The Vagenda

‘Cheer Up Love, It Might Never Happen’ Can Just Fuck Off

I’m not a fucking Stepford Wife
Readers of this site are likely to be familiar with that taunting quasi-catcall: “cheer up love, it might never happen”, or one of its ‘hilarious’ variants. It’s happened to me a lot over the years, and until I started using social networking sites like Twitter, I thought it might be something personal. I guessed that this perhaps owed to my natural bitchface, which makes me look as if I’m perpetually imagining Donald Trump naked on a fur rug. 
Alas, it transpires that this is not a problem confined to the misanthropic and moody. I’ve heard many, many women discuss the irritation of being pestered in the street by men seemingly determined to make the female population happier and smilier. Only, it’s not really about genuine female satisfaction; if it was, Cake and Cunnilingus Day would be Steak and Blowjob Day’s female counterpart. No. It’s about power. 
A man telling a woman to “cheer up” or “smile” is not a genuine, heartfelt wish; these people couldn’t care less if you’re actually happy, because if they did, they’d just leave you the fuck alone. They merely wish to remind you that your body is not your own. Your face does not really belong to you; in reality, it is a performance to be played purely for their benefit. They have granted you the privilege of their audience, and, like in that bad dream where you’re naked in front of your colleagues on stage, you have forgotten your lines. At the very least, this behaviour is intended to let you know that you are under their surveillance; as a woman, you are public property, and you’re owned by men. I mean, it’s not like anyone ever says it to bloody Morrissey, is it? 
This last statement is doubly true for Kristen Stewart, Twilight doyenne and world famous scowler. As a celebrity, her whole existence is public property and thus appropriate for endless intrusions and dissections. And, aside from her relationship with Robert Pattinson, the most popular topic for these gory dissections is her lack of smiling.
Stewart is endlessly mocked for her seemingly wilful absence of cookie-cutter tooth-baring. When she does smile, headlines shout the news out as if she were a Nobel Laureate discovering the meaning of life. A few I found when I Googled “Kristen Stewart smile”: “Kristen Stewart caught with elusive grin on her face”, “Kristen Stewart gives a rare smile”. I also found a number of ‘hilarious’ ‘humour’ blogs with features like “The 22 Times Kristen Stewart Smiled In 2012”. Funnily enough, I couldn’t find any similar articles about her paramour, Robert Pattinson, who I can only imagine is described as “sexy” and “brooding” rather than “moody”. 
So, what does this tell us, aside from the fact that a woman with 25 cameras in her face at all times may not feel like grinning her head off? It tells us that women are, still, seen as ornamental (and if you don’t believe me then check out what the editor of Esquire’s been saying). We are expected, not only in the limelight, but in our everyday lives, to be pleasing to men. We must play the role of the simpering wife, the smiling and vacuous airhead, devoid of thought. 
When going about our daily business, we haven’t the privilege to delve into our inner lives, to think of something sad, or maybe just of something innocuous; whether we’ve got enough clean pants to last the week, or if it’s normal to fancy Phil Jupitus. We have to be on guard, grinning like a creepy Disney animatronic, a stunted mixture of Playboy Bunny and Stepford Wife. 
On this occasion, the microcosm of Hollywood once again mirrors the experience of everyday women. Although Stewart and other actresses may be scrutinised in a more explicit and literal sense, there’s no getting away from the fact that we, too, are scrutinised. We, too, are expected to play a certain role, and to accept it wordlessly and thoughtlessly. 
Whether deliberate or not, Kristen Stewart is rebelling from the feminine mould occupied by so many of her forebears and contemporaries. She has, unknowingly, raised the challenging notion that smiling (or, indeed, any behaviour exhibited by a woman) is not actually obligatory. The fact she is repeatedly mocked and attacked for this digression proves that there is, still, A Way We Should Be as women. God help us if we don’t like it. 
We might not have cameras shoved in our faces, our jiggly bits garishly circled in magazines or jizzing penises drawn on photos of us by low-rent gossip bloggers, but we are examined in a much more insidious way. We are all measured against an invisible benchmark of what it means to be female; and of course it’s all bared, shiny teeth, Predator style, and heaving bosoms, fainting Victorian rose style. Kristen Stewart’s failure to conform may seem like a tiny and insignificant notion, but it does a significantly good job at pissing people off. I hope she doesn’t start smiling any time soon.
- ER

