Kitchener-Waterloo

Stop telling women to smile: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's art comes to Kitchener

A new poster on a wall in downtown Kitchener is challenging the notion that asking a woman on the street to smile is a harmless act.

Brooklyn artist comes to Kitchener as part of symposium on gendered violence

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has been putting up posters like this one in a number of cities as part of her project. (Matthew Kang/CBC )

A new poster on a wall in downtown Kitchener is challenging the notion that asking a woman on the street to smile is a harmless act.

It's a work by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, an artist based in Brooklyn, NY, who is behind a public art project known as "Stop Telling Women to Smile: Using Art to Tackle Sexual Harassment."

It's comprised of a series of portraits of women that are displayed in various public spaces across North America, including in cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. 

In Kitchener, the poster was installed on the side of a wall at 153 Frederick Street at Irvin Street.

"I think what happens is that this project is interrupting people's way of life, I'm coming in and saying, 'No. Don't call me baby.' And I'm putting that outside on a wall, really big, for everyone who walks by to see that," she said.  

I get responses from folks, mostly men, who are very defensive, who are very accusatory, who are antagonistic.- Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, artist 

Fazlalizadeh says the project was inspired by her own experiences on the street being verbally harassed by men and being told to smile.

"It is men expressing their entitlement onto women by saying this is how I want you to look, I want you to look more ladylike for me," said Fazlalizadeh.

"I want you to look nicer and friendlier for me, because this is what I want, which kind of strips a woman of her own agency and autonomy over her own body and face."  

She says she has been criticized by people who are not capable of or willing to understand the project.

Fazlalizadeh says the title for the project came from her own experiences with street harassment. (Matthew Kang/CBC )

"I get responses from folks, mostly men, who are very defensive, who are very accusatory, who are antagonistic," she said.

Fazlalizadeh was invited by Wilfrid Laurier University's faculty of social work to make a presentation in Kitchener about her work as part of a symposium this week focused on gendered violence

"I usually have people from all over just kind of reaching out to me, expressing some type of gratitude for the project," said Fazlalizadeh.

"I also receive requests from schools to come talk and just kind of give an overview about my work to students."

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