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It’s Time To Stop Telling Women To Smile

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

If you happen to be someone who isn’t male, chances are a strange man has probably told you, “Smile, sweetheart!” once or twice while walking down the street, just minding your own business. Comments like these are completely creepy, but more importantly, they’re a symptom of a culture that tells women—even female presidential candidates—to be soft and pleasant at all times.


After Hillary Clinton’s big win in March 15th’s Democratic primaries, male journalists across the nation took to twitter to criticize her victory speech. Some said she was shouting too much. Some said she wasn’t smiling enough.


Women everywhere cringed.



It’s clear what these men are really saying to Clinton in these tweets. It’s the same thing those creepy old men are really saying when they tell us to smile. They might have perfectly good intentions, but they’re telling women to be soft. Pleasant. Non-Threatening.  



You may be thinking these comments are totally innocent, but do you ever see a man telling another man he doesn’t know to smile? Be honest. I know if I ever saw something like that, I’d probably think to myself, ‘That guy’s a weirdo’ and move along.


That same double standard applies to politicians. We never hear anyone telling Donald Trump to stop shouting. He’s vulgar, mean-spirited, and rarely smiles, but all of that is okay. In fact, he’s being rewarded for “saying what he means” without regard for what other people think of him. Can you imagine what would happen if a female presidential candidate tried that same strategy?  She wouldn’t be the Republican front-runner for the Presidential election, that’s for sure.



So, men: if you’ve ever told a woman you didn’t know to “Smile for me” or “Cheer up, sweetheart” I’m not saying you’re a horrible person, but I am asking you to look deep down, and ask yourself why you make comments like that to women. Is it really because you’re concerned she’s having a bad day? Or is it something more? Chances are, it’s because you’ve been taught your entire life that women are supposed to look and act a certain way, and when they deviate from that, it’s jarring. But women don’t owe it to you to look friendly or passive. Women don’t owe you anything.  



Third year Communication student. Pop culture junkie. Currently trying to figure out how to make a living out of watching too much Reality TV. Taking things one day at a time.
Student at the University of South Florida. Sister and Corresponding Secretary of Gamma Phi Beta. Artist, writer, and animal lover.