more reasons why (some) men suck

posted by catherine / August 01, 2005 /

in addition to thinking that they have a right to only have to look at scantily clad 90 pound waifs with double D racks...they do this kind of shit and expect us to be okay with it (from the lovely and always hysterical natalia):

men will NEVER realize how fucking weird it is to be a woman.

every time i leave the safety of the heinz school, and i feel like i'm being harassed. forget it, every day of my life i feel like i am harassed in school or out. some men think they fucking own me. i was at a late night fast food restaurant the other day and this guy started talking to me and asking why i was dressed up. i said i just returned from a baby shower. (true.) he said, "oh babies. babies are good. with their strollers, rattles, toys ..." his voice trailed off, but in an effort to make a "joke" he said something about breast pumps and my breasts. something like, "yeah, those suction things you can put on your breasts ... those are cool ..." he said that as he looked at my breasts.




i was kind of shocked, but played it off. this is the fucking point. you're not supposed to punch people in the face when you're a girl. that's bad! if i had a dollar for every guy that i wanted to (deserved) to be punched in the face, i'd own my own goddamn island by now.

i still chatted with him like he said nothing though. he asked me to party with him and said that i was hot and i probably had good dance moves. i gave him a small chuckle, stupid, curt, smile and took a step back. he and his buddies left. "maybe next time," he said.

yeah, maybe next time i'll actually punch a motherfucker in the face.

i dunno. i often expect men to harass you or say rude things or try to pick you up in disgusting and weird ways. what i don't get is why they are ALMOST ALWAYS shocked when you respond back in a manner that is not all giggly, "oh you're so funny you disgusting repulsive sexist slob, hehehehteehee!" like, they feel like they have a right to say whatever they want to you, and if you take issue with it, you are an uptight biatch. this is more clearly exemplified in a lot of cancer, baby's posts about men telling women to smile. i'm late to the discussion about this, but i come down on the side where i DON'T WANT SOME RANDOM DUDE TELLING ME ON THE STREET TO SMILE. it happens to me all the time. and i know why. it is because i go walking around, unconsciously, with an expression on my face that looks like my pet kitten was just run over and i'm thinking really really hard about how to best castrate the person who did it. it's just my lovely, natural expression. and i'm not going to walk around like a smiley doll to please some passing guy. like cancer, baby says:

I call these men Mood Oglers because the directives they launch at random female strangers accomplish the exact same thing that the actions of their gruffer yet more honest brethren, the Whistlers and Honkers, do: namely, to objectify women. But while the obvious nature of the Whistlers' and Honkers' motivations renders them laughable, the Mood Oglers' more clandestine tactics are maddening. Their behavior implies that women owe all strangers of the opposite sex a wink and a smile because by virtue of their gender they are mere anesthetized decorative objects whose dispositions and facial expressions should be rightfully dictated by the men who just happen to be looking their way. Indeed, when a random male passerby tells a woman that the circumstances of her life can't possibly inspire anything other than the appearance of obliging congeniality, he ignores that woman's humanity -- a humanity that is both capable of experiencing the full spectrum of mortal emotion and that doesn't owe any stranger explanation, concession, or modification.

and the worst part about it all is that i ALWAYS smile for the guy, and when i think about what i would have liked to tell him (something along the lines of "just wait till i shove my shoe up your nostril, THEN i'll be smiling") , i ALWAYS feel bad. and i shouldn't feel bad! why does some stranger feel like he has the right to expect that i should smile on demand? blargh!

sorry for going all feminazi on this site today; i am in fact appreciative of the fact that 99% of the guys i know don't act like these dipshits. but even one interaction with one dipshit is enough to ruin my week.


I HATE the "smile" thing! Next time somebody says, "Hey, smile!" we should be prepared to offer an opposing command like, "Hey, do a little dance!" or "Hey go fuck yourself!" See, now you've got me all angry too.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 01:48 PM

haha, i like the do a little dance command. mostly i just want to have a really good stock response that i can offer up quickly to the smile assholes. otherwise i'm just stuck twittering and forming a little half smile.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 01:55 PM

How about "Hay is for horses, not for people." Classic. If anything, the verbal assailant will be confused to the point of stammering by your referring to the lingo of elementary school.

Posted by: Kanishka on August 1, 2005 02:04 PM

Bizarro world. I get the "smile" thing, on average, 4 times a day at work. HATE IT. And I always kind of concede, and give the man (one of 5 that thinks it's their mission in life to make me outwardly happy RIGHT THIS INSTANT) a half-assed, crooked, scary half-smile. The smile option is almost always worse than the not-smile, dude.

Did you get a bunch of people always speaking Dutch or German or something to you in your travels out of the US? I did, and it was always blamed on the fact that I didn't smile at strangers on the street, and therefore couldn't be American, because American blondes were bubbly and cheerful. Like the cast of "Friends" or something, I dunno.

Posted by: the g. on August 1, 2005 02:13 PM

I don't mean to defend these guys, because yes, they're tools. But... they're just trying to find a way to talk to you. It's not an easy thing to do, and it can go horribly, horrible wrong, as the breast pump example demonstrates. If there was a good way to strike up a conversation with an attractive young woman, pickup lines wouldn't exist.

I realize it's very irritating to feel obligated to modify your behavior in a certain way just because some guy decides he wants to talk to you. But these guys can't really know what kind of mood you're in, or whether you might be interested in them. And if you were, you might feel better about their advances (tooly though they may be). So... yeah. I don't know that there's a great solution here. They're not hurting you, and despite what the excerpt says, they're really not objectifying you (unless we're going to reduce any display of male attention motivated by attraction to objectification -- what are we, brains in jars?).

If this crap counts as sexism, I don't know that the word has any meaning. I know it must get old after the thousandth time, but what can you do? Is it practical to insist that every advance, no matter how innocuous, be wanted? I think that's unreasonable.

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 02:16 PM

You seem to imply that any time a strange man says anything we would react in this way. But I wouldn't even react this way if a man came up and said something like, "You look kind of down" although that would be weird.

It's coming up and commanding somebody to change their facial expression, and it's very jarring. You're lost in your own thoughts and somebody pops up and tells you what to do. Man or woman, that's rude and off-putting. It doesn't have to be sexist to be infuriating.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 02:33 PM

Actually, I agree with you, Tom- I don't necessarily think of it at sexist, per say. I know women that act the very same way. To me, it's an issue of just being annoying. The first time, it's fine, make a joke at how frowny I am toward the world. The 30th time you say it to me? Okay, enough.

Posted by: the g. on August 1, 2005 02:34 PM

Okay. Well, then we're back at it just being tooly. As long as we've established a conversational space for the losers of the world to approach women out of their league, I am satisfied.

And you're right Susan, I was overly broad, reading into things Catherine didn't actually say. For instance: I know she hates it when strange guys hold the door open for her, because it makes her hurry up and feel obligated and whatever else. And that's totally reasonable, but it's not like they're doing something wrong. I sort of grouped the smile thing under that -- unwanted chivalry (although obviously the smile thing is different, in that it's a patronizing imposition).

A few times in my life I've had the smile thing done to me, usually with teachers, folks at church or hippie friends of my mom. It's really grating, and I'm sure getting it on a daily basis sucks.

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 02:44 PM

no. most of the time, they are not trying to pick me up. i largely get it from older, mostly harmless-seeming guys who pass me on the street and don't say anything to follow up on the smile command. they just want to see me smile and move on. i wouldn't think it was sexist if it was a prelude to a pickup attempt, but it very rarely is.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 02:45 PM

which is exactly what makes it so infuriating and annoying. i'm used to lame pickup lines; i know guys don't have much to work with there. but for you to approach a stranger on the street for no reason except you think they don't look appropriately cheery for your tastes, and order them to change their feelings? WEIRD AND UNNECESSARY. and i do think it plays a lot into the objectification of women. you would NEVER see a man do it to another man.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 02:49 PM

She's got a point there.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 03:00 PM

"i still chatted with him like he said nothing though."

"and the worst part about it all is that i ALWAYS smile for the guy"

why is that? I know that these creeps will harass regardless of whether you respond to them or not - i don't even think it's a goal of thiers to have an actual conversation or pick the woman up. at least, if those are the goals, the techniques are pretty horrendous. surely the failure rate is high enough that a gentleman might learn that using a baby shower to segueway into a remark about breasts is not likely to charm the ladies.

i think the sole intent here is to harass. i think the impulse to be polite and respond anyway is a problem. it's probably best to just not engage them.

Posted by: sq on August 1, 2005 03:01 PM

we respond because we are moody bitches if we don't acquiesce to their smiling demands. and the worst part is i'm willing to be most of THINK we ARE moody bitches for not responding. which is not cool.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 03:16 PM

you would NEVER see a man do it to another man.

well, yes, but that's because of a stupid dynamic between guys, not a sexist dynamic between men and women. but it can happen with every other combination, can't it? I've had women say it to me plenty. Moreso when I was a kid, admittedly, and I definitely agree that it's kind of infantilizing.

I *really* don't think these guys are trying to harass you. They think they're being nice.

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 03:18 PM

i know! they're not TRYING to harass me; they think they are being nice. but that's the problem. the mindframe is incorrect. it is NOT nice to expect women to smile on demand for you.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 03:29 PM

and frankly you seem to be saying that since their intentions aren't bad, we should suck it up and accept it. which just perpetuates the whole thing even more. belt boy.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 03:35 PM

What sort of frequency are we talking about? I've never even heard of this before, really. I don't think I've ever said anything like that to a girl, except semi-imploringly while holding a rented zombie movie (at which time it was definitely an unwanted gesture).

Posted by: Kriston on August 1, 2005 03:38 PM

hahaha, this is too funny. especially because I feel like I have patented the "bitch face." you know, the face you think will deter all men from talking to you, but it will in fact attract these said annoying, objectifying men. that's why I'm sticking to the "I can't hear you" look.

Posted by: Naomi on August 1, 2005 03:42 PM

Or, hell, maybe I have told a girl to smile—I've said tons of dumb stuff to girls. I don't want to join Tommy in the doghouse, but I do think the smile invitation is a stupid, largely unconscious, and more or less innocuous form of flirting. If it's harassment, and it's totally possible and fair and up to you to say that it is, then men and women are basically at war, because really, the smile thing really, really does sound unconscious (unlike the whistle or the grunt).

Posted by: Kriston on August 1, 2005 03:47 PM

i dunno, 3-4 times a month for me, probably. like i said, it's almost always older guys. and most guys wouldn't say anything like that to a girl. that's why it's creepy. i'm trying to think of an equivalent situation for a guy, but it's difficult.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 03:47 PM

bah. you all are missing the point. i do NOT think it is harassment. i DO think their intentions are generally harmless. but that doesn't mean it's okay or that girls should suck it up and accept it. it's really jarring and almost always makes me feel uncomfortable, yet if i express that sentiment to the smile commander, they will think i'm bitchy. if i'm not smiling, i don't want to smile, and i certainly don't want to smile for a stranger, because really, the only reason he is telling me to smile is not so *I* can feel better, but so *he* can feel better about a) looking at a pretty smiling girl or b) having "brightened" someone's day and made them feel better. it's a very selfish act. and in what world is it okay for some guy to go along and tell somebody to change their face, their emotions, the way they're feeling, when they don't even know this person??

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 03:51 PM

However benign the intentions, there is definitely an irritating gender component with these kinds of approaches. There's the infantilizing, but more than that, it always makes me feel like I'm a "sweet young thing" that oughta smile real purty. I resent being made to feel this way, and it doesn't really mitigate it that the intentions are harmless.

