A few weeks ago, I came across a Kickstarter campaign for Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s public art series “bringing awareness to gender based street harassment.” As I have had a fair number of experiences with street harassment, ranging from catcalls to being followed to being threateningly called a “bitch” for ignoring the harassers, I immediately backed the project. I am proud to share that it funded and is moving along! I’m really excited to see how the public will respond to the pieces that go up. Will it spark a conversation as to why commanding women to smile is problematic? Will civic and community leaders start taking street harassment more seriously? Or will some men simply try control the discussion by defacing the artwork?
I live and work in an urban area that my local leadership is desperate to revive. While the number of young professionals has skyrocketed in recent years, the area is still evolving. I would love to patronize my local post office, library, pharmacy, etc more often; however, every time I walk to these businesses I’m rolling the dice in terms of being harassed. And as with any form of unwelcome attention, you never know if it will escalate. So my local community is suffering economically every time I decide today isn’t a day I want to deal with catcalls and drive a few miles over to a suburb to run errands.
I am hoping Tatyana will visit my city! In the meantime, check out the ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile’ project at https://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/. It has been featured in several media outlets including The New York Times, NPR and Ebony.