“I ain’t yo’ babygirl”

“Stop telling women to smile.”

Poster from the movement
Poster from the movement

The first time I saw this poster floating around Tumblr, it really struck a chord with me. As a young women who has worked both of her part-time jobs in food service, happiness is in my job description. Countless managers have told me to smile more, which I oblige, After all, you don’t get your regulars to come back if you look like you hate your job (for the record, I didn’t – I was usually tired or hungry).

Random men on the street telling me to smile because it makes me prettier: that’s where I draw the line.

I shouldn’t have to smile all the time. I’m not always in a good mood. I have bad days, stressful phone calls, fights with my friends. I don’t smile as I type four-page literary analysis papers in French. I don’t smile when I’m running late for a meeting.

Many of the people who tell women to smile are strangers. Men on the street who believe that I am more pleasing when I am smiling and showing off my two years of orthodontia. That’s not for them to decide. My happiness is my own choice.

Another poster project against street harassment
Another poster project against street harassment

This blog post by Damon Young on Ebony.com brings up a really wonderful point from the male perspective.

After hearing Nicki tell me the details of her awful week, watching her take a phone call that somehow made things even worse, and seeing her wait for a bus, clearly upset, it angered me knowing there was a good chance some guy would notice this beautiful woman—depressed for various reasons—and politely (but insistently) demand that she put a smile on her face. Despite the fact that he’d had absolutely no idea why she was down—for all he knew, she could have just found out a family member died (which she did, btw)—he might even pepper his request with an annoyingly familiar “Come on, sis. Things can’t be that bad.” Basically, since they obviously can’t or don’t experience the range of emotions that any other human (well, any other man) can and do experience, they should be able to smile on demand.

The movement functions out of several websites. The Tumblr account posts many other installments of the project protesting street art. All art is produced by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. There are also shirts available for purchasing from BigCartel.

Artist Fazlalizadeh wearing one of the shirts from the project.
Artist Fazlalizadeh wearing one of the shirts from the project.

Fazlalizadeh speaks about her inspiration for the projects in an interview with a organization called Stop Street Harassment:

The project was inspired by my daily experiences with street harassment. Being harassed on the street is exasperating. I’ve wanted to do some art work on the issue for a while now, but I couldn’t figure out how to properly communicate what I wanted to say in my primary artistic medium – oil paint on canvas. Over the past year or so I’ve started working in public art as a muralist. Thinking about  creating art in a public space led me to this idea of wheat pasting posters. Because what better medium to create art about street harassment than street art.

There are few things I love more than women speaking out against womens’ issues in a constructive and creative way. If it happens to involve street art, I won’t be mad either.

 

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