Gender based street harassment is real, objectification of women through catcalling is real, however this type of speech is not illegal, but it can lead to depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and cause many other negative side effects. Street harassment happens more often in a city like NY as opposed to LA, simply because we walk more in NY, but in California, women are still approached unsolicited by men while in their cars. NY is the most aggressive, where one woman said she can’t be free to walk down the street without multiple men yelling at her and trying to grab her.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is challenging this issue through her on-going campaign “Stop Telling Women to Smile”. She hears from many women about their daily occurrences and it’s important to point out these interactions, before they turn into more threatening acts like domestic violence or rape. Thanks to social media, the campaign has spread to cities like Philadelphia, LA, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, and globally to places like Paris and Mexico City. It's a way to put women and their words out there on the very same streets where they encounter such harassment and giving them a platform and an opportunity to respond.
"Her project, 'Stop Telling Women to Smile' was our first introduction to her work and we have many fans of Tatyana at the Commission. Her collaborative approach of interviewing her subjects and using their countenance and words to create arresting, conversation-shifting murals – is exactly what we were hoping she would bring to the Commission." - NYC Commission for Human Rights (@nycchr)
"TO BE FREE.
THAT MY BODY WILL
BE SEEN AS AN
INVITATION OR MY
BLACKNESS AS A
IMPACCT Brooklyn, 1224 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY (2019)
The Public Artist-in-Residence (PAIR) murals created by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, are based on New Yorkers’ responses gathered through postcards, distributed last year throughout the five boroughs. The questions asked to women, girls, gender-fluid folks, and femmes: "What do you want to say back to your harassers in the street?", "What are your experiences with street harassment?", and asked of Black folks, "What assumptions do people make about you because you are black?, and "How do you experience racism in your everyday life?" Some of the answers are heartbreaking to read, but very necessary to share and to hear what they experience. Here are some of the responses.
Q: "What assumptions do people make about you because you are black?"
"People assume that because I'm black, I cannot possibly speak a second language..."
"While shopping in stores, I find that someone follows me around."
"I was on the train....People don't want to sit with me because I'm Muslim..."
"I'm less smart, less beautiful, less capable."
Q: "How do you experience racism in your everyday life?"
"...I ask a white person for help, they'll just pass me and pretend I don't exist..."
"...shop owners sometimes give 'others' service as if I am invisible."
"I experience racism in every day life when I am made to feel invisible while getting on the bus with my cane."
Q: "What do you want to say back to your harassers in the street?"
"...You feel exhausted preparing mentally for the onslaught of vulgar and invasive comments just because you had the audacity to exist." "...really it's just another thing that makes it hard to be a woman." "I am sorry the world made you like this and I forgive you for it."
The Commission wanted to work with Tatyana because her profound art focuses on women of color and people of color and their experiences with misogyny and racism. Tatyana is the first street artist in the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Public Artist in Residence program.
"We were grateful to partner with DCLA and thrilled to work with Tatyana to challenge people’s behaviors and beliefs around sexism and racism. There is no better way to do that than through art by imprinting the lived experience of Black and Latinx New Yorkers on buildings and walls throughout New York City." - NYC Commission for Human Rights (@nycchr)
For part of her residency, Tatyana wanted to speak to women who work for the Sanitation Department and bring awareness to workplace discrimination. What is it like for women to work in such a male dominated field? They talked about how men sometimes don't want to work with them, the physical pain and labor of the job, and how the women more often work harder than the men. The DSNY's slogan is, "New York's Strongest." We like the sound of this slogan as well, "WOMEN are New York's Strongest."
photo by @kristycnyc 56th St. and 11th Ave, Sanitation Building, Manhattan
Intersectionality is a part of feminism that studies how social or minority identities overlap and how discrimination can be experienced at the same time. For example, you can be black, gay, and female. "Intersectionality, is a metaphor for understanding the ways in which multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and they create obstacles that often are not understood within conventional ways of thinking about anti-racism or feminism or whatever social justice advocacy structures we have. (Intersectionality) is a prism for understanding certain kinds of problems." - Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor and Civil Rights Advocate, who introduced the theory in 1989.
Through Tatyana's art campaign we've heard true feeling and emotions that women and black folks are going through, that many of us cannot image. Although we don't have the same experiences, that doesn't mean we can't do our part to listen and help our neighbors and learn to respect one another and realize we are more alike than different.
Google building, 8th ave and W 16th St., Manhattan for @artbridge.
"The reactions to Tatyana’s installations say it all; we have had people stop in their tracks and say, 'I see myself in her,' ask us 'What is this, why are you doing this here?,' take photos and cheer us on, and sometimes express disagreement. What matters is that her work is starting conversations about the issues we work every day to address, and that is why this has been such a successful partnership." - NYC Commission for Human Rights (@nycchr)
About the Artist:
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh grew up in Oklahoma City, OK. Her mother was an artist and teacher, but Tatyana did not begin creating her own art until high school. She then moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of the Arts, graduating in '07 with a BFA.
Tatyana, who is of black and Iranian descent, works in different mediums that that ranges from the gallery to the streets; using visual art to address the daily oppressive experiences of marginalized people through her portraits. Her street art series, Stop Telling Women to Smile, can be found across the globe. She is currently the inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, to present the experiences of anti-black racism and sexual harassment experienced by New Yorkers through public art.
Tatyana has been profiled by the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, the New Yorker, Time Magazine, and listed as one of Brooklyn’s most influential people by Brooklyn Magazine. She is a 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. She has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Brooklyn Museum, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, several universities including Stanford, Brown, USC, and Pratt Institute. Tatyana's work can currently be seen on Spike Lee's Netflix series, She's Gotta Have It, for which she is also the show's Art Consultant.
NYC Commission on Human Rights:
The New York City Commission on Human Rights is charged with the enforcement of the Human Rights Law, Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, and with educating the public and encouraging positive community relations. The Commission is divided into two major bureaus -- Law Enforcement and Community Relations.
NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA):
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is the largest municipal funder of culture in the country and is committed to providing access to art and culture for all New Yorkers.
"This is about the power that art has in informing our lives and how it can stop us in our tracks. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh art has been so powerful in conveying human rights, dignity and respect for all people." - NYCCHR Commissioner Carmelyn P. Malalis.