Cat-calls can be annoying, but, currently, there’s one particular word that I’ve heard men say that really gets under my skin. I stopped by Leimert Park one weekend where there was an event with drummers, music, and food and merchandise vendors — it looked interesting, so I walked through. As I was walking, a man with a beard, long locks and dark shades, blasting music from his speakers, leans over and shouts to me, “Why don’t you smile? Smile.” And like a puppet, I complied and smiled. Immediately afterwards I was like, “Wait. Why did I do that?” Another question to ask is: Why did this guy tell me to smile??
Now, there are those that might say, “Well he meant no offense by it, he just wanted to see you smile. No big deal. Chill out.”
Here’s my response to that: 1. I am very chill … chill to the point of freezing. I am cool as ice. I know that this man meant no offense. However, just because he meant no offense doesn’t negate the fact that his statement was odd and unnecessary. I am not enraged by his comment… simply annoyed. 2. Why does this guy need me to smile??? There I was, happily living my life, minding my own business; yet he felt like he needed to make a suggestion — rather yet, an improvement — on how I should carry myself.
Now, normally, I would have brushed it off, but he is not the first man to say this to me, and my girlfirends have experienced the same thing. He didn’t nearly leap from behind his speakers to tell the man walking behind me to smile like he had done to me, nor was he an enthusiast passing out fliers suggesting that the whole world smile. He picked me out and decided that I was the one who needed reminding. What’s also interesting is that I have yet to have a woman shout at me telling me to smile, nor have I ever felt the urge to tell anyone else to smile.
So why do men say this to women?
I’ve thought about it and I have drawn two possible conclusions:
1. Perhaps it’s their way of simply trying to get a woman’s attention, and perhaps even start a conversation with a woman they find attractive.
2. Perhaps a woman who is not smiling really throws off their sexist idea of how a woman should carry herself, and that, in their less-expanded minds, a woman should always be wearing a smile. I feel like this idea stems from the 1950’s housewife image that was heavily promoted during that time and continues to be promoted today. Without ever prioritizing her own wants and needs and the vital self-care that is integral to a happy, healthy life, this woman raises the kids, manages and cleans the house, tends to the husband, and cooks… She does this all with impeccably-styled hair that never seems to have a strand out of place, an hour-glass figure that seems to require no real effort to maintain, wearing a perfectly ironed dress that accentuates her small waist with heels and, of course … a nice, bright smile.
This is bullshit. Guess what, as a human being, I am allowed to experience whatever mood I like and sometimes I’m not in the mood to smile. Often, I’m not overcome by any mood at all and I’m simply going about my day, not even thinking about whether I am smiling or not. I’m just being. If me simply being makes a man feel uncomfortable because I am not accessorized with a beaming smile that would place him at ease, then that is a personal problem and has nothing to do with me. I do not have to smile for anyone. I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am, and I don’t care how that makes you feel.
Therefore, to all the men out there who have made the repetitive mistake of broadcasting this command to women: STOP! We are the ones in control of our emotional/facial expression — not you. So, unless you are on some kind of spiritual campaign to get the world to smile and live in a state of gratitiude, unless you are telling the men to smile as well, then you should take it upon yourself to kindly smile at me and say absolutely nothing, your silence will be GREATLY appreciated. I know it’s hard, but I believe it’s time you experience being seen and not heard …ssshhhh… just smile baby.