Stop Telling Women to Smile: An Art Project Against Gender-Based Street Harassment

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

According to Stop Street Harassment, internationally 70-99% of women experience street harassment at some point during their lives. Today, more and more organizations, and individuals, make it their mission to bring awareness to gender-based street harassment and to send the message that no—it is never okay.

One of these inspiring individuals is Tatyana Falalizadeh, a Brooklyn painter and illustrator. In 2012, Falalizadeh began Stop Telling Women to Smile, an art project against gender-based street harassment. Falalizadeh creates portraits of women she interviews and captions the art with their messages directed at street offenders.

According to STWTS, this new art project is “an on-going, traveling series and will gradually include many cities and many women participants.” The movement was inspired by the idea “that street art can be an impactful tool for tackling street harassment…creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

These powerful images show captivating black and white portraits. The posters range in all different sizes and stand out against the edifices Falalizadeh places them on. And as the project is titled, none of the women are smiling. The art that Falalizadeh produces captures the determined, strong, and unwavering emotions from her subjects.

Her art speaks volumes: I am not your property. Women are not seeking validation. Women are people, not just bodies. These stark, simple captions pierce the heart as the women’s eyes follow you on the street.

The idea of placing such profound artwork on the very streets that women walk each day is not only brilliant, but also authoritative. The women, of varying backgrounds, dominate the walls. The commanding eyes cannot be ignored. Will it make a man think twice before telling a girl her legs look great in that skirt with a mural on the wall right next to them? Hopefully. Falalizadeh’s art project pushes back on street harassment, forcing the truth in everyone’s face, in the very place it occurs.

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

As we look forward to more of Falalizadeh’s work, we are reminded that we cannot turn a blind eye towards street harassment, something that, for whatever reason, has become a cultural norm.

Others have taken stands against street harassment as well. Some have recorded their street harassers to prove a point. Others are taking to other forms of art, such as this short French film that places us in a world where men are the main victims of street harassment. There is also a movement called Cards Again Street Harassment. Falalizadeh’s work, alongside with other individuals and organizations calling against gender-based street harassment, are inspiring movements that will hopefully bring more awareness to end this societal norm.

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

Photo from stoptellingwomentosmile.com

I encourage you to look through the photographs on the Stop Telling Women to Smile‘s website, as well as for ways you can get involved yourself.

For firsthand information about Stop Telling Women to Smile, watch Falalizadeh’s video below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN9d54e19e059511e2a62d1231380fd04a_7

As a Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English, my first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself Chief Editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin. 

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