May 01

woman-smiling

When a man thinks that you’re beautiful and asks you to smile, he probably does not intend it to be a full frontal assault on everything feminist and right in the world. You would think that this was a non-issue but recently there has been a backlash against men asking women to smile… I assume the word patriarchy fits in the logic somewhere but it eludes me.

 Ladies of the Hall… Does it bother you when men ask you to smile? Well apparently for a large section of female bloggerdom it actually does. So what does this mean for the men who ask of smiles to compliment or break the ice with pretty ladies? Probably nothing, but I’m a sucker for punishment so let’s look into the deeper problem with this question.

“women want us to answer for the sins of our brothers”

What bothers many of the guys out here about this question is that it’s a reminder that women want us to answer for the sins of our brothers. A man in the streets who cat-calls and disrespects women will ask you to smile in order to break down your defenses, but if you don’t take the time to separate him from an interested suitor in a lounge atmosphere who wants to get to know you then it will be easy to make us all into cat-calling losers.

Look, if you’re all about being mad at men and having nothing to do with us then fine – but if it’s your prerogative to act hostile then turn around and lament the fact that men ignore you, then you’ve got to admit that your attitude is a paradox. Men ask you to smile for varied reasons; if it’s offensive then keep it moving, but does it really need to be made into another talking-point to further separate the sexes?

Women Ask Men To Smile Too?

Stop the press! Women ask men to smile? No way does this happen!

I, like many people have been cursed with a face that reads danger if I am not flashing my teeth like a damned fool impersonating the Cheshire cat. My entire life has been one of “smile”, “why don’t you smile”, “I love your smile” from strange women, some being cute, some being unattractive.

There have been times that I happily smiled because I was feeling good but there were other times when I shook my head no and kept it moving. I felt no need to sound the alarm and command the legion of men to fight back against the “oppressive wimenz” and their damn tomfoolery in asking us mean-faces to smile for them.

Hell, I had a woman chase me down in her car (true story) just to pull up next to me at a red light, signal for me to wind my window down, all for her to ask me to smile. Apparently she needed my teeth to make her day better so I gave it to her, she replied with “that’s better” – it took nothing out of me to give that to her.

So when I see all of these articles – particularly by angry women, lamenting the fact that guys ask them to smile, it makes me wonder about the type of person who takes issue with something so innocent. Does this type of person not like men? Do they feel like a man should not speak unless spoken to and should know his place in society? Should men be mind-readers and know the exact time and place when to ask a woman to smile? Or is it the type of men who ask her to smile that’s the problem? Rich… handsome… celebrity… can that guy ask women to smile whenever he likes? I wonder…

Or maybe you just don’t want men speaking to you at all and when we ask you to smile it is like asking someone with a broken leg to dance. I’ve read the arguments and it seems that at the end of the day it boils down to this – it’s not about the smile; it is about the desire to be left alone by men when you go about your business. So why not just say so?

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  • Funny you should write this article because I just had this conversation with a female friend. It came up because I was trying to understand what the hell Obama did wrong by complimenting Att. Gen. Kamala Harris. She said it makes her feel like the guy is trying to tell her what to do. Huh?
    I then asked if it made a difference if the guy telling her to smile was good looking or homely and she said if the guy was good looking then it would be OK..again…huh? So what I get from this is that the fine line between being an oppressive and misogynist pig or complimentary pretty much depends on her attraction to the guy.
    Not being satisfied with this answer (giving women the benefit of the doubt) I tried to put myself in a woman’s position by imagining I as a straight man being told to smile or some other non-offensive compliment by a gay man. Admittedly an awkward situation for the average non gay male. I analyzed my gut reaction, (keep a straight face, pretend I didn’t hear that ‘ish’ and keep it moving) and realized its about the “expectation” behind the compliment. It could be an opener. If I smile or say thank you, (eg. the non-crazy-its-not-the-end-of-the-world reaction) am I inviting an unwanted approach? Thats the only logical reason I could come up with, but I can’t make sense of the crazy backlash women in general seem to have over a simple “smile” compliment.
    Hopefully some logical women will chime in here, because thats all I could come up with.

