Women’s History Month time to reflect on stereotypes

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by Tara Maurer

Countless times throughout my life, I have been told to “smile.”

It started when I was little at family events and has continued throughout my life. Those guilty include: my creepy uncle, my elementary and high school principals, teachers, college acquaintances and random people at bars.

What do all of these people have in common? They are always men.

In these circumstances, I’m usually not frowning. I’m just minding my own business wearing a neutral expression and a man orders me to smile.

Nothing takes you aback more than when you’re casually walking passed someone in the hallway and he demands that you smile. Literally, that’s how it happens.

You are heading to your next class and this guy you have never seen before tells you that you need to be smiling.

What’s worse? When you are actually in a bad mood and a guy insists that you smile.

First of all, it’s awkward. You have to attempt to muster up a fake smile to get them to go away when in reality you want to say, “(Insert angry word) off.”

A huge gender stereotype is that women are passive, self-sacrificing individuals. A lady is always good humored. This stereotype reinforces the idea to men that women should always be “nice girls.” And, anyway, someone smiling is always better to view than someone frowning, right?

Well here’s the problem: I’m not an object for your viewing. I’m not going to smile just to make your view better. Asking a woman to do this is asking her to pretend she feels something that she doesn’t. And anyway, it’s just plain rude!

Think about it, guys. Has another guy, or a woman for that matter, come up to you and told you need to be smiling? I’m sure you didn’t respond with: “Oh you’re right, I should be smiling right now. Thank you!”

Because this month is Women’s History Month, I think it is a great time to remind everyone of the struggles women face on a day-to-day basis, whether it be something as serious as sexual assault or something that isn’t as recognizable (like demanding that a woman smile).

Recently, I started a website called Gender University. This site is dedicated to discussing gender issues on college and university campuses. Please visit Gender University to share your experiences related to gender.