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Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We're Taking Back Our Power

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The debut book from a celebrated artist on the urgent topic of street harassment Every day, all over the world, women are catcalled and denigrated simply for walking down the street. Boys will be boys, women have been told for generations, ignore it, shrug it off, take it as a compliment. But the harassment has real consequences for women: in the fear it instills and the sh The debut book from a celebrated artist on the urgent topic of street harassment Every day, all over the world, women are catcalled and denigrated simply for walking down the street. Boys will be boys, women have been told for generations, ignore it, shrug it off, take it as a compliment. But the harassment has real consequences for women: in the fear it instills and the shame they are made to feel. In Stop Telling Women to Smile, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh uses her arresting street art portraits to explore how women experience hostility in communities that are supposed to be homes. She addresses the pervasiveness of street harassment, its effects, and the kinds of activism that can serve to counter it. The result is a cathartic reckoning with the aggression women endure, and an examination of what equality truly entails.


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The debut book from a celebrated artist on the urgent topic of street harassment Every day, all over the world, women are catcalled and denigrated simply for walking down the street. Boys will be boys, women have been told for generations, ignore it, shrug it off, take it as a compliment. But the harassment has real consequences for women: in the fear it instills and the sh The debut book from a celebrated artist on the urgent topic of street harassment Every day, all over the world, women are catcalled and denigrated simply for walking down the street. Boys will be boys, women have been told for generations, ignore it, shrug it off, take it as a compliment. But the harassment has real consequences for women: in the fear it instills and the shame they are made to feel. In Stop Telling Women to Smile, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh uses her arresting street art portraits to explore how women experience hostility in communities that are supposed to be homes. She addresses the pervasiveness of street harassment, its effects, and the kinds of activism that can serve to counter it. The result is a cathartic reckoning with the aggression women endure, and an examination of what equality truly entails.

30 review for Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We're Taking Back Our Power

  1. 5 out of 5

    Allyson (bookstaandbujo)

    I wish I read this book as a middle schooler, again as a high schooler, again as a college student… cont. Most of all, I wish all boys / men were required - nay, forced - to read this. “It’s not all men! ☺️” they say, when challenged. Sure, but that doesn’t explain how all women (cis, trans, etc) have some sort of story of a man interacting inappropriately (or illegally) towards them, verbally or even physically. It was empowering hearing about her art movement. Such an amazing way to spread awa I wish I read this book as a middle schooler, again as a high schooler, again as a college student… cont. Most of all, I wish all boys / men were required - nay, forced - to read this. “It’s not all men! ☺️” they say, when challenged. Sure, but that doesn’t explain how all women (cis, trans, etc) have some sort of story of a man interacting inappropriately (or illegally) towards them, verbally or even physically. It was empowering hearing about her art movement. Such an amazing way to spread awareness and provide comfort and strength towards women when they see it. Additionally, the interviews were amazing, especially since she included such a diverse group of interviewees. You hear every single perspective. Things you wouldn’t have even thought about. But overall, a feeling of, “wow. We all deal with this.” Loved it. This doesn’t do it justice and have much more to say …. Will be back to finish this up lol

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    One of the things I loved STOP TELLING WOMEN TO SMILE is how inclusive it was. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh uses her street art portraits to explore how women, and non-binary persons experience street harassment in their communities. Tatyana is so talented truly. Seeing her illustrations in the book really brought her missing for STWTS to life. I really appreciate this debut so much, and I would highly recommend if you are interested in social justice issues. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8pNQiign... One of the things I loved STOP TELLING WOMEN TO SMILE is how inclusive it was. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh uses her street art portraits to explore how women, and non-binary persons experience street harassment in their communities. Tatyana is so talented truly. Seeing her illustrations in the book really brought her missing for STWTS to life. I really appreciate this debut so much, and I would highly recommend if you are interested in social justice issues. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8pNQiign...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alondra Miller

    The title alone is worth 3 stars! ...and for you patriarchy loving women, who tell other women to smile and be nice; this is for you too! Hating, azz women. 😒🤬

