This Week In Women: Men Want Lily-Rose Depp and Harriet Tubman to Smile
In our experience, there are two types of catcallers: the ones who outright sexually harass you, and the seemingly more benign ones who say things like, “Smile, gorgeous,” as they pass by. What this second type doesn’t realize is that, despite their best intentions, telling a woman who’s going about her day to smile, honey isn’t a nice thing to do. It’s weird, it’s invasive—and we’re guessing they don’t afford men this same presumptuous request.
There could be plenty of reasons why a woman isn’t grinning ear-to-ear while walking down the street: she’s in a rush, her dog died, she’s having a bad day, or maybe she’s having a great day and simply doesn’t feel like smiling at you. Telling women to smile is, essentially, telling them to behave and present themselves in a way that’s more palatable to you, regardless of what they actually want. This week in women: tons of ladies who are sick of being told to smile.
Lily-Rose Depp at the Met Gala
This Monday, Lily-Rose Depp attended her first ever Met Gala. It came as no surprise that the 16-year-old actress, who is also one of the faces of Chanel, looked great. But there was, apparently, a problem: she wasn’t smiling in the pictures she posted on her Instagram. Did she not enjoy the Gala? Was she unhappy? What was the problem?! People flooded her comments with things like “She always looks so disappointed” and “Smile. So pretty but looks always sad.” Depp responded to her Instagram trolls by posting yet another Insta pic of her on the red carpet, sans smile. The caption reads, “y’all said She’d look good if she were smiling,” followed by four apt laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emojis. So young, yet so sharp.
“Smile!” by Feminist Artists
On March 15th, after Hillary Clinton won the primary elections in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, political commentator Joe Scarborough condescendingly tweeted, “Smile. You just had a big night.” Many called Scarborough out on his misogynistic tweet, but Manhattan-based artist and curator Jenny Mushkin Goldman may have had the best response of all: she organized an art show called “Smile!” which features work by six feminist artists, including sex-positive video artist Rebecca Goyette and painter Betty Tompkins, who created a series of “Word Paintings.”
“What’s underneath the statement [of telling women to smile] is the idea a woman exists to perform, to entertain—for a man,” Mushkin Goldman told The Huffington Post. “Yeah, I’ll smile. But buddy, this is not for you. I smile because I want to smile, because I’m happy with myself.”
You can catch “Smile!” at Shin Gallery, until June 5th.
The Secretary of the Treasury recently announced that Harriet Tubman would be taking Andrew Jackson’s place on the $20 bill. Unsurprisingly, the response was overwhelmingly positive: Tubman will be the first black American to appear on paper currency, and the first woman to appear on any form of U.S. currency in more than a century. Tubman was both a former slave and an abolitionist—the fact that her face would be replacing Andrew Jackson’s, a slaveowner, is incredibly symbolically important.
As progressive as it is to have a woman grace U.S. currency, many were quick to remind us that American women still make less money than their male counterparts. Overall, women of all races and ethnicities earn 78 percent of what white men earn, and women of color earn even less. But the gendered and racialised pay gap isn’t what people had a problem with. Instead, they were concerned about the fact that Tubman isn’t smiling in her portrait. Really.
— Courtney (CJ) Sinner (@cjsinner) April 20, 2016
Women don’t have to smile for you, period. But expecting a 19th century historical figure who experienced slavery, loss, and constant persecution to smile is ridiculous. Besides, Tubman lived in a time when no one smiled in pictures! Whoever has the gall to complain about this should, at the very least, also be asking why Alexander Hamilton or George Washington aren’t smiling on their respective bills either.
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women.
Images via the Huffington Post, Comedy Central, and AFP/Getty Images.