Street artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is over being told to smile by men on the street. “It comes in different forms,” she says. " ‘Smile for me’ ‘You’re too pretty not smile.’ ‘Smile. It can’t be that bad.’ And each time I perceive it as a man feeling entitled to tell a strange woman how she should present herself in public in the form of a lame come on.”
Researchers estimate that at least 80% of women around the world experience street harassment at some point in their lives, which includes everything from the type of comments Fazlalizadeh describes to groping, flashing, or assault.
But Fazlalizadeh isn’t just pissed about the prevalence of street harassment: she’s trying to take action. Around Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C., she’s pasted more than 30 posters of portraits of friends, colleagues, and herself, with messages like “My name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie."
“I’ve put them in places where I’ve personally been harassed, and where I know street harassment is prevalent--which, honestly is everywhere,” she adds. “So, I’ve placed them on mailboxes in downtown business areas, on abandoned buildings in residential areas, on spare walls in tourist areas. Anywhere I can.”
The street art is more than just a message of solidarity with women who have endured street harassment. Fazlalizadeh hopes her work reaches “the people who can stop street harassment”: namely, “the men who commit it. And to them I say, leave us alone […] Do not grasp us by the wrist, we aren’t your property. Do not whistle at us, we are not dogs. You are not entitled to a smile, or a conversation, or our time, because women do not owe you anything simply because they are women, and you are a man.”
Check out Fazlializadeh’s documentation of the project "Stop Telling Women to Smile" on her blog.