Yet another reason why defining women by gender is oppressive.
Explicit sexism against the democratic frontrunner might be unacceptable, but subtler forms of prejudice are everywhere – and women have had enough
March 17, 2016
As Hillary Clinton was giving her victory speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted out two sentences that nearly every American woman has heard some version of at one point in her life:
Smile. You just had a big night.
Women on the internet were, to put it lightly, not amused. Many took Scarborough on immediately; even Full Frontal host Samantha Bee responded by replying with a picture of her not-so-smiling face.
This meme-able moment is part of a broader trend this election season: as the explicit sexism we saw during Clinton’s 2008 run has mostly been quelled or deemed unacceptable, women are pushing back against less easy-to-name offenses. And the visceral response against Scarborough demonstrates just how tired women are of having to explain how sexism operates over and over again.
Of all the things women hear from men – whether street harassers or pundits – there is special disdain for “smile” because of its particular condescension, and the tired trope that women should be forever chipper even as they’re walking down the street or, you know, running for president of the United States. In fact, men telling women to smile is such a universally hated prompt that there are feminist art projects dedicated to it, Buzzfeed lists that outline imagined responses (“just fart instead”), and a popular Broad City gif of the lead characters responding to a stranger’s insistence that they put on a happy face.
But it hasn’t been just Scarborough’s poorly thought-out tweet that women have found familiar. There are certain phrases, sentiments and actions that might not seem gendered upon first glance but are so typical to women’s everyday experience of sexism that they rub a lot of us the wrong way.