Comic Nails Why Women Often Feel Uncomfortable Smiling in Public

March 7th 2017

Almie Rose

A comic originally published on Everyday Feminism explains why the simple act of a woman smiling can lead to unwanted attention and even street harassment.

smiling woman

Illustrator Alli Kirkham breaks down what happens when a woman feels forced to smile — and why it can be so complicated.

"I wake up with a smile in the morning every day. It’s just how my face falls."

Those are the words that open up the comic and accompany its first illustration of a woman on the bus, politely smiling to her male seat mate, the writer added that the woman is a naturally happy person.

smiling comic

But the concern lies when that smile is interpreted by the man as flirting. "I didn't mean to flirt," the woman thinks to herself. "It was only a smile." This situation isn't an oddity, as many women deal with variations of the unintended consequences of being polite in public, especially on public transit, as ATTN: previously reported in January 2016, when harassment on subway trains in Paris reached a fever pitch.

But as Laura Donovan for ATTN: reported, it isn't just Paris: "An international survey conducted by Cornell University and the anti–street harassment group Hollaback! also found that nearly 75 percent of those surveyed worldwide of women were familiar with having to change their transportation plans as a because of harassment."

smiling comic

Then there's a scenario of a woman smiling simply because it's part of her job — and how that smile can be misinterpreted, as well.

smiling comic

"Sometimes I have to figure out how to get out of a date I don't want to go on without causing a scene that will cost me my job," she thinks to herself. "All over one little smile."

To reiterate, as Kirkham does in her comic — this isn't every time. Women were sharing their stories of being harassed while simply trying to get to work, or wherever else they were going with the hashtag #CommutingWhileFemale which took off on Twitter in July 2016.

This issue is perhaps why the comic is necessary in the first place; to explain that a smile is not an invitation.

Read the rest of the comic at Everyday Feminism. Also, check out ATTN:'s video, "It's time to stop telling women to smile all the time" below.

It's time to stop telling women to smile all the time.

Posted by ATTN: on Saturday, February 25, 2017