Sexist on Demand

by

I work at a tattoo shop in which, every Friday, one of the owners and I do an all-around cleanup. Two biker men were sitting on one of the couches while I was cleaning. That day, I was wearing a short rainbow tutu over a pair of black pants. The younger biker told me, “You’re not supposed to wear tutus over jeans.” Not that I was wearing “jeans,” but I replied with, “I do a lot of things that I’m not ‘supposed’ to do.”

Shortly thereafter, still in the midst of cleaning, listening to music on my iPod, the same man insisted that I should be smiling, “Smile. Life’s not THAT bad.” To which I replied, “I don’t have to smile right now.”

Apparently, men are supposed to dictate how I can and cannot dress. And because I’m a woman, I’m always supposed to be happy and smiling – since by nature, we’re just so darn happy to be female in a patriarchal society…and while working in the presence of a sexist jerk. Maybe I should have just told him, “Sorry. MFIF.”

Unhappy Tutu, Indiana, USA

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19 Responses to “Sexist on Demand”

  1. emzmcgee Says:

    I HATE when people (especially strangers) tell me I should smile. Just because you’re not smiling doesn’t mean you’re in a bad mood, that’s how I normally look dammit. You know how hard it would be to smile 24/7? It makes my face hurt thinking about it.

  2. sz Says:

    I get told to smile so often! It drives me crazy. I can be in a perfectly good mood and someone will call out “cheer up love, it might never happen!”. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that there might be sexist undertones… My face also seems to relax into a frownish state, I guess, like my dad’s… But you’re right, I DON’T have to smile on demand.

    • sz Says:

      Also I should add that I live in London. People don’t smile in London!

      • Jazz Says:

        Damn right haha. I hate that saying ‘It might never happen’ I just normally reply with, it already has and look as though I’m about to cry just to freak the person out and make them feel terribly uncomfortable. I hate being told to smile and its my own little form of payback.

  3. Pavlov's Cat Says:

    I absolutely loathe the ‘smile brigade’. If they’re so concerned you’re not looking happy, why don’t they ever say something nice to you rather than demanding you rearrange your facial expression to meet their desires?

    • Burnt Cheese Says:

      Absolutely!!!! When I was in school, teachers would demand I smile. These were the same teachers who ignored the bullying which got to be so bad I wanted to take my own life. Uh, I would have smiled had you taken my abuse seriously and at least tried to stop it.

  4. Meg Says:

    I used to work at a fast food restaurant, I got told repeatedly to smile constantly. I would smile at the customers, as my job required! Why am I supposed to be smiling when I’m running around packing orders in the back?

  5. Nemo Says:

    I also do not smile naturally; in fact, I need to exert quite some effort to smile when there is nothing funny and not have it look like I’m grimacing. I understand all the views above, but when people tell me to cheer up, I figure they’re just being friendly and flash a smile and that’s the end of that. Aren’t you reading a little too much into it?

    (Also, I’ve never heard the phrase, “It might never happen.” What’s it referring to?)

    • sz Says:

      It just gets a bit tiresome. Like a constant reminder that I look like a miseryguts. I do tend to smile or whatever but I always feel a bit offended inside…

      ‘It’ might never happen is just bad news in general. Not anything specific.

    • CM Says:

      “Aren’t you reading a little too much into it?”

      Come on Nemo, surely you should know by reading this site or other feminist sites that comments like that are a shut down tactic.

  6. gidget commando Says:

    Oh, how terribly thoughtless of you, not to put aside every concern in your life and be utterly charming and pleasing to any man who asks, on demand! Just WHAT were you thinking? [/snark]

  7. Tegan Says:

    Oh god, I get this “smile! life’s not that bad!” comment all the time from strange men. Just walking down the street minding my own business I get this. I’d have to be on some serious happy drugs to smile like that all the time. I think they think it’s a cute comment that will just woo us into their arms. yeah right. Next time I’m just going to tell them no and walk away.

  8. Tina Says:

    I don’t see how this man was being sexist. Although it is annoying for strangers to tell you to smile if you don’t want to, anyone can come up to you and tell you to do so. Just about anyone can also point out something about your clothes. If this had been a child, for example, you wouldn’t have reacted the same way.

    • CM Says:

      “I don’t see how this man was being sexist.” Privilege, here thy be.

      “Although it is annoying for strangers to tell you to smile if you don’t want to, anyone can come up to you and tell you to do so.” Don’t you find it creepy that a complete stranger would only approach you for the sole purpose of telling you to smile?

      “Just about anyone can also point out something about your clothes.” See above: how is it their business?

      “If this had been a child, for example, you wouldn’t have reacted the same way.” No, they wouldn’t because the point here is it was A MAN dictating how a woman should act/dress/feel/look. However, if it was a child I would still find a way to reinforce it’s not polite to judge/stick your nose in people’s business, because society needs to be retrained from an early age not to follow patriachal norms.

  9. H Says:

    Just saw this on the Daily Mail site, and thought of you Unhappy Tutu!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1303307/Why-long-face-Christina-Miss-Aguilera-looked-dumps-dined-friends.html

    The dear old Mail is the smile police of the celebrity world.

  10. Babaganoush Says:

    A rainbow tutu? Sorry, but they were right in that respect; even a biker can tell that that’s a fashion trainwreck.

  11. breathofawen Says:

    I used to get that all the time; I even remember being yelled at– Yelled. At.– by a babysitter for not smiling.

    By my early teens I was in the habit of smiling all the time, to pretty much everyone– and another person told me that I was “asking to be raped” because I was flirting.

    You can’t win. You really, really can’t.

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