  4. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    I have struggled since i was 10 with street harassment and harassment about my body. In spaces dominated by cishet men I rarely feel comfortable. Going on to the street or into the city is something I dread; I spend hours trying to find an outfit that I think will minimize commentary. I find it hard to speak about these things and why I find it uncomfortable when both men and women think I should just take it as a compliment. Fazlalizadeh's book creates community for people who are marginalized I have struggled since i was 10 with street harassment and harassment about my body. In spaces dominated by cishet men I rarely feel comfortable. Going on to the street or into the city is something I dread; I spend hours trying to find an outfit that I think will minimize commentary. I find it hard to speak about these things and why I find it uncomfortable when both men and women think I should just take it as a compliment. Fazlalizadeh's book creates community for people who are marginalized because of their gender and gender expression. The narratives reassure us that we are not alone in this oppression and gives us the words to challenge the way society gaslights us around street harassment. STWTS is reassurance that harassment is not our fault because of the way we dress or respond. It reminds us that we are not wrong to see misogyny around the "benevolent" street side compliments. Fazlalizadeh's work provides the spring board into a deeper conversation about harassment and misogyny. This conversation centers those of us who are marginalized due to our gender and gender expression. Sometimes this book is difficult to read. It forced me to address trauma I had around the topic. Sometimes it was cathartic to know that I wasn't the only one going through this struggle. This work is unnecessary and I am glad it as accessible both as street art and in the form of a book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Darcy

    Heavy read, but much needed. If you have teenage, young adult sons I encourage you to share some of these stories with them. Especially how they can help make even just a small difference.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Lake

    The stories in this book were a real eye opener for me. The variations of street harassment based on ethnicity, gender identification and where you live is a sad reality of how far we still have to go to protect our rights. The photos and captions are just an amazing way to remind people of what equality should be

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ariel [She Wants the Diction]

    This book says literally everything I have wanted to say about street/sexual harassment. Her work is inclusive, illuminating, and inspiring.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Having seen the art displayed around Berkshire County Ma. gave the book more meaning. The last few chapters tied the book into the art of street harassment and gives you a lot to think about.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    The title and the cover got my attention. Being told to smile or harassed into giving someone their phone number or money, etc. is sadly a familiar story to many. Author Fazlalizadeh profiles and illustrates various women as they discuss street harassment and how they deal with it, plus their identities and backgrounds color their perceptions, reactions, and more. This was okay. While interesting in itself, this is also not really a format I care for. While each person is unique, it got a little The title and the cover got my attention. Being told to smile or harassed into giving someone their phone number or money, etc. is sadly a familiar story to many. Author Fazlalizadeh profiles and illustrates various women as they discuss street harassment and how they deal with it, plus their identities and backgrounds color their perceptions, reactions, and more. This was okay. While interesting in itself, this is also not really a format I care for. While each person is unique, it got a little repetitive to read the same type of story over and over again, with sometimes a little variation because obviously they're not a monolith and brings their own perspective on harassment to the table. Ultimately it wasn't for me but it might be affirming or useful for another reader. Library borrow was best for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam Sy

    This book does a good job of telling women’s stories and perspectives of the harassment women from all walks of life face at some point in their lives. The street harassment that often occurs is often overlooked as less than an issue, particularly when women are facing the issue “alone”. This brings unity to female bodies and provides articulation to a problem that many can’t seem to pinpoint. Bravo to Tatyana Fazlalizadeh for providing space, awareness, and empowerment.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna Marie

    Street harassment impacts people's lives more than just a given instance of unwanted attention. Action is required to change these unacceptable behaviors. This book shows one woman's effort to share the voices of people subjected to this harassment to produce meaningful positive changes. Street harassment impacts people's lives more than just a given instance of unwanted attention. Action is required to change these unacceptable behaviors. This book shows one woman's effort to share the voices of people subjected to this harassment to produce meaningful positive changes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ke

