During the week of April 21 – 27, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh traveled to Baltimore to introduce Stop Telling Women To Smile, an on-going traveling public art series that attempts to address gender-based street harassment.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is an illustrator and painter based in Brooklyn, NY who is mostly known for her oil paintings, but recently branched out into public art as a muralist. STWTS started in the fall of 2012 and was born out of the idea that street art can make a difference.
On two different days, Hollaback! Baltimore co-sponsored an open discussion and artist talk at Station North Chicken Box in Baltimore City. The process of STWTS consists of shooting photographs of local women, using them as references for drawing, and composing them into a design with captions that speak directly to offenders of street harassment. The large black and white prints that feature local women are then wheat pasted throughout cities all over the country and aims at raising awareness of the unwanted, unwelcomed, and dangerous treatment of women in the public.
The open discussion was held on Monday, April 21st, which allowed women share how street harassment affected them in different areas and what was so specific about it. The more I listened to other people’s stories, the more comfortable I became to share my own. It has never been easy to discuss my own experiences with street harassment, but this discussion provided me with a safe space to vent and connect with others who could relate.
Afterwards, I met with Tatyana to tell her what I wanted to say to my harassers and have my photo taken. After discussing a few ideas, we both decided to use “Men do not own the streets,” which would be the quote used if she did my portrait.
The artist talk held on Thursday, April 24th involved Tatyana discussing her background in visual art and how STWTS was created along with questions from the audience. This session was specifically interesting to me because I too have a background in the arts and have recently decided to incorporate feminist art into my work as an activist.
A couple days after while browsing through Instagram, I discovered a photo of Tatyana wheat pasting her very first piece at Station North and noticed that the mural included my portrait. I had no idea I would be featured in it and was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw it.
STWTS coming to Baltimore is one of the most memorable experiences I’ll ever have. This powerful campaign allows women to stand up to their harassers and it sends a strong message that street harassment is a serious issue that affects women worldwide.
The message is clear: Stop Telling Women To Smile.
Originally published on Stop Street Harassment