Stop telling women to smile

Me too!


Can we extend that to everyone? I personally hate being told to smile by strangers.


Is it still permissible to smile at a woman, or do I have to look to the ground not to commit a microagression?

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Yes you can. Dont demand one back. Keep it appropriate. And remember anyone you see might be having a day on the spectrum of terrible to great.

When in doubt, Ministry of Funny Walks.


i saw these in Ontario recently, just across the border from Buffalo.



He stole my look!

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See, the thing is, if you see a stranger in public and an involuntary smile takes over you, that’s one thing. If you then go on to expect a certain response because you smiled, then you are acting like a creep. Women will sense this, people in general will sense this and be creeped out. These people tend to think of themselves as nice guys, they feel they deserve something for being nice.

Which of course is different from people who feel its appropriate to yell at strangers on the street, but creepy nonetheless.


I need a little help here.

I’m your basic privileged middle aged white guy. As someone who grew up in a small town[1] I smile at everyone when I pass them on a sidewalk. and I do mean everyone [2] .

And yes, I’ve always noticed that young women are the most likely to smile back. The social pressure on young woman to conform to this social norm enormous.

Here’s my question: In response to this campaign, should I treat young women different? Should I make a point of smiling less to young women? I have been wrestling with this for about year now, as I walk past a high school on my way to work every morning.

To be clear, I never verbalize “you should smile.” [3] This is about my smiling first.

[1] If this doesn’t make sense to you, I can explain…
[2] My one day in Manhattan in 1986 was… interesting. but that’s another story
[3] Well, except to my kids, because getting in the habit of smiling more does make one’s life go better.

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So what’s with all these guys who insist on turning the problem about women being expected to smile into a problem for them?


The campaign is not asking you to not smile at anyone - smile away! It’s asking you to not expect a smile in return and, if one is not given, it’s asking you to not ask for one.


For while in the 1990s, my parents lived in the Ozarks, way out in the sticks. When I would visit, I was surprised (and somewhat unnerved) by how every single person I passed on the road, whether driving a tractor 50 yards from the road or attending a fruitstand or just driving the opposite direction down State Road 00, would wave at me. All enthusiastic-like, as if I were a long-expected friend or family member. I imagine they might have been smiling, too, if only I were close enough to see.

Few people do that in Southern California, at least in the areas I’ve dwelt. It’s not that we’re unfriendly, just that we don’t feel the urge to acknowledge the presence of every single person who comes near to crossing our path all the livelong day. Maybe if the number of people who did that did not exceed one or two digits, we might wave and/or smile more.

I don’t remember ever telling someone to smile (though I’ve asked people to “say cheese” more than once under appropriate circumstances). I think it’s weird. People’s faces and moods are their own. If I can improve someone’s day, I’d like to, but I don’t think that telling someone to arbitrarily alter the facial manifestation of whatever they’re feeling to suit my taste is remotely the way to go about it.


I’m doing my annual charity donations right now. Any experience with organizations that would support opportunities for this sort of mind opening work to get legally posted? We need alternatives to the brainwashing advertising that now is the only allowable 2d public message.


The first time I went to America, I was in a supermarket and one of the assistants turned the corner, saw me, and started smiling and coming toward me. I have to admit that it freaked me out a little, to the point where I probably looked a little suspicious. I’ve often been asked to smile in other places where there were quite a few Americans, although there doesn’t seem to be the same pressure in other countries. It may take more effort to frown than to smile, but I don’t see why a passer by should expect more than a neutral expression. If a stranger smiles at me, I assume that they want to sell me something. If they ask me to smile, it’s just infantilising and assumes that my emotions are for their benefit. (Of course this is worse for women and it happens for other reasons, but it’s been annoying enough when I’ve experienced it).


Yep. In the city, I ignore everyone, try my best never to make eye contact. Strangers that talk to you want money. I don’t smile at people, I don’t smile back at people, I don’t want to interact with strangers. I am utterly worthless at small talk anyway, trying to start a conversation with me in person is like trying to get blood out of a stone. Give me a few months to get to know you.

Expecting smiles out of random women? That’s just fucking weird.

I’ve always been a miserable bastard though. Really got sick of being told “cheer up, it might never happen”.


I think if other forms of harassment weren’t such a problem, then a random guy telling a woman on the street to smile wouldn’t be such a big deal. Example: woman walks down the street in New York, gets hit on by every other guy, then when someone just says to her “wow it’s a beautiful day, huh?” she will naturally think it’s some sort of come-on. I have a male friend who is just ridiculously friendly to everyone on the street, male/female/young/old, and it’s a completely honest gesture on his part.

I have women (and men) tell me to smile all the time, and I never think of it as harassment even though it sometimes bothers me (I’m not a very happy person and naturally walk around scowling, they are just trying to cheer me up, but pasting on a pretend smile isn’t going to make me happy.)

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Me walking down the street:



“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

When I am unsure how to act, I ask other people their opinion. Why, what do you do?

Because of my social position and socialization, I have been unclear if I am part of the solution or part of the problem. Asking others helps me determine the best way I can conduct myself to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I don’t have problem here – I am just trying to be a decent person. It’s no different than why I inquire about local social customs before I travel abroad. A little understanding of other people’s views goes a long way to making the world a better place.

As a side benefit, I do hope providing you the opportunity to make a gratuitous insult made your world a better place today.

Have a nice day! :smile: