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is it necessary to fake a smile?



Have you ever felt uncomfortable and conflicted at the fact that we are always expected to smile? I feel that ideas like “Girls should always have a smile on their face,” “The girls that are attractive are the ones who are always smiling,” and “It’s enough for a girl to just stand and smile,” are being constantly pushed on us from society, and I sometimes feel suffocated from it.


I’ve written in my previous articles on honeyhands that I’ve experienced mansplaining a lot over the past few years in different contexts, and was struggling with how best to deal with it.


Every time I was met with mansplaining, harassment, or rude condescending statements, I used to automatically react by faking a smile because I was worried about angering people or making them dislike me. But the more I responded to these kinds of statements with smiles, the more it probably looked like I accepted this treatment. Sometimes, it would lead those people to continue to treat me patronizingly and harass me, and sometimes it even attracted misogynistic people and people who have a tendency to commit moral harassment.


I think that I often see things like “For people to find you attractive, you always have to be smiling!” being said online. I guess that’s not wrong; you might attract people if you were smiling no matter what anyone says or does to you. But I think it makes you more prone to being patronized or being treated as someone who is convenient and will never go against what you say. I think even if you do get liked for these reasons, it is probably because it feeds their ego. They probably expect women to be “cute,” “always smiling” and “full of flattery”. However, since we are human, we get mad, sad, and hurt too. It’s cruel to have to live suppressing your feelings. I think being liked by people you like is different from being liked by many people, and it’s brutal to have to bear erasing parts of yourself just to be liked. Plus, I think that even if those types of people do like me, it doesn’t make me happy at all — in fact, it makes me feel like something is being taken away from me. Every time I see online content that pushes the idea that “A good woman is always smiling,” it makes me want to say “I’m not here to please you!” Would people say the same thing about men?


I always struggled with having to stay on my mother’s good side and trying to not upset her since she was always in a bad mood and had mood swings. From this experience, I developed the habit of trying to be on everyone’s good side out of fear of upsetting them or having them dislike me. There are some people who try to use, or exploit this trait of mine. Since realizing this, I have started to prioritise myself in all relationships and consider the question “Do I like this person or not?” over “Will this person dislike me?” Doing this helped me distance myself from mansplaining and harassment, which made my relationships a lot more comfortable. However, sometimes I have no choice but to deal with those kinds of people in communities I belong to. When I do encounter rude remarks or disrespectful attitudes, I try to make a face that conveys unpleasantness and show that I will not accept sexual harassment or disrespectful behaviour. There’s no need to respect someone who doesn’t respect you. There are also times where if you express discomfort from sexual harassment, people notice and help you out. Making a face that expresses dubiousness or being done with a situation has also been helpful to me.


Because of deeply ingrained ideas like “Women should just laugh and let bad things that happen to them slide. That’s what makes a good woman.” I think we are unable to get mad even when we want to. But I want to acknowledge and honor my emotions. I think getting into the habit of suppressing your emotions makes you forget what you want, makes you care for yourself less, and makes life in general more difficult. I want it to become a world where we can clearly say no to things we don’t like. Most of all, I think that if you can’t respect your own feelings, you can’t respect others’. I want to continue fighting by expressing my anger at things I don’t like in order to protect myself and the people around me.

Images by Hikari Sawada, Yumi, and #projectbodyhair by billie

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

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