If you've been on the Internet in the past couple days, you've probably seen that viral video showing all the catcalls one woman received while walking around New York City for 10 hours. If you haven't -- go watch it.
As its 16-million-plus YouTube views suggest, the video -- despite presenting problems of its own with its execution -- resonated with many women who have to endure such unsolicited comments on a daily basis, and whose complaints often fall on deaf ears. It's a compliment! You should be flattered! Except a catcall is a bullshit compliment and thinly veiled sexual aggression.
Telling someone to smile might seem particularly innocuous -- you just want her to look happy! But that, too, is a directive that undermines a woman's agency in the name of making her prettier, and thus less threatening. Indeed, the actress who refused to smile in the aforementioned video is now receiving rape threats from viewers who totally missed the point.
The point is this: Don't tell us how to look when we're out doin' our thing. These are pretty much the only situations where it's OK to tell a woman you don't even know to "smile." Ahem.
1. You are a professional photographer taking a picture.
2. You are a sign at a store telling someone they're under surveillance.
3. You are Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
4. You are dentist tryin' to get a look at some chompers.
5. You are dressed as a clown at a child's birthday party.
6. A woman just asked you, "Do I have lipstick on my teeth?"
8. You are directing a toothpaste commercial.
9. You are quoting Dr. Seuss.
10. You are the host of "Candid Camera."
11. You are this bird.
And that's it. Got it?