The Essay “Why Women Smile” by Amy Cunningham


The ability to smile is one of the essential contributors to one’s happier well-being and improved relationships with people. When a person smiles, they have the opportunity to change others’ lives in a positive manner. For many people, the process of displaying or covering emotions represents a problematic experience. People tend to smile recurrently without realizing what value various emotional expressions bring to their lives. Amy Cunningham’s essay titled “Why Women Smile” explores this particular issue and is basically an ode to why women should smile less and how smiles do not do anything good for them. This idea became one of the central drivers of Cunningham’s article because she thought that fake smiles did not contribute to anything positive. Nevertheless, Cunningham reviews her own biases in an introduction to the online version of her essay (Cunningham). The current paper is going to argue that a woman’s smile bears a positive connotation because women should smile in order to lift their spirits and maintain a closer connection to their inner selves.


In general, Cunningham’s essay intends to prove that women’s smiles are ineffective – regardless of whether genuine or fake. The author tries to make a point by mentioning how her smile made people like her only because she seemed kind and fuzzy (Cunningham). According to Cunningham, it makes no sense for a woman to smile too often because no one would ever know what happens on the inside. Thus, many women choose to fake their smiles in order to attain community approval and remain on the same page with other people (Cunningham). The author notes that general human behaviors have nothing to do with a smile because the latter only serves as an add-on and not an advantage that could get one too far in life. Cunningham also questions the need to learn hundreds of facial expressions and utilize them daily because true emotions are still hidden deep inside. Therefore, Cunningham believes that only a genuine smile that is not elicited by external factors can be considered a positive factor worth pursuing.

Smiling as a Contagious, yet Worthless Accessory

Based on the previous subsections of the current paper, it can be hypothesized that Cunningham’s intention was to prove that women should smile less often in order to acquire a better image in society. Thus, the fact that a simple smile can help any given person advance is perceived by Cunningham as a mockery because she believes that women exploit their smiles in vain. For example, she mentions how women are still not in “full legal control of their bodies” and emotions even after years of trying to gain control over their rights (Cunningham). She keeps in mind that women remain restrained by their societal images. Hence, they do not have to smile because it does not bring any fairly acquired benefits. Another idea that the author shares with the audience is that a smiling woman is a “peculiarly American archetype” (Cunningham). This means that the societal image inherently directs how women are perceived by their communities, regardless of whether they smile or not. The ultimate argument made by the author is that “girls smile more than boys from the very beginning” because of cultural differences (Cunningham). It is a problem because an unnecessary smile is an inappropriate outlook on any given woman. Considering this information, it can be stated that Cunningham believes that the majority of smiles are useless and should not be exploited by females.

Smiling Does not Make You Attractive

Even though smiling can be seen as a mere accessory, it does not have anything to do with the general concept of attractiveness and how the latter can be applied to real-life situations. For example, smiling only seems to make a person closer to being perceived as a fuzzy individual that cannot be trusted because of smiling so much, often for no reason at all. The first argument that the author makes is that smiles are “involuntary reflexes” of the human body to comfort and pleasure (Cunningham). It means that the inherent reason for a person to smile is to display inner harmony instead of externalizing it for others to see. The author describes a genuine smile as an intuitive reaction and argues that women should not smile unless they feel the connection to “contentment or comfort” (Cunningham). Therefore, the key problem that the author sees with women smiling is that joy and amusement do not always precede one’s facial expressions. The next reason why a smile does not make a woman attractive is that people tend to smile because they choose to “hide their pains or sorrows” from others (Cunningham). Thus, a smile on a person’s face is going to be too forceful to be considered genuine, and it will be essentially easy to distinguish it from a genuine, attractive smile. Cunningham founds her ideas on the fact that only a genuine smile can drive actual change. Yet, she does not hold an objective outlook on why a fake smile hinders one’s attractiveness because Paul Ekman’s research discussed in the prolog to the article proves her wrong.

Smiling Because of Happiness

With the negative connotations of a smile delivered by Cunningham in her essay, it can be important to find evidence that might be utilized to refute her arguments. The idea is that some women can smile genuinely merely because they are happy and have the willingness to share their attitude with the world. For example, Cunningham claims that the notion of a happy woman should be “visibly demonstrated.” This is a direct hint at the fact that there can be women who would smile no matter what in order to spread positivity. Cunningham also dwells on how “social laws that govern” women’s smiles have changed over the past years, suggesting that women are to be significantly more responsive and animated. This is a positive change that cannot be perceived as a downside to a woman smiling. Cunningham also dwells on the so-called “smile burden” and claims that women should not smile if they struggle. Nevertheless, it is only another way to prove that women should smile more often in order to generate a positive attitude and charge everyone around them with optimism. Thus, it makes sense for women to smile often because it is going to boost their confidence, protect them from external threats, and instill positivity in others.


Cunningham completed her essay in an attempt to prove that only a genuine smile can precede real change in behaviors, attitudes, and relationships. Nevertheless, the current paper proves that a woman’s smile bears a positive connotation regardless of whether it is genuine or forced since women can lift their spirits and maintain a closer connection to their inner selves. The willingness to perceive a smile as an accessory is an outdated perspective that should no longer be applied to contemporary women. The same also applies to the concept of attractiveness, as women do not exploit their visual allure too often, especially in the modern world, where a smile has become a valuable attribute for all people. Unknowingly, Cunningham reinforced the idea that women should smile more often in order to create a positive environment and become a source of real change, even with a fake smile. The ultimate idea for women should be to choose whether to smile or not, depending on how they feel about it and not how society wants them to be.

Work Cited

Cunningham, Amy. “Why Women Smile.” Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 19). The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 19). The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham.

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"The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham." PsychologyWriting, 19 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham'. 19 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham." September 19, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham." September 19, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "The Essay "Why Women Smile" by Amy Cunningham." September 19, 2023.