I was waiting in line to go through airport security when the TSA agent held my drivers license up to my face and said “Now the girl in this picture is smiling you’re not going to smile for me? I’m sure I’m better than the DMV.”
If you know me at all, you know my reaction to that statement. I stared back at him with the blankest look on my face until he awkwardly laughed while handing my ID and boarding pass back. Some people, especially my mother, would say I was being rude. He was just telling you to smile what’s the big deal?
Another day, I was getting in the elevator at my office building. I was reading a book on my phone when an older dude gets on the elevator and loudly proclaims, “Everyone’s on the phone these days, there’s no communication!” I could feel his eyes on me as I brought my phone directly to my face and continued reading.
Years ago, sitting on hot bleachers saving seats before a college football game. A guy turns to me, “Hey why don’t you smile?” I put on my sunglasses and give him the finger.
Years before that, I’m twelve walking home from school. A truck drives by and honks, I don’t turn. They roll down their window and yell “HEY GIRL!” I walk faster.
Around the same time, my mom and I are in the car. A car full of guys pulls up next to us and starts honking and yelling. We speed away hoping they don’t follow us.
My entire life men have been demanding my attention. Demanding I smile, look nice and docile so they can use me for a minute of entertainment. It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are with, or even how old you are. Men constantly demand women’s attention as if they are owed it and I refuse to play. There are so many stories of women getting cat called, followed, killed all because men think they own women’s attention. We are taught to say no, taught to politely decline unwanted attention and yet it still happens over and over and over again.
And you know I refuse to be polite, I refuse to participate in a broader culture of placating men who think they’re entitled to my time and attention.
So stop telling me to smile because I promise you I won’t.