Normal History Vol. 764: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 40-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I’m pretty sure David thought I’d use this illo for another song, but as I made decisions for which illos to pair with which songs for this month’s columns, I noticed that it was an example of twisting generational empathy.

Street harassment of women is no secret. It’s a rudimentary element of patriarchal oppression that, I believe, has endured through decades because it’s so basic. At 64, it’s been a long time since a guy yelled, “Smile, baby,” at me from a construction site. They prefer to target younger women, knowing that older women will likely say something back or take the incident up with their employer, etc. Young women are, unfortunately, in the throes of navigating a ton of non-stop bullshit related to how they do or don’t look.  And I’m sure some do yell back in the moment, which can be scary, humiliating, intimidating and dehumanizing. Which is, of course, its very purpose.

Back to David’s illo. The strange thing about being older is that images like this allow me to be in both positions. The younger woman being comforted and the older woman, who is protective and somewhat angry.

“Smile Baby” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1988) (download):