When "Why Don't You Smile" Becomes An Art Form

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is an oil painter / illustrator whose work focuses on portraiture and social/political themes and her street harassment art.
Publish date:
March 1, 2013
art, street harassment

I’m sure just about every woman has been victim of the “Why don’t you smile” creep. You know, you could be walking anywhere, down the street, down the grocery store aisle, and you come across that dude who feels the need to ask, “Why don’t you smile?”.

Typically, my answer is usually a snide remark:

Because I have fucking craps.

Because my dog just died.

Because a fly landed on my face and now this mean mug is permanent.

Because I don’t want to look dumb smiling for no damn reason while I’m picking out my spaghetti sauce.

Now most of the time men are shocked and speechless after I answer the question, other times, they just laugh and look at me crazy. For shits and giggles one day, as I was walking down H Street in D.C., I figured why not try harassing some poor unsuspecting guy?

Me: Hey handsome, why don’t you smile? (see I figured I’d be nice and throw in handsome)

Him: Huh?

Me: Uh.. never-mind

Needless to say, he probably thought I was crazy.

I say all of this to introduce you to Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Fazlalizadeh is an oil painter / illustrator whose work focuses on portraiture and social/political themes and her street harassment art. Her art has been making appearances in the Bed-Sty neighborhood of Brooklyn. The website, Stop Harassment recently interviewed Fazlalizadeh about her work:

Stop Street Harassment (SSH): What inspired your art project about street harassment?

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (TF): The project was inspired by my daily experiences with street harassment. Being harassed on the street is exasperating. I’ve wanted to do some art work on the issue for a while now, but I couldn’t figure out how to properly communicate what I wanted to say in my primary artistic medium – oil paint on canvas. Over the past year or so I’ve started working in public art as a muralist. Thinking about creating art in a public space led me to this idea of wheat pasting posters. Because what better medium to create art about street harassment than street art.

SSH: Some of the prints are up on walls around Philadelphia, right? How many did you put up and how did you select where to post them?

TF: Philly, yes. As well as other places that I’m often in, mostly Brooklyn and other parts of NYC. This project is still very new and I plan to continue it and expand it, that includes venturing to different cities. I’ve placed them in areas that receive foot traffic, areas that I’ve personally been harassed, and spots that work well for wheat paste.

SSH: What reactions have you received from people who’ve seen them in person and from people who saw them on your Tumblr page?

TF: I’ve received a lot of positive reactions from women who relate to the captions on the posters. I’ve been having a lot of conversations, and a few debates, about street harassment as a result of this. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the state of this medium is very temporary; it’s likely to put up a piece and for it to be gone a few days later. So to have the pieces captured and widely shared online was surprising but, I’m also very happy about that.

To learn more about Fazlailizadeh, visit her websites:

http://tlynnfaz.com/Stop-Telling-Women-to-Smile & http://fazstreetart.tumblr.com/Reprinted with permission from Clutch.