I have lived in several neighborhoods around New York, where walking down the street was a daily challenge to ignore that catcalls tossed my way. While the attention can be flattering (rarely), it can be straight up offensive or even scary, and it’s mostly a nuisance. Can’t a girl just go to the subway in peace? And, really, how are you supposed to respond to several men just randomly tossing words your way? Talking back would just invite more uninvited conversation, or in the worst case, could lead to aggression. No one really wants to stop, and launch into a 10 minute explanation of why it is insulting and demeaning to holler at ladies walking down the street. While I got used to just pretending I didn’t hear it and always keeping my headphones in, (though I actively wondered if any women were like, YES you called me pretty, I WILL stop and talk to you), after moving to an area where people no longer yell to me on the street, I realized how relaxing it was, and that the simple behavior was really a form of harassment that kept me tense an on edge. There was no good response.
Now artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has taken her work to the streets to call attention to street harassment, and put a voice to all the words that women were thinking, but were too intimidated/in a rush/annoyed to say. Her portraits feature strong, defiant women looking you in the eye, and remind you that women walking down the street don’t owe other pedestrians and lurkers a thing. She wants to point out that women aren’t responsible for smiling, or providing an emotional response just because guys feel like noticing them. They are modeled after real women, and their encounters to capture multi-background and cross-neighborhood experiences.
She hopes to expand her work to capture even more diverse experiences of how women of different races, sexualities, and classes experience harassment, and how women interact with others in public spaces. For now? I am just happy that what myself and my friends have so often thought is now being put into plain view. And, if you happen to see one pop up in your neighborhood, just point to it for your street harassers to read as you walk by. The pictures will do the responding for you. Check out more photos from her collection here.