Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh started street art project Stop Telling Women to Smile (STWTS) in 2012 to address gender-based street harassment. The project consists of a series of posters featuring hand-drawn portraits of women with messages or quotations from the women’s experiences of street harassment. Captions include messages such as “Stop telling women to smile,” “My outfit is not an invitation, “Women are not outside for your entertainment,” “I am not your geisha, china doll, Asian fetish,” “Do not touch my hair,” “You can keep your thoughts on my body to yourself,” and “Harassing women does not prove your masculinity.” These posters are put up in the neighborhoods and areas where the featured women frequently walk through, as well as in other prominent places throughout the city. STWTS has traveled to several cities in the U.S. and internationally.
Look at the portraits and captions on the project website (http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com). What are common themes you notice?
Who are the images and messages on the posters directed at? What is the function of pasting the posters in prominent public areas?
How do you think people experience street harassment differently depending on different aspects of identity, such as gender, sexuality, religion, ability, and age?
What is the difference between a compliment and street harassment? What verbal comments or physical actions are considered street harassment? Who gets to decide what is considered harassment, and what is not?
What can men and women do to prevent street harassment? Should people respond or intervene when it happens? If yes, how?