We Really Don’t Have to Smile

We are living nearly 100 years after women were granted the right to vote, but there still seems to be little sex equality. To the most socially unaware, walking down the street indicates that women are dying to be examined like garments of clothing at a high end boutique. Too fat, too skinny, too this, too that. When she hits the sweet spot for someone, oh boy they must not hold their tongue. It is perfectly appropriate to scream out of car windows or stop a woman in her tracks to tell her she is beautiful, sexy or a super smokin’ hot piece of ass. Instead, it is also warranted to let a girl know she is extremely ugly or shout something negative about her body because her actions were not centered around their convenience. If she dares to dislike these comments, and even goes as far to tell them this, there are three viable options. The first is to tell her she is really sexy when she’s mad, and remind her that feisty girls are a turn on. Additionally, mending a wounded ego can easily be accomplished by insulting her. If they feel so compelled, they may also offer her advice for how to react better to the next man. A great starter is “you know you’re prettier when you smile instead of act like a bitch!” Women should remember that harassment must be met with warm and welcoming arms.

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DNAInfo, Artwork: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

We are left to wonder if people like these are simply ungrounded and uneducated. Perhaps they sincerely do not understand that their opinion on someone’s sexuality is neither wanted nor important. For those people, here’s a news flash: Women are not on this earth to satisfy men. On the other hand, it is also appropriate to wonder if their intentions are much darker than that. This exception lies mostly in times of impending danger. When a man disrespects a ‘no’ or continues to advance closer, there is a distinct surge of terror that takes over her heart. It beats like a wild bird hurling its body against the cage, desperately trying to break free. “You’re trained for this,” she thinks. Women are taught at a young age how to deal with these types of situations, because it is inevitable that the time will come. For eighteenth birthdays it is not uncommon to receive pepper spray as a gift because, you know, just in case. Repeatedly they are told to be aware of their surroundings and not put themselves in danger. Spreading the idea that these encounters are caused by something women are doing wrong places blame on the victims instead of on the perpetrators. Is society really more comfortable with teaching women how to protect themselves instead of teaching men how to be respectful? This is part of the reason self-doubt and yearning to please is instilled in young girls. If a man does not protect you, the alternate is for them to hurt you.

The character in Clowes’ Ghost Story is a great example of an interaction with a man she clearly does not want to be talking to. She tells her friend, “He talked to me for like two hours. He’s a total nut! He kept talking about himself” and describes him as a “grisly old con man”. Despite this, she entertains him for the two uninteresting and uncomfortable hours that he wants to talk. He even goes as far as to ask her exact birth date. She gives him this incredibly specific information, forsaking being comfortable in lieu of upsetting the strange character.

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Daniel Clowes, Ghost World

I can, unfortunately, imagine why she responds this way. Many of my friends tell me similar stories every day. I catch myself in parallel situations each week like it’s a customary part of my existence. The goal is simply to get out of the situation unscathed, attempting to not “upset the beast.” Regularly that means disregarding your mental health, because let’s face it; no one wants to talk to someone who is asking too many questions while shamelessly staring at your boobs. Yet if you don’t oblige, the result could be much scarier.

Another set of powerful comics by Sarah Becan exemplifies how objectifying women can destroy a woman’s mind and feelings of security. I really appreciate the way she illustrates and incorporates self doubt in her comics. By creating a recurring “smoky head monster,” she offers personification to the self-deprecation we all experience. In many instances, it works beautifully to show how quickly an outside interference can bring all of that negativity rushing back. In one of her comics, the character is ruminating about Facebook photos that make her feel insecure. After she reassures herself that her body is not an object to be judged, a man honks at her and shouts “get off the road you fuckin’ fat ass!” Almost immediately that dark little monster crawls back around her shoulders.

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Sarah Becan, I Think You’re Sauceome

In another comic, she talks about the social pressures heavily placed on women. She addresses the dark ghost after it harasses her about being “pretty” while applying makeup, saying,

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Sarah Becan, I Think You’re Sauceome

Those words are my very sentiments. It is not fair to the people who identify as female to live in a constant state of fear, gripping our pepper spray as we run to our cars in dark parking lots, wishing we had eyes in the back of our head. Our bodies are not products. We are not for sale and we are not created as objects vying for approving judgment. My existence is worth just as much as every other human being on this earth. If my sex and the way I dress doesn’t convey that, I suggest that you take a closer look at yourself instead. (Bella Crum/CoS Student)

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