If I had a dollar for every time someone (i.e., a man) told me to smile, I’d be rich. (And if I had five dollars for every time that same someone did not tell a man to smile, I’d be really rich.)
Why is it that women are told, are expected, to smile a lot? (Or at least a lot more than men?)
Could it be that there are (still) some men who believe women are their responsibility, theirs to look after, care for, and protect (these are the men who call us ‘dear’) – and so for them, an unsmiling woman is a reproach, an indication of the man’s failure? ‘Smile!’ means ‘Tell me I’m a success!’
Could it be that women are (still) perceived to be the species’ emotional barometers? Men are not allowed to be emotionally expressive (forget for a moment every hockey game and every soccer game you’ve ever seen men watch – I never said our society was logically consistent); a smiling man, especially, is effeminate. So when men feel happy, the women have to smile.
Could it be that women are (still) perceived as having the responsibility for the emotional health of the relationship, the family, and well, the world. And men want to think (not necessarily to know – different things) that all is well. They want us to smile.
Well, for someone to smile that much, they’d have to be in denial about cancer rates, ethnic cleansing, teenage violence, political corruption, big business subsidies, population growth rates, the nuclear industry, and well, the world. They’d have to be pretty sick, psychologically, to be able to smile with all that.
Or they’d have to be hypocrites.
Or they’d have to just not know about all that – they’d have to be pretty ignorant. Or children.
Ah, maybe that’s it. Men, when they tell us, expect us, to smile all the time, are telling us, expecting us, to be childish.
Next time a man tells me to smile, I’m going to tell him to fuck off.