Art Project Provokes Dialogue About Street Harassment

by Tess Duncan

When some gross dude on the street yells at you on the street, calling you “baby” or telling you you’re looking fine or some crap like that, it’s hard to think of a good response. (I usually awkwardly avoid eye contact and start powerwalking away.) Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has created art installations that say what we’re thinking when that shit happens. Fazlalizadeh is a prolific artist who has worked with several mediums, including oil painting, photography, illustration, and video. Her current street art project tackles the issues surrounding gender-based street harassment.

“Stop Telling Women to Smile” posters include black and white portrait sketches of different women with captions addressed to men specifically. The statements read, “Stop telling women to smile,” “My name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo, sweetheart, ma,” and “Women do not owe you their time or conversation,” “Women are not seeking your validation.” Fazlalizadeh has posted these art pieces in places around NYC where she has experienced street harassment, as well as places she feels it might occur.

Tatyana’s work has received a great deal of positive (as well as somewhat negative) attention. Some people have messaged her on her Tumblr asking for prints so that they can paste them in their own neighborhoods. Some men have defended themselves by writing directly on the posters, telling the artist to relax or that “A guy telling you to smile says to show the beauty they see in you.” In the video below, Brian Lehrer interviews Tatyana and she responds to several of the comments written on her posters. My favorite part of the video is when Tatyana emphasizes that this project is meant to target men so that they will stop harassing women. Period. I think it’s awesome that her goal is not to give “advice” to victims, but instead show men that they need to realize that these actions are harassment and that they are not okay. 

Read more from Tatyana about “Stop Telling Women to Smile” here. Soon you can buy prints of Tatyana’s posters, but for now hop over here to buy a “Stop Telling Women to Smile” t-shirt!

Photos via Carla C. Waldron,, and Tatyana’s Tumblr.

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