“Hey beautiful, come on, smile.”
“Aww baby, smile, it can’t be that bad.”
I don’t know you. I’m not your baby. And yes, homey, it is that bad! I can’t tell you how often I have to deal with some man telling me to smile. Seriously Chanel Iman is asked to smile less and she’s in the business of smiling. It’s not cool. It’s not friendly banter (you’d need to be my friend for that) and it’s not a compliment. It’s harassment. Yes, sexual harassment. I know men think they are being Dr. Phil by helping us to be happy, but no. It’s annoying and we didn’t ask for your advice and maybe we just don’t want to smile, surely not for some stranger on the street that’s ogling us and hold up, here it comes, is also asking if we’re single or if he can take us out. Damn, if you were just trying to cheer us up, then how come I feel so disgusted? If you were trying to rid the world, or at least this block that I walk down every day, of grimaces, sneers and scowls, then why the hell aren’t you asking any of the stone-faced brothers walking by to put a smile on their faces? And if this is just your attempt at spreading joy, than why do you also need my phone number once I do oblige you with that smile? Oh, you’re making house calls too? Yea, right and you need to stop. One minute it’s never trust a big butt and a smile, the next, it’s gimme a smile. Seriously, just stop it.
When men ask us to give them a smile, they are taking it upon themselves to tell us grrrls how to fix our faces… for their pleasure. I may have just worked 10 hours, have a splitting headache and sore feet, but you want me to smile. Shoot, maybe my granny just died, but you’re standing there and my sad face isn’t fulfilling some expectation you have of me? And life may actually be grand and I just don’t feel like smiling. The entitlement exercised by these men comes in many forms and this is just another reminder of how something that may sound harmless, and what some men (and some women) feel is a compliment, is really uncomfortable for those beset by such requests. It’s another attempt by men to control a woman’s body, right down to her facial expression. Thing is, when you know yourself and love yourself, you get off being fly for yourself. Nails done and hair did just for our own enjoyment. We know we look good in our tight jeans. No need to holler at us, we’re good. Actually, we’re great!
Although you would never know it, Nicki Minaj’s new unofficial single “Lookin Ass Ni**a” touches on this subject in a controversial and provocative way. Sadly, folk ain’t even trying to hear Nicki though. After ignorantly using an iconic image of Malcolm X for her unofficial cover art, understandably, no one wants to even hear the song. This is quite unfortunate as this may be one of Nicki’s best rhymes she’s had in like… ever. She raps:
Look at y’all lyin’ ass ni**as
Talkin’ ’bout “It’s paid off” but it’s financed, lyin’ ass ni**a
Bunch of non-mogul ass ni**as
Frontin’ like they got a plan, Boost Mobile ass ni**a
This immediately took me right back to TLC’s Scrubs when they say:
But a scrub is checkin’ me
But his game is kinda weak
And I know that he cannot approach me
Cuz I’m lookin’ like class and he’s lookin’ like trash
Can’t get wit’ no deadbeat ass
Ain’t nobody trying to hear Nicki though and she’s really calling out the buffoonery and sexist clowning that girls and women go through on the regular. But oh yeah, never trust a big butt and a smile is still our groupthink. And definitely don’t trust a big bootied gyal if she’s been notoriously blasting women in the past as “stupid hoes” and calling men “ni**as.” Pot calling the kettle or a hoe that knows? Remember when T-Boz said, “A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me/ Hanging out the passenger side/ Of his best friend’s ride/ Trying to holler at me” and we were there for ALL of it! Ms. Minaj says, “I don’t want sex/ give a f*ck about your ex/ I don’t even want a text from y’all ni**as,” and we want her banned from ALL media.
Y’all know I’m not a Nicki fan aka Barb, but I have to recognize when the spit is hot and the flow, albeit murky, is leaning towards something feminist and free. I’m tired of being told to smile for negroes on the street, negroes on the train, and non-dryer sheet using negroes in the Laundromat. Like Lauryn, Nicki is just sayin it in a way so you ignant ni**as can hear her. Still don’t get it? Well check out this “Lookin Ass Mash-up” video by Pierre Bennu. Using “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat” the washer girl becomes Nicki Minaj and the “scrubs” are lazy sambos. Pierre flips the switch and Cuinsinarts these stereotypes, with sexism, and Black pleasure into a majestic telling of who we are and how we’ve been who we are for far too damn long to just be niggas.
** I’m so excited to hear that Tatyana Fazlalizadeh will be talking about her Stop Telling Women to Smile project this Saturday at Brooklyn Museum. Her work is provocative and emboldening and I can’t wait to hear her words. Hope to see you there too. **