Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator, responds to street harassment by creating dialogues through art in public places. Stop Telling Women To Smile, a series of portraits depict strong willed women responding to catcalls or inappropriate comments.
This series, which has been fostering solid conversations since it’s 2012 NY inception, is simple in its assertion, yet complex in the response. Madison Carlson of Feminspire addresses some male reactions the work has evoked, one of which involved a penis being drawn on the woman’s face. The New York Times additionally notes: “Andrés Carlos, 50, stood by the freshly pasted posters on Tompkins Avenue. ‘A woman likes nothing more than being told she is beautiful,’ he said. ‘For me, this is ridiculous.’”
But, Fazlalizadeh and Carlson disagree with Carlos. This is not about beauty, but control. Carlson asserts, “Yelling or whistling at a woman on the street like she’s a dog who will come when you call, or telling a woman to ‘Smile. It can’t be that bad. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled,’ dehumanizes her. It reduces her purpose to pleasing the male gaze. The posters, answering that reduction with confrontation, are meant to show street harassers that they are not entitled to women’s smiles or any other part of them.”
What do you think?