Street Artist Wants the World to Fight Catcalls, One Poster at a Time
It’s been two years since Brooklyn-based illustrator and painter Tatyana Fazlalizadeh launched “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” a series of sketches that turns the spotlight on the problem of gender-based street harassment. Fazlalizadeh put her eye-catching pictures up around New York City, and the images, with captions that address the catcalling women commonly experience when they’re walking down the street, went viral across the Web. Now, as part of International Anti–Street Harassment Week, Fazlalizadeh is spearheading an international night of wheat-pasting her images in public, an art-based effort for people who want to end street harassment.
“On April 18, walls across the world will bear the faces and words from women protesting street harassment,” said Fazlalizadeh in a statement. That means come Saturday night, women and supporters everywhere are invited to engage in a little local civil disobedience to disrupt an alarming norm of women's objectification.
The artist’s campaign is the latest in women’s attempts to address the problem of not feeling comfortable in their own neighborhoods. Last fall The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams made a video that showed her being catcalled by guys in Manhattan. Williams offered women satirical tips on how to avoid verbal abuse, such as running down the street singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” In October, a video from anti–street harassment organization Hollaback!, which filmed a woman walking through New York City and being catcalled by men 108 times over 10 hours, went viral on the Web.
As for “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” the campaign will provide free copies of Fazlalizadeh’s pictures to people who request them through its website. The posters are currently available in English and Spanish, but if a participant wants a different language and can provide an accurate translation, Fazlalizadeh will attempt to accommodate that. Participants get an email of a downloadable PDF of one of the posters that can be put up in the community, street art–style.
Indeed, the campaign is rooted in the vibrant culture that sees artists putting images that tend to address social issues up on walls, fences, and other public places. Street artists usually use wheat paste, an adhesive that’s made from combining wheat flour or starch with water.
“The idea behind the wheat-pasting night is to create a night of solidarity. People from all over can participate in a night of action, knowing that hundreds of people in different parts of the world are doing the same thing,” said Fazlalizadeh.