Getting hollered at on the street in a sexual or demeaning manner is, unfortunately, commonplace for women across the country and world. But how does the experience of street harassment vary from city to city? Poster artist and anti-harassment activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is taking to the street to find out on a nationwide tour, assuming she lands funding on Kickstarter first.
The last time we caught up with Fazlalizadeh, she had put up about 30 posters around Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and her home base of Brooklyn, as part of her series "Stop Telling Women to Smile." Her posters feature portraits of different women, including herself and friends, with messages like "My Name is Not Baby," aimed at reminding men that their objectifying remarks on the street are not cool.
Based on the global attention she received for her work, Fazlalizadeh decided to branch out beyond the Northeast to interview women around the country about their unique experiences coping with street harassment. In the process, she'll make their portraits, superimposed with text from the interview, to create a new series of works that incorporate a richer, more diverse set of female experiences than what Fazlalizadeh could find just in her own, localized networks. Then, she'll put those posters up in places where women are likely to get harassed.
"What I experience in Brooklyn might be different from what someone experiences in Oakland or Kansas City," Fazlalizadeh says. "New York is a very pedestrian city; everyone walks everywhere. If you live in Los Angeles where people drive, you may still experience street harassment, but it's different because of the car culture."
Other differences in harassment experiences have less to do with the built environment and more do to with age, sexual orientation, or race and ethnicity. "If you're a queer woman or if you're a Hispanic woman, what you experience or hear outside on the street might be different form someone like me," she explains. (Fazlalizadeh is an Iranian-American in her late 20s.).
She's interested in mining "what the slang is in specific cities or regions." She says that In Oklahoma City, where she grew up, "I never got called 'mami,' but I get called that here. What would I get called in Oklahoma City? What are they experiencing there?"
In addition to Los Angeles, Fazlalizadeh is considering trips to Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and elsewhere. To find women who have endured street harassment, she's collaborating with the leaders of Hollaback—the anti-harassment advocates known for their crowdsourced, incident-reporting app—who are connecting her with local chapters across the country.
She's hoping to venture out as soon as the Kickstarter gets funded in October.