Frum’s comment provoked retaliation, with many noting that Clinton seems damned no matter which direction the corners of her mouth point. But Clinton’s steady smile was not the easily dismissible, plastered-on glaze that Frum perceived. It was a projection of the genuine pleasure she took in consciously earning her victory; an indicator of the confidence she had in calmly and competently dismantling the shrill diversions of her inferior opponent.

“I don’t believe Hillary’s smiling during the debate was insincere or fraudulent,” says Dr. Michael Woodworth, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who specializes in the detection of body language cues key to identifying narcissists and psychopaths. “She genuinely appeared to be—for the most part—enjoying herself, and exuded confidence.”

Clinton’s reassuring smirk formed a relationship with her audience on the other side of millions of television screens. She projected control—a wise-cracking, inside-joking, “You and I both know this is BS, but don’t worry, I got this” attitude, while staying calm and composed. Trump may have said that she doesn’t have “the look,” but her subtle facial expressions silently convey so much more—her literal look is locked and loaded. To quote RuPaul, Hillary serves face.

And Trump? His signature facial expression is like a Cheeto taking a mirror selfie.

Last night, Clinton’s soft smiles were powerful; subtle weapons employed to silently undermine Trump as he spoke. Some believe this was a risky tactic. In a Medical Daily article published on the afternoon before the debate, Dr. Lillian Glass, a psychosocial perceptions expert who is sometimes referred to as “the first lady of communication,” noted she hoped Clinton would refrain from smiling when Trump inevitably says something that is intended to upset her. Glass backed up her assertion by saying that, when Clinton smiles, it looks “phony.”

“There is nothing to suggest the type of smile was indicative of fake disposition or intent,” Woodworth notes. “In fact, if anything, the smiling may have been exaggerated as an attempt to goad Trump into becoming aggressive or flustered, or to make him and his statements appear comical at best.  I mean really, at the end of the day, how could her smiles be ‘phony’ when [Trump’s statements] would make any opponent beam?”

Women can hope that commenters move past their preoccupation with Clinton’s smile during political appearances—and with the question of whether women should smile at all. When the Democratic nominee smiles across the podium, it is not because anyone commanded her to smile, and it is not in a bland appeal to seem “nice.” Rather, it is a lip-licking indicator that a good rebuttal is forming in her mind—and how satisfying it will be when she delivers it.

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