Policing of women's facial expressions goes on, including by women. Hillary Clinton has been chided by reporters for "not smiling enough" when discussing serious things, and now comes a woman complaining that she smiled too much at the town-hall debate. This article in the NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/clinton-trump-second-debate-election-2016, by Judith Shulevitz (first part, titled as above) really ticked me off. (Warning: this is about politics and sexism. There are other places to read if you're tired of either.)
Ms Shulevitz suggests that Clinton's performance on the town-hall debate was bad because she smiled too much--she even appeared amused at times, while Trump was playing the glowering, bullying thug and threatening her with arrest and imprisonment if he was elected. Ms Shulevitz felt it was wrong, in the presence of so much menace, to smile. She said that Clinton "needs to show us that she understands the gravity of the situation. She needs to help us bear our anxiety."
I'm sorry, Ms Shulevitz, but that's wrong. If you think one must not smile or laugh in the presence of danger, on the brink of the abyss, when confronted with the monster, you do not know much about the nature of courage, of high character. Clinton was not unaware of the gravity of the situation, of the threats Trump made both to her and to the integrity of our form of government. But--as a person of great courage and competence, she reacted with uncowed spirit appropriate to the threats he made. I wish you had been following the commentary on social media, especially Twitter, where hundreds of other women (in my tweet stream alone) expressed admiration, expressed both their understanding of the threats and their appreciation of Clinton's courage, coolness, self-possession, and yes--ability to smile, even laugh at times. They expressed their gratitude for her ability, and that it did help them bear their anxiety. I wish those women had had the chance to write a piece for the NYT. You might have read their essays and learned something. Smiling at the enemy, laughing in the face of danger, does not discount or ignore the danger--it is an expression of undaunted courage and determination, common to men and women.
Meanwhile, in the next section of the same article, there's Susan Chira announcing that Clinton looked "stony-faced" while Trump was throwing out his various threats. (Where Shulevitz and Chira watching the same person? Or, if you gave them still photos of hte same moment, would one say "Oh, but she's smiling too much" while the other one said 'No, she's stony-faced." It would be interesting to know if either woman has seen a video of herself in a difficult situation where etiquette demands staying put and not losing her temper or bursting into tears. I strongly suspect not. I wonder what they thought of the videos from the endless Benghazi hearings (the last clearly nothing more than an attempt to discredit the other party's candidate.) But I don't care what they thought: I care that all each of them saw was a facial expression they could comment on.
And in general it infuriates me that even women continually police other women's expressions, clothes, hair, as if they were each the ultimate arbiter of appropriateness. No, women, you are not. I am not. Nobody is. If you must police hair, eyes, mouth, nose, hands, feet, choice of clothes on other people, spend that time and energy on men for a change. Are their eyes too big or too small? Do you like their manicure? Do they smile enough? Too much? Inappropriately? Is their voice strident, too loud, too soft, too accented? Should their beard be different shape (or not exist?) Suggest that male candidates should restyle their hair, lose 20 pounds, change their shoe style, wear cuffed (or uncuffed) pants, a suit of a different color, and so on. Give all other women in the world a rest for at least 90 days. Because the men will go right on policing women, and it's just too much gravy for you to be pecking at the same target, and too much grief for other women to take it from men and women both. And in the meantime, have yourself videotaped while you give a speech, or have a debate, or stand up to comment in a school board or city council meeting. Notice how much you like being told to smile, or not smile, or whatever.
Finally, I--and a lot of other people--thought Clinton's ability to remain calm, cool, controlled, and yet appear relaxed and confident was a big factor in her success. She didn't glower, make faces, furrow her brow, nor was she showing a silly grin all the time--she smiled when she should have, and didn't when she shouldn't have, in both cases showing her mastery (and yes, that's a masculine noun) of the situation.
(Oh, and it would've been nice if Ms Chula had mentioned that those "facts" Trump had collected, and that she was impressed by--over 80 of them weren't facts at all. They were non-facts at best, lies at worst.)