    • Excellent comment Brian and your example with flipping it to a gay man tell you to smile has merit but it goes back to the whole bit about the women taking issue with “smile” don’t like men to begin with. I’m not saying that only gay women take offense to us asking them to smile but women who don’t like men as people. Think about it, a straight guy doesn’t want a gay guy telling him to smile because it’s another dude… we aren’t tight like that – it turns into “wtf did you say to me dude?” or like you said, you let it slide and keep it moving. I’ve been there where a dude told me to smile and he may or may not have been gay but I simply looked at him. The science behind that is more on the level of deep-rooted interpersonal relationships that we men have with one another so I can’t really say it’s the same… some men may actually smile when a man asks them to (who knows).

      What’s funny is that your friend said that if the guy looked good she would be a little more receptive to it… yet I bet she doesn’t deem that to be shallow in the least lol.

      • Mya

        Why not? Men judge women on their appearances all the time. But then when women flip the tables and do the same thing, we’re the shallow ones.

        See my comment above. Not enjoying being told to “smile” does not mean a woman “doesn’t like men.” This is a lie men tell themselves to insulate against rejection.

    • Mya

      There’s definitely that issue–if I smile and act positively, is this man going to try to follow me for fifteen blocks to get my number? Will he be a pain to get rid of? That’s one reason women don’t react positively when being told to smile.

      But for us, there’s always also the threat of violence. If he follows up my positive response with a proposition and if I say no, is he going to get violent? I don’t know this man. He could be fine, or he could be a psycho. Women weigh this stuff in their heads with men who approach them in the street all the time. You might think you’re making an innocuous comment. But much of the time, this is what’s going on in the woman’s head.

      There’s also the fact that you have NO idea what’s going on in someone’s life. They could be just going about their day, lost in thought, and not smiling. In which case, you telling them to smile is like saying “Don’t forget you’re being watched by men and we expect you to please us.” True, if I was told once or twice in my life to “smile” by strangers, I might shrug it off as no big deal. But if it happened to you three or four times a week, you might get exasperated too.

      Also, some women really have things they’re dealing with. Some women you see with non-smiling faces just got divorced, just had a loved one die, just lost a job, just got diagnosed with an illness–being told to “smile” is like being told “your problems are trivial, and you’re bumming my flow right now with your sad face.”

  • Lonnie F

    I do the opposite as one of my lines.

    “I can tell you’re not from around here.”

    “How did you know?”

    “You’re smiling. Women around here don’t know anything about that.”

    “You’re right I’m from… ”

    It’s crazy that the act of smiling can be exotic. We have to go hard on the negs here when dealing with local women.

    I haven’t actually asked someone the question in question in almost 10 years. Facebook had just come out on my campus and there was this clique of cute latinas who would always go around scowling. One of them added me out of the blue and I had to ask what’s up with that (so it’s not the same as women complaining about the harassment). She told me they needed a reason. I understand. Regardless, it’s not for my benefit. It’s for the benefit of women as a whole. I soon figured out that they were hood, just from a far away hood of a small borough as opposed to the city (Philly). There was a Brazilian exchange student and she wouldn’t stop smiling for nothing and we loved it. She was an alien compared to the other black/latina chicks around. She wasn’t a 10 (more of an 8), but her feminine energy was maxed out and the women hated her for it.

    As for those posters, someone commented that she felt unprotected and unsafe from men’s advances/venue (smile question) and that paying them attention would make her seem “fast.” We’re not going to protect masculine energy in a woman. It’s true that black women are the least protected woman, but scowling isn’t the way to go about it.

  • McThick

    If you want a woman to smile, make her smile. Don’t ask her.

    And,
    OBVIOUSLY, it’s about attraction, everyone is nicer to people they find
    attractive. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that answer from
    anyone.

    • So how do we “make” a woman smile McThick? I’m talking about a stranger who you don’t know from a stick in the ground? Would it be comedy… what if she takes your joke as a controlling vice fueled by the patriarchy? Would it be to sing her a song, bellow poetry, or dance like Justin Timberlake? I’m asking because the woman who takes issue with beign asked to smile is normally the one who isn’t receptive to anything you do unless you look or have the money of George Clooney (women like him right?).

