Let’s say you’re walking home after a long day. As you get a block closer to your destination, you walk by a group of guys, chilling on the front steps of their building. You’re so exhausted and focused on getting home that you barely notice that a few of them are eyeballing you as you walk by, hoping to make some kind of eye contact. You snap out of it when you hear a husky, flirtatious voice say, “Hey Beautiful. Sweetheart, you got a boyfriend? Dang girl! Smile. Why you looking so mad?”
Ladies, I’m sure we can all agree that this described instance (or at least one that’s similar) happens often to a good number of us. Some of us force a smile to prove that we’re not really walking around upset with the world, while others may be turned off and roll their eyes at this subtle form of what many women see as gender-based street harassment.
While browsing the web recently, I found some interesting yet true illustrations created by an artist named Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. It turns out she posts these images in poster throughout the streets of Brooklyn and sells some t-shirt versions in an effort to spread the word about women and street harassment. In an interview with StopStreetHarassment.org, Tatyana shares what inspired her to take on this street art project:
The project was inspired by my daily experiences with street harassment. Being harassed on the street is exasperating. I’ve wanted to do some art work on the issue for a while now, but I couldn’t figure out how to properly communicate what I wanted to say in my primary artistic medium – oil paint on canvas. Over the past year or so I’ve started working in public art as a muralist. Thinking about creating art in a public space led me to this idea of wheat pasting posters. Because what better medium to create art about street harassment than street art.
My intention with putting up these pieces was to artistically speak up for myself and other women who are harassed on the street. In the moment, you don’t always speak up for yourself. You ignore them, walk faster. So with this work, I wanted to say what I actually think when being hounded by men (though, they aren’t my exact thoughts because those usually include a lot of expletives). After having conversations with friends and women that I know, I decided to also include their words and thoughts as captions. So, the work is for women but also, and maybe even more so, for men. I haven’t received many reactions from men, and I’m trying to figure out a way to find their reactions and thoughts, if there are any.
Interestingly enough I noticed a blog post over on TheFrisky.com the other day and read their blurb on the subject matter. They had a bit to say about being told to smile by a man on the street:
How many zillions of times in you life have you been told by a random stranger on the street to “smile”? While the sentiment may at first seem harmless, the implication is that women only exist to be objectified by men — that by not smiling, we’re not fulfilling our end of the bargain. It’s a subtler form of street harassment, but no less a reminder that some men feel entitled to dictate what women do with their bodies. I mean, have you ever, ever walked up to a random man and told him to smile? Didn’t think so.
With all of this said and the fact that you’ve more than likely experienced some form of gender-based street harassment:
Do you agree? What’s your take?
I would love to hear what men think about the subject matter, too. To learn more about where you can get a poster or t-shirt, visit Tatyana’s Tumblr page: http://fazstreetart.tumblr.com. Drop your two cents in the comment section.