Sometimes being told to smile from some stranger on your block makes you want to go postal. Enter Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and her one-woman crusade against street harassment called "Stop Telling Women To Smile," which has gone from New York to Atlanta and beyond.
“This is all about how women’s bodies are consumed and are considered public property for display, comment and consumption,” said Ms. Fazlalizadeh, a soft-spoken, direct and contained 28-year-old from Oklahoma. “Women need to start talking about their daily moments because it’s the smaller stuff that affects the larger things, like rape, domestic violence, harassment in the workplace.”
Since beginning about 18 months ago, Fazlalizadeh tells the New York Times she has interviewed and painted 15 women’s faces to convey and spread the message that unwanted advances on the street or otherwise aren’t acceptable. She then takes their portraits, adds a line from their interview below their face and pastes the final product on an outside wall. It's like helpful graffiti.
She has heard all manner of stories, ranging from come-on call outs of "hey baby" to a woman in Los Angeles whose friend was shot for not giving a man her phone number. She has found some broad regional differences: Female drivers in car-centered cities like Los Angeles are often approached by men also in their cars. Women in New York tend to face street harassment.
Georgia State University invited Fazlalizadeh, who began her visual art campaign in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, to paste her drawings as posters on Atlanta's city streets. The posters boast lines like "I am not here for you" accompanied by a woman's straight face. Sometimes, people need a reminder and with spring on the way, it couldn't come at a better time. And to be clear, polite compliments are fine (to a point), but comments on what my face should be doing because some strange man wants to start a conversation are not.
Image via Stop Telling Women To Smile.