    3.5 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tanisha

    I loved this book! It spoke ALL the truths and resonated with me heavy. Living in a big city I can't tell you how many times I walk down the street and have to deal with men and their verbal diarrhea. Not everything you think in your head must be said out loud! Men telling me to smile is particularly irksome especially when (1) I don't know you (2) You have given me no reason to smile and (3) I don't owe you anything...so keep it moving. For some reason I think men think it's endearing to say th I loved this book! It spoke ALL the truths and resonated with me heavy. Living in a big city I can't tell you how many times I walk down the street and have to deal with men and their verbal diarrhea. Not everything you think in your head must be said out loud! Men telling me to smile is particularly irksome especially when (1) I don't know you (2) You have given me no reason to smile and (3) I don't owe you anything...so keep it moving. For some reason I think men think it's endearing to say this to women when in actuality its creepy and makes me uncomfortable when someone I don't know is telling me what to do with my face. Even a man's undertones of saying "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon", can come off more as a demand that I respond to you than a seemingly innocuous greeting. If I were a random man walking down the street you would NOT have this same energy. You would not shout at me, tell me what to do with my face, or demand a response when I ignore you. And therein lies the issue, a sense of entitlement that certain men feel over women and their autonomy when all they're trying to do is mind their business and walk down the street. *End Rant*. I feel like this really is a book that all men need to read. I also liked how inclusive this book was and I enjoyed reading the different perspectives when it came to how people identified in terms of race, religion, and gender (cis, trans, and nonbinary). I found this book to be really enlightening and her added street art was poignant. (I'd definitely visit an exhibit displaying her art). Overall great book! My "What Women Want To Say To Street Harassers" would say: (1) Don't tell me what to do with my face. (2) I did not invite your company or your conversation. (3) If I were a man would we be having this conversation right now? (4) I don't know you and I don't owe you anything. Notes: A fundamental element of street harassment is that there's more to it than the harassment itself. The threat of sexual violence is often implicit in the things men say to women on the street about their bodies. This danger always hangs over our heads. We don't know if any given interaction will stay within the realm of harassment or tip over into violence. It is something we guard against with awkward smiles at work, keys held between our fingers when we walk down the street, and constant vigilance over our drink cups at parties. The threat of sexual violence is one that begins when we are young and seems never to abate. -p. xi "How is telling a woman to smile street harassment? How is complimenting a woman sexist?" It's sexist because women are told to smile as a way of controlling their bodies, their appearance, and their presentation. A man telling a woman to smile dismisses her autonomy over her own body, emotions and self-expression. It assumes she has an emotional responsibility to always present as happy, pleasant, and approachable--whether or not that is how she feels or what she wants to express. -p. xiv Sometimes, from some men, a "good morning" is not just a pleasant greeting. There is another intent here. When the meaning of the words seems innocuous but the intent might not be, that is when the line between friendliness and street harassment becomes blurry and difficult to pinpoint and articulate. As a woman, you know the intention behind that "good morning" by how the man says it, how he looks at you, and how you feel in response to it. -p. 65 A lot of people, most of them men, think that if it doesn't involve insults, cursing, or physical touch, it's not actually harassment. They believe women are creating an issue out of something that is not really an issue. This is one of the reasons why talking about street harassment can be so difficult. Sometimes it takes the form of a stare or a suggestive tone of voice. It's being made to feel uncomfortable while we're simply walking down the street. It can be frustrating to try to describe the depth of vulnerability and intrusion to people who do not experience it. -p. 65 Many people who hear women complain about this kind of innuendo say something like, "Well, what's wrong with saying 'good morning'? It's just a greeting." This limited, intentionally obtuse response aims to discredit women's accounts of street harassment. In fact, its very easy to understand that the meaning and perception of words change with context and tone. That how someone receives your greeting depends heavily on how you say it. -p. 66 Similarly, women often lie to men, telling them that they have a boyfriend, in order to be left alone because that works better than simply saying no. Harassers do not respect our "no" as an answer because they do not respect us as autonomous people. Instead, they might respect that we "belong" to another man. -p. 90 We teach young girls to smile and be friendly in a way that appeases other people. It makes you likable, and women and girls are supposed to be likable. Pleasant. Approachable. A girl who is deep in thought, or serious, or intense is too much for society that wants you to simply be pretty and sweet. -p. 115 They believe my emotional responsibility as a woman is to be happy, to be pleasant, to be approachable and to smile. -p. 158 Stop Telling Women to Smile is more than a demand from women to leave us alone. It is an assertion, a declaration of women as full human beings, with full emotions and many different facial expressions, who don't owe it to anyone to change that about ourselves. -p. 158 I don't want to be expected to perform niceness on command by anyone, let alone by a man who has been taught by society that I owe him something--that I owe him my beauty, my smile, my conversation. -p. 158

