Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

After all, smiling causes laugh lines

Feministing is rockin' lately. Today, Jessica takes on the small but annoying problem of the Smile Patrol, men who feel like women should be smiling all the time and christen themselves the enforcers. It sort of puts you off your guard to be told to smile, because it makes you feel like you're being grumpy and negative for no reason and you feel guilty and before you can come around to realizing the enforcer is in the wrong, you've probably given an apologetic smile. It takes practice to take on enforcers. In the comments, I tell a story of a friend who yelled at one, very funny.
Most people don't smile most of the time. Most people's faces are relaxed most of the time, regardless of their moods. I like Jessica's point--if women had perma-smiles, we would look like Stepford wives, just eerie beaming all the time. It would put you off your lunch at bare minimum.
And yes, it's utter sexism. Men don't get told to smile. I've never heard it. I've asked my multitude of male friends if they are told to smile ever and they look at me funny. And the sure sign that telling a woman to smile is sexualized, sexist harassment--how many women are told to smile when her companion is male? Yeah, that never happens either. In fact, I can imagine the reaction of either my boyfriend or my best male friend if a man told me to smile right in front of them. They'd know right away what should be obvious, that men who tell you to smile are engaging in a small act of hostility.
Anyway, this reminds of another pet peeve I have with small acts of hostility I get from men. I'm a public reader, a really devoted one. I can walk and read. Anyway, people who read in public are occasionally subject to really silly inquiries, which Bill Hicks hit on the head. (If you haven't heard his routine about trying to read in a diner in the South while people ask him why he's reading, you should. Go find it. It's hilarious.)
But women who read in public are subject to a whole 'nother level of hostile questioning. You get the usual, "Whatcha reading for?" questions. And from women, I often get, "I wish I could read in public, but I get distracted," which is the opposite of hostile, really, and fits more into the way that women often talk to each other, praising each other while putting themselves down. But from men, I mostly get things like, "Wow that book must really be interesting," in a mocking tone of voice. I've been told that women shouldn't read. Or that I look too serious when I read. All ways of covertly expressing that I shouldn't be reading but instead putting myself to the task of making men, all men, feel good for whatever reason.
But the end all be all of these comments was when I was sitting in my local drinkin' hole, playing NTN trivia, my dirty little habit. This guy my age wanders over and asks why I'm playing the game. "It's fun," I mutter.
"Really? Why's it fun?"
So I look him in the eye and say, "Well, it's competition. Which I like. And I'm good at it. Watch me win."
And he said, "Now, whatcha gotta do that for?"

18 Comments:

Blogger Elayne said...

I've never gotten any remarks about my public transit reading, even when it's comics. Well, once or twice about the comics, but it's usually positive. But NY is full of public transit readers of both genders, maybe that's the diff. As for smiling, I must confess I often try to coax a smile out of people to whom I'm talking, no matter the gender, because smiles just reassure me more, I'm afraid of frowns. :)

6/11/2004

 
Blogger Rhys said...

Being told to smile is apalling, and it certainly happens to both genders.

6/11/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

You probably use a different tone of voice. When men bark at women to smile, there's usually hostility in their tone. My mom is always telling me to smile, and it does come off differently.

6/11/2004

 
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