Living in a city, most women expect to be harassed at some point or another. ‘Hey, baby, what’s your number?’ ‘You’re so pretty when you smile’ – but artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh wants men to ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile.’ Her public art project took Fazlalizadeh from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, wheatpasting posters of stern looking women with messages of defiance, to start a conversation about the public harassment of women.
Fazlalizadeh is now turning to Kickstarter to raise the funds to take her art project to other cities across the US and film a documentary about it. With still 20 days to go, she has exceeded her goal by more than a third. The posters depict charcoal portraits of women, with slogans such as “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” “Women Do Not Owe You Their Time Or Conversation,” “Women Are Not Outside for Your Entertainment,” “My Outfit Is Not an Invitation,” and “My Name Is Not Baby, Shorty, Sexy, Sweetie, Honey, Pretty, Boo, Sweetheart, Ma.”
The white space surrounding the portrait has become a place of discussion for passersbys. Fazlalizadeh tells Fast Co.Design.
A man came by and wrote his response in the white space of a poster. He disagreed with what the work said and explained why. A few days later, a woman wrote on the poster in defense of the work. And then someone else responded, and someone else. After a few weeks, the poster was covered in different handwriting. It was sort of like a comments section. To see a dialogue like that happen in the environment, on the actual work, was pretty fascinating.
The entire project stems from the artist’s own experience with catcalling and being told to smile, and she turned to her friends for portraits and their stories. Fazlalizadeh’s focus on gender-based harassment of women in a public space is a larger commentary on how people view women in general, as objects rather than beings with their own feeling and rights. Fazlalizadeh wants to encourage women to have a voice, she tells the Daily Beast:
Many people feel entitled to women’s emotions or expressions, particularly in the public space. Men often tell a woman to smile or initiate a conversation with a woman without her wanting to respond. She doesn’t owe you anything; she can move around the world however she wants to without having to feel like she has some responsibility to give something to someone else, to a stranger.