that come along with it, is unacceptable.

 

You do not know what this person has been through in their life. Who knows, their mother could have died this morning, but here you are, telling them that they should smile more. Who are you to tell them how to arrange their face?

 

All women, regardless of what face they are making, are unique, intelligent and beautiful beyond what their facial expressions can show you. With that in mind, I implore you to stop making comments such as these.

 

Stop telling women to smile. Start giving them reasons to.

 

Hannah Schilling is a senior journalism and political science major from Bossier City who serves as managing editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to hms017@latech.edu.

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3 Responses to Stop telling women to smile

  1. A Commentator Reply

    January 30, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I understand where the argument in this article is coming from. However, I don’t appreciate the connotation of this statement. This isn’t something limited to just women, I personally have observed similar comments made equally to both men and women in my life, and your statement about women being expected to smile 24/7 is a blatant fallacy. I, along with most of the population, don’t expect anyone, man or woman, to smile all the time and I don’t pay attention to people that expect that of me. What I do wish for people is to stop complaining about every single thing they disagree with in society. There’s always going to be some extremist on one end of the spectrum or another who expects people to behave a specific way. Unfortunately, nobody ever hears about the overwhelming majority of plain and simple people because they are just plain and simple and not sensational like extremists that the news strives to find. Instead of letting these few belligerent people frustrate you and ruin your mood, try focusing on the 99% of people who are just living life and trying their best to enjoy it and want you to do the same. Quite frankly, the fact that you took the time out of your life to write this complaint and broadcast it throughout campus and the internet only proves that you just need to relax and enjoy life a little more. Smiling isn’t about the physical appearance, but the mental and emotional attitude. Be happy and let it show. The way I see it, you can sit back and complain about life all day long and all the problems with society, and at the end of your life, you’ll look back and see that all you said accomplished nothing. People are still going to behave in a manner that doesn’t suit you and you’re still going to be disgusted with what people are doing. An alternative would be to enjoy life, and don’t let other people’s remarks get you down. We should all strive to impact people with our behavior instead of our words. The age old phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ is a cliché for a reason. Nobody is trying to insult you when they say “You should smile more.” They’re just trying to encourage you to look at the bright side a little more instead of making a big deal out of things that just don’t matter in the broad scheme of life.

  2. Elliott Terral Reply

    January 31, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    To “A Commentator”,

    You said, “I understand where the argument in this article is coming from. ” You obviously did not understand. The problem with “Smile more.” is that the underlying sentiment is toxic. “Smile more” is a form of Street Harassment. It’s the idea that the “commander” isn’t pleased by something he or she sees, and he or she feels the authority to correct what is displeasing to him or her. A person should have bodily autonomy, and no one should even feel the authority/obligation/entitlement to say or do anything about someone else’s body without his or her explicit consent.

    This column is not someone complaining about something with which she disagrees. It is a shining light on the problem of “Street Harassment”. I would encourage you, anonymous Commentator, to look at everydayfeminism.com to get an idea of what’s wrong with your view of “smile more”.

    Also, the fact that you rebuke the columnist with,”Quite frankly, the fact that you took the time out of your life to write this complaint and broadcast it throughout campus and the internet only proves that you just need to relax and enjoy life a little more.” is entirely cyclical. You have done exactly the thing for which you rebuke the columnist. You also continue the cycle of toxic “I know best for you” advice with, “Be happy and let it show. The way I see it, you can sit back and complain about life all day long and all the problems with society, and at the end of your life, you’ll look back and see that all you said accomplished nothing.”

    I therefore advise you, anonymous Commentator, to think before you speak and type. The idea that you know better for someone is ridiculous. You are entitled to your opinion, but I would advise you to understand the underlying argument before spouting your ignorant ideas on a public forum.

    Cheers,
    Elliott Terral

  3. Eli Reply

    February 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Just a few of my thoughts:
    Personally, I think it’s funny that people tell us to smile. In nature, animals usually show their teeth when they are unhappy. It is supposed to be a threatening gesture.
    On another note, I know that I don’t smile all the time. In fact, I only smile when I laugh or when I am definitively happy. Why should we smile during a class that may or may not capture our interest?

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