I'm not claiming that these men are horrifying sexists. I think it's unintentional, but they do have this effect. Like the g., I always just smirk in a scrunchy ugly way in response.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 03:53 PM

Also like Catherine said, this is almost always older men. It's not you young guys. This compounds the feeling juvenile/little girl issue. And for me, the tone of voice is usually pretty pushy too: "HEY. SMIIIILE."

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 03:55 PM

The scrunchy ugly face sounds like a pretty good solution.

But I've got a question: why is it bad to come off as a bitch to a stranger? I know I've had folks at work basically tell me to lighten up, to be more cheerful (usually when I'm pissed off at them), and I've got no problem giving them a politely phrased equivalent to "no, fuck you". I'm sure this is easier for me because when guys are in a bad mood they like pretending they're badasses.

It's a worse situation for you all, since correcting the problem with one guy won't help, since it's strangers you're dealing with, whereas I can send a message once to a coworker that I don't want to be best friends forever. But what about a affectless "no thanks" as you whoosh past the guy? Does it not work?

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 04:03 PM

OK, that sounds pretty gross, annoying, and condescending. I remember that it was pretty annoying when this old Italian hotelier insisted on praising or smooching Susan when we were in Italy even though it was totally harmless, so I'm guessing this is a similar thing.

Posted by: Kriston on August 1, 2005 04:04 PM

maybe that reveals more about how I understand this problem than anything else: this sounds to me exactly like when someone approaches you on the street to get you to join their religion, or to give you the sympathetic panhandler routine. there's an efficient, cordial but cold tone that's pretty easy to take with them that shuts em down pretty fast. not an option here?

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 04:05 PM

No way, that guy was GREAT! If a darling old Italian men insisted on kissing me on my way out the door every day that would be great. But if the same old man was somebody I'd never seen before and he stuck his head in my face on the metro and growled "SMILE!" then that wouldn't be so great.

As for the bitch thing, my knee-jerk bitch reaction is real bad. Maybe the Southern upbringing, but I can't turn it on that quickly. Besides, it would be an overreaction. I think the "no thanks" is a good response, but I'll just have already smirked by the time I'd think of it.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 04:08 PM

because they're asking you to SMILE, not join a cult. if you are cold to somebody asking to smile, no matter how inappropriate the smile command is, you are immediately branded an uberbitch, especially because it is such an 'innocuous' thing to ask of somebody. also, the few times i've said no thanks or not smiled, i really do start get actually harassed, and it turns into a whole thing.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 04:38 PM

Catherine, something just occurred to me. Maybe we actually are just bitches? Discuss.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 04:51 PM

By "innocuous" I mean the level of conscience the guy is operating at. Like, the guy isn't thinking "these bitches will smile." Which doesn't mean that it isn't evil—the fact that if you don't do as they say you look like mean girls makes it an extraordinarily devious thing to say to a girl.

Posted by: Kriston on August 1, 2005 05:34 PM

yeah, exactly - if his intentions are harmless, does that mean it's acceptable? no, not if you really think about it. and it doesn't mean we should suck it up and play along. yet girls are largely expected to do so. every girl in this thread has expressed their large distate at the smile command, yet most of the guys seem to be saying, "eh, it's friendly! no problem!"

i really wish i could find a comparable example, but the best i could come up with is like you're out at dinner w/ a group you don't really know, and somebody in the group or the waiter keeps insisting you eat more, like they know what is good for you, and then when you don't eat more, even if you've politely declined, you're a huge spoilsport. but even then it's not really equivalent because it doesn't have the creepy objectification/women should look pretty and happy aspect to it.

susan: uh, more possible than i'd like to admit.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 05:51 PM

But that's not fair—I didn't say that it was friendly or not problematic, nothing even close to that. I won't speak for Toolman Tommy, but my thinking is that if you say you don't like it, it's no good and we should cut it out, even if we don't realize we're doing anything wrong (which I think is the case). I wasn't even aware of this phenomenon until today, but it sounds like it blows.