15 thoughts on “‘Cheer Up Love, It Might Never Happen’ Can Just Fuck Off

  1. My husband says he’s often been told to cheer up and smile by random people in pubs, too. Not as much as I have, but it does happen to blokes too. We like to sit together, miserable and scowling, in the corner.

  2. I can’t stand it when somebody says this. What’s it to you that I smile? Who are you to tell me what to do with my face? It really pisses me off when I get this comment. I will smile if I want to not if you tell me to so bugger off you patronising git. That’s what I think when someone says that to me

  3. One of the saddest things I ever read was that Victoria Beckham – constantly mocked and ridiculed and criticised for not smiling – doesn’t smile in public because she doesn’t like her smile and knows the press would mock her for having an “ugly” smile. How fucked up is that? How awful to spend your life reluctant to show genuine emotion because you know when you do, you’ll be picked apart for it. Because let’s face it, she’s absolutely right in her assessment of the media – if they decide her smile doesn’t meet their ridiculous standards of what a smile should look like, they won’t hesitate in saying so.

  4. Yes yes yes fuck yes! i’m relieved to discover it’s not just my miserable face that people I don’t know feel they can help me out with. thank you for this.

  5. Get a grIp! You are taking one comment WAY too far and this is not something that is said to just women! It is attitudes like this that make young, intelligent women (many of my friends included) HATE the word ‘feminist’.

  6. When people tell me to smile in the street I tend to contort my face into the most hideous grin I possibly can and fix them with it for a few seconds. I spend the rest of the day radiantly glowing with the smug satisfaction that I made a rude stranger come this close to shitting themselves.

  7. One of my personal bug bears! Its the cat calls, whistles and general thick shit you get shouted at from building sites and white van men. The stuff that makes you cringe, cross the road, take another route, not wear a skirt that day- street harassment that makes you change your behaviour for fear of being the latest girl to be showered with their attentions. I would like a nice booklet with witty retorts published so I can trade in my stock reply of ‘Cunt off you shite’

  8. Whenever this happens to me I either say “I’ll smile when you leave” or I start sobbing uncontrollably and mumble something about my mum dying in a car accident. A little over the top and immature? Yes. But the look of regret on their face is totally worth jinxing my mum. It has to be a really bad day before I pull that one though.

  9. Agree with the sentiment of this blog, but I have to point out that it isn’t something men say to women exclusively. “I mean, it’s not like anyone ever says it to bloody Morrissey, is it?”….I think you’ll find he gets that jibe on a regular basis…just google it.

  10. I completely agree that this a really annoying problem, I am inherently moody. However, I find it interesting that in an article you previously posted about equal pay in tennis you were shocked that Andy Murray (maybe I am biased because he is a personal hero) had something interesting to say because he is expressionless and stares at the floor. I think it is great that he is who he is (a dour Scot) and has not conformed to the apparent need to be a media darling, similar to Kristen Stewart, and is actually just trying to be good at tennis.

    So, by extension is this not something we are all capable of making comment on and judging people by?

  11. I’ve perfected a “I will rip your balls off” glare for when am walking down the street and find that it helps in not being bothered. I don’t have figures to hand but I’ve been harassed less since adopting said glare. I do want to try the crazy grin and sobbing about a dying mum (forgive me mum) though.

  12. I once turned to a guy who said, “Smile, beautiful!” and snarled, “I’m not here for your amusement.”

    He was a bit taken aback.

  13. I’m afraid ‘cheer up love’ is just a politer way of showing surprise at an overly ugly mug!!! Not everyone can be a looker – evidently by all these comments!!