      • McThick

        OK. If you’re walking up to ANYONE and asking them to smile for no reason, you ought to expect a pretty frosty response. Would you walk up to someone and ask them to say something so you can hear their voice, or to turn around so can get a better look at their ass? I’d wager not.

        Now, if you’re at the club and you roll up on a woman you’re into to start up your game, you’re going to do a lot better getting her to smile naturally rather than asking her to do it on demand. If you want to see it, you gotta put in the work. Personally, I’d use comedy, but I know you’re partial to song and dance so you could try that angle if you want.

      • Good points and you can miss me with the song and dance bit muhahahah.

      • Joy Guyton

        Seemingly, it’s the attractive women who are asked to smile for the most part. As if we are some circus act that must perform upon command. You shouldn’t have to ask a woman to smile. Just say “hello” or “you look nice today” or open a door or offer to carry grocery or pump gas or compliment her shoes or her toes or her efforts in managing her children. You do SOMETHING FIRST before ASKING for something (a smile).

  • Joy Guyton

    Everyone isn’t friendly and some people just don’t feel like smiling. Some people have issues with their teeth. Some may be grieving or something worst. Leave people alone. Just say hello and keep it moving. If you are interested, try introducing yourself. By all means, don’t chase me down, follow me in your car to the next light, walk up to me at the gas pump or follow me in the grocery store while I’m with my children asking me “can you smile”….. Trust me, you are going to see my teeth but I won’t be smiling …location , time and atmosphere plays a part in the matter. Just know your place 🙂

  • Joy Guyton

    Additionally, in some men minds a smile is an invitation saying “please get your Mack on and ask me for my number”.
    Sometimes not smiling sends the message that “you don’t want to be bothered”. Some women don’t want to be placed in that situation to have to orally say “please get away from me, I’m not interested”. We are taught as children not to talk to strangers or smile so much at them. Rightfully so. Do you know how hard it is to get a bothersome man away from you ? Or worst worry about what may happen if he can’t take rejection ?

  • Elizabeth

    The issue with this is that smiling in itself is not something I object to, but being asked to ‘smile on demand’ is very fake. The man may be asking a woman who has just walked back from a hospital, having been informed she has cancer or be grieving. We were not put on earth to decorate it for men’s pleasure. Like anything, it is a matter of choice! If a man wants to be pleased by a woman unwillingly smiling for him, he may be accused of living in the Victorian era when women had to smile to ensure they were to survive financially because the man held the purse strings in Victorian society.

    For goodness sake, make yourself happy – stop demanding other people do it for you through gritted teeth when they do not feel like it or refuse, only for you to accuse them of being too easily offended! Buy a doll, instead! You can then draw a smile on it whenever you need one.

    In my experiences of being asked to smile though, this request has always (with one exception that I recall) been about disguising a very blatant chat up tactic i.e. if you don’t play ball as a woman, then he has an excuse to engage further with you when you don’t wish to talk to him. Simple as.