Posted by: Kriston on August 1, 2005 06:00 PM

not friendly, sorry- but an innocuous form of flirting.

Posted by: catherine on August 1, 2005 09:05 PM

No, I agree, once you learn an interaction is unwelcome, you should cut it out. But the smile thing seems like just one of a whole class of similar understandable but actually irritating behaviors which can't, I think, be prevented without shutting down human interaction in a totally unacceptable way.

I am *NOT* saying young women should suck it up and smile. I am saying you all might have to come up with a way to communicate your displeasure to these guys (I guess comment threads are a decent way to start), because it's never going to be self-evident to them that this is a completely outrageous and wrong behavior because, well, it's not. It's just something that's more irritating (apparently a LOT more irritating) and less original than they think it is. Like when tuba players get asked if they wish they played the piccolo.

Posted by: tom on August 1, 2005 09:40 PM

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'd add that in my experience, the smile command isn't actually particularly friendly. It's said in an aggressive way and generally the person saying it finds themselves very amusing afterwards. If you were standing right here Tommy, I'd demonstrate and you'd understand, but it's hard to describe by typing.

Posted by: susan on August 1, 2005 10:19 PM

yeah. I'm ready to believe that I don't really understand this whole thing. Clearly the agressive component that you two are describing is completely impolite and unacceptable. I'm afraid I still don't see a practical way to fix the problem, though. Except maybe printing specific and profane instructions on a t-shirt.

Posted by: tom on August 2, 2005 08:32 AM

haha. i'm totally going to set up a cafepress tshirt site that says smth like, don't tell me to smile, motherfucker.

Posted by: catherine on August 2, 2005 08:40 AM

Isn't the real question here how come you girls are so frowny all the time? God put women on this earth to be pretty and smiley for my amusement.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias on August 2, 2005 01:32 PM

The odd thing about the smile requests is that most everybody in a city has a blank or unhappy face as they are walking down the street by themselves.

I think the smiling thing is related to this. People make stupid comments to women in public that they would never make to men. Stupid comments to men always risk a smackdown.

Posted by: joe o on August 3, 2005 04:12 PM

For some reason, I am regularly told to smile by women; usually d'un certain age. I think I just have a rather babyish and sullen-looking face (or at least I have a babyish and sullen personality and I surmise that it shows in my face). In general I just look at them with a sort of startled-rabbit mute incomprehension and they decide I am a bit simple and eff off.

Posted by: dsquared on August 8, 2005 01:48 AM

i still don't understand why the "bitch" option is so unappealing. they're being impolite, so fuck 'em.

Posted by: matty on August 8, 2005 02:59 PM

wait, no, don't do that.

Posted by: matty on August 8, 2005 02:59 PM

After looking at some of these posts, the thought struck me that these smile commanders are just dying to command somebody to do something... so they pick something, smiling, that a) of course NOBODY is walking around already doing, b) It is perceived as positive and something that people supposedly SHOULD be doing and c)sounds innocuous.
Reacting negatively to a word that is associated with positivity can make the target look bad, so an earlier poster was right, it is extraordinarily devious and puts the target in a double bind.
And after all, the part that makes us most annoyed is the command part of it, right?
The smile part is just dumb and weird.

I don't get why anyone can claim this is about being friendly or starting a conversation. whenever I have tried to follow up on this, the guy will always go back to his first remark "No, really, you haven't explained yet, why aren't you smiling? What's wrong?" or somthing stupid like that.

I think my only real mistake in most of my responses has been to entertain, for even a moment, that anything about my calm, relaxed, unsmiling face might have actually looked tired or sad. I no longer own any part of these interactions at all. It's all on the loser making the comment.

Posted by: Wendy on August 9, 2006 12:05 AM

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