Stop Telling Women To Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh



One thought on “Stop Telling Women To Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

  1. Annotation:

    You’re too pretty not to smile.

    It’s not that bad, smile!

    C’mon, show me a smile.  

    You’re so much prettier when you smile.

    The first two are taken from Fazlializadeh’s piece, the second two are things ingrained in my brain from hearing them again and again (as I have heard the first two innumerable times as well). 

    I experience the verbalization as overt: loud and unashamed of a sentiment I find shameful, but the messages are covert.
    This is what they say to me:

    You should be happy because your appearance is pleasing to me.

    Your experiences and feelings are irrelevant and invalid when compared to my desire for a particular action from you.

    Do something with your own face for me because I’m what matters.  FOR ME.

    Smile because looking nice is why matters for women and what should matter to you, therefore if I give you my unasked for opinion on how to look nice, you will do what I tell you.

    I never smile on the streets.  I’ve been told I “look scary,” “look like I would cut somebody,” “look mean” in addition to being constantly. Told. To smile.

    I don’t smile because looking like I “might cut somebody” makes me feel safer, in fact that’s exactly what I was going for.  Not smiling says, you don’t decide what happens with my face.  I do.

    The fact that this artist has begun this project and this movement does give me hope. The male gaze is personal AND institutional, and the more of her art I look at, the more I think that only by drawing direct attention to this personal level, can we truly address it.

    Furthermore, I think that this movement needs to be only the very tip of iceberg. Street harassment addresses a certain intersectionality of race, gender, and class privileges but it is no more or less appalling and silencing than the institionalized misogyny that occurs daily in the white collar offices and Ivy League classrooms around this city. Women are harassed for how they look, what they wear, what they don’t wear, the shape of their body, and on and on just as much when they get to work as when they are walking to the subway. Addressing THIS however, requires addressing often White men, of a more privileged class, with more power. Let’s not forget this.

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