Men telling women what to do — Stop it!

The Bold Italic's article on artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's series of posters

The Bold Italic’s article on artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s series of posters

What a brilliant ad campaign: “Stop Telling Women to Smile!”

At the Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, California through April 19th, the exhibit at the end of February included workshops and discussions on ending street harrassment for women. March and April features new artwork by and about local Oakland women.

If you are not a woman or have never had some random, strange man tell you to smile, you just won’t understand why this could be even remotely important to women. Well, I think most of us are just plain tired of men telling us what to do. Really, we are.

The Bold Italic’s article features three of Fazlalizadeh’s posters that compliment the theme aimed at stopping street harrassment, telling men to leave women alone: “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” “My Outfit is Not an Invitation,” and “Women are Not Outside for Your Entertainment.” Brilliant, all three.

In my 53 years I have had men touch me inappropriately, invite me to sit on their laps, want to keep me (as in mistress), expose their genitals to me in public, received many, many sexually inappropriately compliments, been hit, shoved, told I should wear my hair short, should wear my hair long, dress differently, get a job, not work, not to smoke cigars, not to drink, that I should drink more, that I speak too loudly, that I should speak up, and so much more. Oh, so much more. And then there are the oh so many times I have been told to smile by men. Never by a woman. Just men.

I had never really considered the implications of that seemingly innocent request before now. I know that it really irritates me when a man says that to me. I know that, depending on my mood, I might smile (like a good girl) or give him a scowl that makes his testicles shrivel up. It could go either way.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us consider how and when, as women who have the right to self-determination, we want to smile. When we damn well feel like it!


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