If you haven’t already heard of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, she’s the woman behind “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” the public art project that’s tackling gender-based street harassment in a big way. Through stunning wheat paste portraits and powerful statements like “My outfit is not an invitation” or “Women are not outside for your entertainment,” Fazlalizadeh fearlessly responds to the unsolicited act of cat calling with street art you can’t ignore.
“Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide,” Fazlalizadeh writes on her website. “This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street — creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
Since starting the initiative in Brooklyn back in 2012, Fazlalizadeh has taken her inspiring portrait series — featuring the faces of real women who’ve encountered street harassment — to Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore and Atlanta. She’s launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the expansion of STWTS, exhibited the works in a gallery setting, andbeen profiled in The New York Times. It’s safe to say the works are provoking a real dialogue concerning the treatment and perception of women in public spaces.
“As the work gained attention, I realized how many different types of people can relate to this and have stories to tell. I’ve had conversations with men at STWTS related events who wanted to talk about their experiences with street harassment,” Fazlalizadeh recounted in a previous interview with HuffPost. “There are always those who want to tell women that their experiences are not valid or not important whenever they speak up. For me, as a black woman, this is particularly true. Wanting the basic right of feeling comfortable and safe and not sexualized as I walk out of my house is very much worth prioritizing.”
We had a sneaking suspicion that STWTS would only continue to garner attention, so we checked in with Fazlalizadeh to see where the project is headed. The New York-based artist responded with a brand new video detailing the genesis of the art series, the behind-the-scenes efforts and the participants who bravely lent their faces and voices to the works. Watch the clip below, and then check out more examples from the compelling street art initiative.