I’ll start smiling when you stop telling me to.

Image Source: Hilly Olivia Image Source: Hilly Olivia

With tired eyes after working my second job of the day, I pulled into a petrol station wanting to quickly top up before going home to eat some food. Instead I was greeted with a smile from a man in front of me, which I half-heartedly returned. But obviously, as a woman this isn’t ok. I have to plaster a full smile on my face the second a man wants me to.

So I was told to smile. Repeatedly.

As I got out of my car, he shouted at me to smile. As I filled up with petrol he told me I should smile, it would make me look more beautiful. As he left, he said, “smile then” with a stupid fucking grin on his face.

Here’s the problem with this (not that I should have to explain).

I am allowed to not want to smile. I shouldn’t have to have reasons why not- sometimes you just don’t want to smile and that’s ok. No one should ever demand that anyone does anything they don’t want to do. Full stop. It’s incredibly invasive and disrespectful to ask this of someone. You do not have the power to demand this of people, and you shouldn’t ever try to.

Demanding someone to smile to make them more beautiful is repulsive. Women are not objects for men to look at and appreciate. We are human beings, entitled to emotions, moods and the freedom to pull whatever facial expression we want, whether men find it attractive or not. You’re not entitled to my smile. But I am entitled to my rights, and to my privacy, and to whatever facial expression I want to pull.

This comes as part of a huge problem of women being expected to perform for men and for society. We need to smile, to look beautiful. If you don’t wear enough make up you don’t care, but don’t wear too much, men don’t like that.

We aren’t anyone’s property.

We own our bodies. And our smiles or our grimaces.

We are entitled to live our lives without being harassed by men who seem to think we’re there for them. We do not exist to make men or anyone else happy.

This isn’t a one off. It wasn’t just one man telling me to smile and me not liking it. It is men repeatedly telling women to smile. It is men coming into your place of work and following you around, and being surprised when you don’t return their smile. Or when they’re offended that you look annoyed at their comments, rather than smiling like a good little girl. It’s men honking their horns at you when you’re wearing a school uniform, or sending you creepy messages online. Its men telling you you don’t know how to take a compliment, when really all their compliment did was make you fear for your safety.

This is part of a huge problem. A huge problem that has one simple and easy solution. Treat everyone with the respect they deserve as a human being.

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