Brooklyn Artist Combats Street Harassment With Art

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tatyana fazlalizadeh stop telling women to smilePortrait artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh was tired of the catcalling she witnessed constantly.

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So rather than sit back and accept street harassment as a daily way of life, the Brooklyn, N.Y., resident created a street art project called, “Stop Telling Women To Smile” or (STWTS). The collection features portraits of women who have experienced street harassment. The images are then turned into posters, plastered on outside walls with captions speaking to any creepers. Some posters can be seen in Bedford-Stuyvesant  Brooklyn.

One caption reads, “My name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo, sweetheart, ma.” Fazlalizadeh claims she started the project because of her own experiences with catcalling.

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“I started this project as a way to explore social activism through public art. I wanted to express myself and address the type of harassment that I was personally experiencing in Philadelphia and Brooklyn,” she wrote. “As a portrait artist I wanted to use the images of women, personal friends and colleagues of mine, to humanize women in the public spaces, giving faces and voices to the bodies that are sexualized on the street.”

According to a KickStarter page she started for the project, Fazlalizadeh’s process for creating the portraits begins with her sitting down with a woman who’s been harassed. After the woman shares her experience, Fazlalizadeh then draws the portrait and designs a poster with text inspired from the woman’s story.

But now, Fazlalizadeh needs funding to allow her to travel to other cities and expand the project, hence the KickStarter, which she started Sept. 3rd:

I now want to travel to create new work on this topic in different cities across the country. Following the same process, I’ll meet and talk with women who live in different regions, cities, and neighborhoods across the country about their experiences with street harassment. I’ll photograph them, draw their portraits, and use those portraits in new posters that I’ll install in the woman’s own city. 

She also wants to see how street harassment plays out 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. What do women who live in cities where public transportation is mostly used experience as opposed to women who live in cities where everyone drives? 

Fazlalizadeh plans on taking STWTS to 6-8 other cities, including Baltimore, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta and Miami. But the KickStarter isn’t just for keeping things in America.

If the campaign raises $2,500 over the target goal of $15,000, Fazlalizadeh will take the project to an international city next spring. If it reaches $5,000 over the goal, the project will reach 2-3 international cities. A portion of the funds will also help fund a documentary on the project.

The campaign lasts until Oct. 3rd.

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