In what seems like the never-ending slog of sexist comments and misogynistic trolling on that which we call the internet, some guy told Kerry Washington she should have “smiled” in her recent Allure cover photo.
And while some people might think, “What’s the big deal here?” — this is actually a sensitive topic for many women.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s the basic backstory: Washington appeared on the cover of the most recent issue of Allure with a fresh-faced, minimal makeup look, her hair pulled back in a loose bun. The actress looks directly at the camera, her lips slightly parted in neither a smile nor frown. And she looks stunning.
So here’s the problem with that unsolicited suggestion.
First, we’d bet (a lot) of money that no one would ever make that comment to a man. Because while no one questions that a male might not feel like smiling at any given moment, women are expected to look “sweet,” “friendly,” and “approachable.” A woman could be walking down the street, worrying about student loans, a job interview, or a sick family member, and she just might be told to “Smile!” by a literal stranger (usually a male stranger).
Seriously, ask any woman you know, and this will have likely happened to her at least once in her life. (And ask any man you know, and this will likely have never happened to him. Ever.)
Furthermore, if a woman doesn’t automatically break into a warm grin when meeting new people, talking to coworkers, or checking out at the grocery store, she may run the risk of being branded “cold,” “unfriendly,” or — you guessed it — having “resting bitch face.” Many women even adopt a more “smiley” attitude as a defense mechanism, knowing that if they — God forbid — make a comment without also seeming “cute” or “nice,” they’ll be labeled as difficult.
So yeah, telling Kerry Washington she should have “smiled” for her Allure cover is more than just rude — it perpetuates outdated stereotypes about how women should behave.
Allure’s Editor-In-Chief, Michelle Lee, basically summed up our feelings in this most perfect response tweet: