So, I know this is something many women (particularly young women) have experience of. I live in Scotland and, more than once, I have been standing on the street or sitting in a public space and have been told by an older man (different men on each occasion…I think) to smile. In fact, the phrase of choice is: ‘cheer up lass, it might never happen’. In these circumstances, I have been neutral – maybe reading, in thought, or listening to music. This infuriates me because I know that men aren’t spoken to the same way. The mentality is that women are ‘prettier’ when they smile and, as women are only put on this planet for the pleasure of men, we should really always be smiling.


Riding my bike to work this morning. I’d just reached the top of a hill so I was a bit puffed out and my face reflected that. Bloke in a van leans out of his window and shouts “smile!” at me. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said the same to another guy.


I’m working out at the gym, doing some heavy leg presses. I stop between sets to mop my brow and catch my breath. An older man (70’s maybe) walks by and says with a big grin, “Why aren’t you smiling?” Why is it always my fucking job to “brighten up” every room?


At work a week ago I was returning a carton of milk to the dairy case. I was wearing my hair in pigtail braids because it’s too thick to do much else with it. Well, an old man I passed saw me and felt the need to call out, “A milkmaid!” I’ve since switched to a different, older-looking hairstyle, not because of that alone but because I am harassed at work SO MUCH that I’ve come to expect it every time I go in, and I suspect it’s due to both being female and my youthful appearance. Oh, and a few weeks ago a male customer stopped and stared at me for several seconds after his transaction was done, then left saying sarcastically, “Keep smiling.” I don’t go to work to smile and look pretty. I go to do my job and earn money. That’s IT.


The day before yesterday I found out that someone I had admired for a long time has died. When I went to work yesterday, the manager told me to smile because I looked gloomy. Never mind that I had a reason. And even if I didn’t have a reason to look gloomy, what I do with my face is still up to me.