Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

"Pssst! Hey, sexy…what's your name?"

"Ey, yo! Can I talk to you for a second?"

"What, can't you talk? Oh, you think you're too good for me?…B*tch!"

"You're too pretty to be making such an ugly face. Damn, give me a smile!"

If you're a woman living in a big city, you've probably heard one of the above statements or something similar. Especially if you live in a city where you're not protected by the walls – and windows – of a car because you have to walk and take the train.


Women around the world are expected to "perform" in public. Whether it's dressing like this, speaking like that, having to hear offensive and inappropriate shouting from male strangers all with the expectation that you'll take it. And like it. With a smile.

From healing the wounds of sexual assault to publicly addressing street harassment and artistically exposing the face of cat callers, young women are using art to fight back and reclaim their power.


Brooklyn-based artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, created public art project, Stop Telling Women to Smile, to address gender-based street harassment.

Fazlalizadeh will be speaking about the project at Brooklyn Museum's First Saturday this weekend.

Her work involves interviewing and taking photographic portraits of women who share their experiences of street harassment and translating what is shared into a written message below a black and white, hand-drawn portrait. She then prints them and hangs them using a paste substance in public spaces throughout the city.

"Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide," she said on the website for the project. "This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street - creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe."


Some have left offensive, anonymous messages and criticisms of the slogans, while others have left words of encouragement.


Last February she posted two pieces in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. According to Fazlalizadeh, this is one of the two that got the most attention of any piece she had put up.

Illustration for article titled Fighting Street-Harassment With Art

"Within a few days, someone had written his response to the work directly onto the posters," she said on the STWTS site. "From there, a woman wrote a response to him. And it went on and, on with different hand-written comments creating this kind of interesting discussion. The pieces remained up until a week or so ago, when the phallic image was drawn. That’s when I decided to try to take them down."

The traveling public art installation project received over $34,000 through a crowd funding campaign last fall. She hopes to be able to allow women from across the country (and eventually around the world) to have a voice in discussing gender-based street harassment.


Click HERE to view a slideshow of her work publicly displayed in "specifically sanctioned spaces" in Boston: the Shipyard Gallery in East Boston, Bartlett Yards in Roxbury, and Central Square in Cambridge.

With every city that serves as her outdoor gallery, "as the signs deteriorate, they become even more a part of their surroundings," according to the Boston Art Commission.


All photographs were taken by artist Celine Browning.

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