  • LatteLady

    The woman who takes issue with being asked to smile is ***NORMALLY*** the one who isn’t receptive to ***ANYTHING*** –
    Who is this woman you are talking about Greg?! I mean, wow, that’s a sweeping generalisation about how she will be because of ONE specific moment when she wouldn’t give in to your demands to do what YOU wanted her to do – not what SHE wanted to do – on the spot! If you assume one refusal = this person is negative in x, y and z ways in a string of other areas without a provable link, you’re labelling someone with a pile of perhaps very erroneous assumptions and – from the sounds of your response based on your choice of words, that you are angry that she did not choose to smile to YOU. She may well have chosen to smile to someone else 5 minutes later and that is her prerogative, with absolutely no interest in someone looking like George Clooney in order to elicit a smile. Perhaps the women you are speaking of were very shy and preferred a more intimate situation with friends where she can meet men and feel safe and comfortable. Perhaps she has been harassed in the past by a strange man who started off with a demand for conversation. This happened to a woman I knew and it made her anxious about talking to strange men, unless she was accompanied by friends so that IF she was interested in him in return, her friends were on hand to deter the man from any anti-social behaviour if he had that on his mind. Safety comes before being polite and smiling against our will for fear of offending him or retaliation (I have experienced the latter but stopped smiling on demand, when I realised some men are VERY controlling, so whether it’s refusing to smile for them or anything else, they will take offence anyway and e.g. humiliate, spread gossip or physically attack because they got angry at being rejected).
    I also know a woman who – after a man insisted on getting to know her in the street with the smile request – then went on to follow her home, so she does not smile on demand and is cautious in her assessment of whether she is interested and how that balances out with personal safety ie by weighing up the circumstances and risk factors. Personal safety can’t be dismissed whether or not you have had the more extreme anti-social experiences or not. It’s a woman’s prerogative and should not be taken personally, especially as some men ask very aggressively and this can be very intimidating to some women.
    So the issue is much more complicated than just being a misery guts and being offended. Every person – men and women – have an emotional history of experiences, that colour how they choose – and often unconsciously – to respond and interact or not. You need to empathise more with a woman’s perspective and not assume the worst about her based on a single refusal.

  • Debbie H

    I think what grates me is when anyone comes out with the classic ‘what’s up with you love, smile’ 🙁 Like as women we have to constantly walk around the streets smiling or it means we are miserable) . I am mostly a smiley person and I think smiling (as long as not a false smile) can actually break down barriers when people talk.
    What makes me smile? Funny men, confident men regardless of what they look like that will be a bit in your face and bold. I popped to the shops this morning and UNICEF had a stall collecting donations and subscriptions for vaccinations. The guy was by no means a looke’r, but had such a bold, friendly personality that when he started talking to me from across the road to try and ‘sell the subscription’ I couldn’t help but smile and then have a chat.

  • Person

    To the writer of this piece: Are you retarded? Do you walk around with your dick hanging out of your pants?

    That’s what it sounds like. It’s never been acceptable to command another person to smile, or display any other emotion. Now, what if some rich white man walked up to you and commanded you to “Smile!” Would you do as he says, because he’s in a higher position of power in society, or would you balk and go, “WTF is this ish?”

  • Mya

    Would you tell a man to smile? Would you tell an older or unattractive woman to smile? This isn’t about seeing someone who appears to be down and trying to brighten their day. This is about swinging your dick around. Women know that.

  • Julia

    Da fock is wrong with you? You think there;s any similarities between a men commending a woman to smile and the reverse like in your anecdotal stories? First of all they are just that: anecdotes that are deprived of any worth whatsoever. Don’t project your own bias into this. Stop being a creep and try to appropriate women’s experiences.

    Second: WTF iz RONG with you?!? Men have oppress women for over two thousand years. So please get some fucking perspective. Asshole…

    • DatHurt

      Who hurt you Julia? You sound like you need a hug.

    • Haruhi Suzumiya

      So because women who you may have no relation to we’re oppressed before civil rights were a thing, you think it’s alright to defend double standards and overall approve of the metaphorical castration of men’s rights that’s happening because of feminazis?

      You seem like a real nice cuntbag 🙂 also, nice variation of the whole “check your privilege” phrase.

  • Skylark

    I don’t like it when people who aren’t close to me or who don’t have official authority over me tell me what to do. I have free will, strangers shouldn’t be able to tell be what to do. I do what I want. Even if a girl I didn’t know well told me to “smile”, I’d probably get annoyed. if a random (especially older) stranger (be it male or female) told me to “smile” randomly on the street, I’d get pissed. I was picked on a lot in primary school by most of the boys. Being told to “smile” on demand and “stop scowling” is pretty reminiscent of the other things they did or said to me. Why? Because usually the tone and intent that accompanies the order to “stop smiling” is very patronizing and makes you feel belittled. I learnt from an early age that if you don’t want to be taken advantaged of or clung to, you need to be stone cold.

  • Steph

    It was always an asshole thing to do to tell someone to smile.