Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Media Moment 2: Stop Telling Women to Smile (Art Series)

As a woman, have you ever been told to "smile" by a random man on the street, in the workplace, or at school? Why is there a schema associating women with having to be light, perky, and bubbly at all hours of the day? Are we not entitled to basic human emotions that aren't exclusively happy?

Stop Telling Women To Smile is a street art series for the public. "The work attempts to address gender based street harassment by placing drawn portraits of women, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces," describes the artist and creator, Tatyana Fazlailzadeh. (via "about")
Tatyana works to bring attention to the street harassment women face. As a young woman myself in our urban environment, harassment is worrying enough when going home alone late at night on public transit. To be told to "smile" by a man has no context. Do we have to always be a pleasing object of beauty and entertainment to males?; Always feminine, never a frown to be seen? Society needs to stop condoning men's offensive behavior, and this is a powerful installation giving women a voice against street harassment.


  1. I think that part of society's idea of being feminine is being sweet, kind, and nurturing and when we think of those images we see smiling faces. This reminded me of the "maleness" of anger. It is acceptable in society for women to show submissive emotions, but men are more constrained in the emotions they are allowed to show. The only emotion that is acceptable for men to show is anger because he can exert his dominance in society. Women should be able to express how they are feeling, especially anger when it comes to street harassment.

  2. The reason why I feel that this is a particularly important installation is because most men would not interpret telling someone to "smile" as an insult or harassment. From the surface it is very innocent and may even seem polite. The problem is that we are not in your shoes. There is blatant harassment that can come in the form of catcalling, but telling someone to smile is offensive in a deeper societal context, and quoting yourself it is a "schema associating women with having to be light, perky, and bubbly at all hours of the day". While the installation addresses street harassment as a whole, I think it was a great choice to name it "Stop telling women to smile" because it brings to the surface that even one of the most common and seemingly harmless (from a man's point of view) interaction reinforces an ideology of how women should be.