Whether you’re a man, woman or genderqueer, you have more than likely experienced or witnessed some form of street harassment. May it be a drunken cat call, a sly whistle or out right name calling, harassment is rampant in
our every society.
As a woman, I’ve experienced first hand the humiliation and frustration that results in dealing with annoying catcalls and unwanted sexual advances. Having traveled the Middle East extensively I’m always astounded when an American friend brazenly asks how I can deal with being a woman over “there”. News flash: gender based street harassment in Cairo and Marakesh is just as common place as it is in New York or Los Angeles. I’ve gotten the same corny unwelcome pick up lines in both Arabic and English. What some people fail to recognize is that it’s not a regional problem, but rather a universal one.
Unfortunately street harassment is so prevalent that it’s often brushed under the rug and condoned as acceptable behavior. How many times have we heard the old mantra boys will be boys? Our culture has normalized street harassment in such a way that it has become engrained in our psyche to tolerate it. Luckily, Brooklynite Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has set out to change all of that.
Stop Telling Women To Smile is a street art project created by Fazlalizadeh as a way to not only shed light on the issue of harassment but also to give a voice to the countless women who are victims of gender based public harassment on a daily basis.
Fazlalizadeh began her project in the fall of 2012, by interviewing every day women about their experiences with street harassment, drawing their portraits and publicizing their messages on the streets of Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
STWTS is more than posters with intriguing quotes; it is an outlet for women to be heard in areas where they are otherwise often silenced.
What started as a small scale undertaking quickly gained national attention and a strong grass roots following. Now, after having had a very successful run on Kickstarter, where Fazlalizadeh and her supporters were able to raise over $34,000, the plan is to expand Stop Telling Women to Smile into a ubiquitous campaign and spread the word and art by wheat pasting city specific posters across the country and eventually around the world.
On the STWTS Kickstarter, Fazlalizadeh explains: “I now want to travel to create new work on this topic in different cities across the country. Doing this will allow me to learn about the ways street harassment is acted out and reacted to around the country. What happens in Bed-Stuy will differ from what happens in Oakland, or Kansas City. It’s important for me to learn about these differences and create work that will resonate better within a particular community.”
To show support to the STWTS movement, visit: http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/Get-Involved