TW: PMS rage.
A friend showed me this Buzzfeed list and I reacted really negatively to it. Even though I live in Texas I'm a yankee at heart, and I prefer any kinds of interactions with strangers to be kept to a minimum. However, #7 and #10 really cross a line. When a man stops me in the street to tell me I'm beautiful (because seriously, has anyone ever heard that from a woman?), it is just creepy, full stop. Any comment on my appearance, positive or negative, is unwelcome from anyone who does not at least know my name (and borderline from anyone not a good friend). Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment, but I do not want strangers to feel at liberty to comment on my appearance, pro or con. Just because I am a woman, my face, hair, and body are not public commodities to be freely studied and rated.
However, what she and I really disagreed about was #10. Whenever someone tells me to smile, I just want to punch them and ask if they feel like smiling now. I find it incredibly presumptuous and condescending for someone to just tell me to invalidate however I'm feeling and walk around with a big stupid grin for his pleasure. Fuck you. If you don't like how my face looks, don't look at it. When I'm really upset, some creeper saying, "hey, smile!" is not going to magically make all my silly woman-problems better. If I'm just deep in thought and not paying attention to my expression (as strangers should also not be), it still conveys an arrogant sense of ownership in feeling the right to comment on it, to me, in the form of a directive. Either I must go around with a crazy, incessant, insincere smile, or I'm failing in my prime responsibility to be properly ornamental in society and it is well within any man's right to correct me.
And it clearly is 100% to do with my being a young(ish) woman. Can you imagine anyone saying that to a big muscled guy covered with tattoos? Or really any man I would imagine reacting in a very "wtf?" way when told they're too handsome to frown.
Of course their value to society isn't measured in beauty, and no one would presume to tell an adult (which clearly a woman is not) what to do with his own face. What if something was seriously, deeply wrong with me and it was all I could do to get out of bed this morning? Thanks for telling me I'm still failing when I'm just trying to put one foot in front of the other. What if there is nothing wrong whatsoever but I just don't feel like smiling?
My friend disagrees and thinks people just think "maybe a compliment will cheer you up," and that every time a man has said that to her, there has been genuine interest in why she's upset. (I do not want strangers to have genuine interest in why I'm upset, and if friends want to ask, they will get a hell of a lot farther with "hey, what's wrong?") She doesn't see that it's intrusive or presumptuous.
It's one thing if someone says, "Hey, are you okay? I know I don't know you but you look down, can I help?" that would be appropriate in some situations. Saying I'm "too pretty" to either have or display (I'm not sure) negative emotions, or ever relax my face, totally invalidates the whole thing. Am I overreacting? I don't think that all of this is the person's specific intent or in the fore of his mind, and I'm sure sometimes their intentions are pure, but feeling entitled to approach a stranger at all in this way blows my mind and I feel it promotes a culture of women being property, being infantilized, being inferior, being decorative.