As we enter into Women’s History Month, it is important to remember that the fight for equality is far from over. While we celebrate and commemorate the prolific wonder-women of our past, it is also important to support the women of our present. The women who are using their positions and talents to aggressively combat hegemonic societal norms that stand in the way of progress and personal safety. To the brave artists who step out of their comfort zones or force others to step out of their comfort zones, we thank you, and we are here for you.
One of these women is Brooklyn based portrait artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Fazlalizadeh started “Stop Telling Women To Smile”, a “public art series that is addressing street harassment, particularly gender based street harassment”, in 2012. The artist sat down with New York based women and had conversations about their varying experiences with street harassment. Fazlalizadeh then sketched these women’s portrait and captioned them using the main ideas from each women’s personal experience. Fazlalizadeh states that the idea behind this project was her desire to bring stories of street harassment back to where they originated, the streets. Fazlalizadeh posted her portraits in different areas of New York, specifically areas that resonated with the women featured in each portrait.
Since the project’s beginning in 2012, “Stop Telling Women To Smile” has become a worldwide project, visiting cities like Paris, France, and Mexico City, Mexico. The “Stop Telling Women To Smile” website states that the project is far from over, and will be traveling to many cities in the future.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is exposing street harassment exactly where it happens, the streets. She is memorializing the silent masses of women who experience harassment daily, effectively restoring power into the women of her portraits, and any other women who have shared their similar experiences. Through her “STWTS” series, Fazlalizadeh is fighting to create a more safe environment for women, one where we are not viewed as bodies for the purpose of entertainment, but rather as equal beings.
“Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide. 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.”