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evan Thomas

    This book was quite interesting. The artwork was very good and I empathized with the voices in this book. However I didn't really vibe with the whole message. I will be the first one to tell you harassment of any kind is WRONG! But this book is basically making everything harassment. I do believe men and women should carry mace tasers and other forms of protection. On the other hand I can't mace someone for saying Good morning to me. They are beyond extreme and radical. Telling people to stop sp This book was quite interesting. The artwork was very good and I empathized with the voices in this book. However I didn't really vibe with the whole message. I will be the first one to tell you harassment of any kind is WRONG! But this book is basically making everything harassment. I do believe men and women should carry mace tasers and other forms of protection. On the other hand I can't mace someone for saying Good morning to me. They are beyond extreme and radical. Telling people to stop speaking to each other in a time of national crises is another act to dilapidate human relations in general. I moved away from home and am an Introverted person myself. But I am not going to be hostile to someone for saying Good Morning. I realize that safety first and women are at risk for harassment and worse. We are nothing like other countries if a man in Africa does something bad to a woman the whole village punishes him. In America we don't speak to each other so there is NO sense of unity. You can't not speak to a stranger and expect that SAME stranger to save your life or honour it's just unrealistic. There are more good people than bad people on Earth I would hope to believe but think everyone's out to get you will mean that nobody will be close enough to you to protect you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Fazlalizah tackles a subject of sexual harassment which is often overlooked street harassment. When women are afraid to walk down a street corner in fear of being verbally, sexually, and physically harassed. I have always loved art and activism combined and this is her project. It's called Stop Telling Women to Smile Project. This is in response to men saying Smile when sexually harassed. In black and white beautiful art work, Fazlalizadeh conveys the haunted sadness of fear. She interviewed wom Fazlalizah tackles a subject of sexual harassment which is often overlooked street harassment. When women are afraid to walk down a street corner in fear of being verbally, sexually, and physically harassed. I have always loved art and activism combined and this is her project. It's called Stop Telling Women to Smile Project. This is in response to men saying Smile when sexually harassed. In black and white beautiful art work, Fazlalizadeh conveys the haunted sadness of fear. She interviewed women of color and it was especially interesting to me how their street harassment is different form the white society. One story that was so filled with pathos was Madeline an overweight white woman that was so harassed she was afraid to take the subway to work in fear she would be pushed off the platform. Also this memoir included how women are bullies as well and an educational addenum for men to treat women and all humans with respect.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The story behind her street art. She points out with each interview how EARLY this catcalling starts for so many women, who are young girls when men decide they can comment on their bodies. I like that she points out from her own experience the difference in feeling when catcalling comes from a teen boy her age as opposed to an adult male. A girl can tell on a boy her age and possibly get him in trouble, but not usually so for an adult male. She also points out that while some black men may be l The story behind her street art. She points out with each interview how EARLY this catcalling starts for so many women, who are young girls when men decide they can comment on their bodies. I like that she points out from her own experience the difference in feeling when catcalling comes from a teen boy her age as opposed to an adult male. A girl can tell on a boy her age and possibly get him in trouble, but not usually so for an adult male. She also points out that while some black men may be less likely to catcall, especially white women, because of the potential police involvement, some still catcall black women and those women are less likely to call police because they know how some police will treat black men. Black women feel the harassment of the catcalling and also the oppression of not being able to call for help, because of their own experiences with police and because they don't want to be the cause of a black man being beaten or killed by police.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    The author/ activist/ artist is taking back her power by making art: black and white charcoal sketches of women, unsmiling, that are put wheat pasted on walls with slogans the women have said, for she’s interviewed them while they were posing. "‘Men do not own the streets,’ ‘Not here to be pretty for you,’ ‘Respect that gay women do not want you’ and ‘Stop telling Women to smile..” “Street harassment is not an isolated issue; it sits on top of all the other forms of sexual harassment and abuse. The author/ activist/ artist is taking back her power by making art: black and white charcoal sketches of women, unsmiling, that are put wheat pasted on walls with slogans the women have said, for she’s interviewed them while they were posing. "‘Men do not own the streets,’ ‘Not here to be pretty for you,’ ‘Respect that gay women do not want you’ and ‘Stop telling Women to smile..” “Street harassment is not an isolated issue; it sits on top of all the other forms of sexual harassment and abuse. For many women and girls and femmes, it follows on a long history of aggressive sexualization—everything from sexism and discrimination in the workplace, at school, and home, to sexual or domestic abuse, to sexual intimidation and worse.” (xii) Borrowed from interlibrary loan. Recommended by someone on WAM Book Picks.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    A powerful and compelling view of the inbalance of power between women and men. Hopefully the book (and art) makes both men and women reflect on their actions. Though I wonder how many men are even willing to read something this straight forward and unfiltered? I spent a lot of time while reading the book agreeing with the women being interviewed. I'd love to share a few quotes, but I would almost be copy/pasting the entire book. I saw reflections of my own interactions in many of the stories an A powerful and compelling view of the inbalance of power between women and men. Hopefully the book (and art) makes both men and women reflect on their actions. Though I wonder how many men are even willing to read something this straight forward and unfiltered? I spent a lot of time while reading the book agreeing with the women being interviewed. I'd love to share a few quotes, but I would almost be copy/pasting the entire book. I saw reflections of my own interactions in many of the stories and will think of this book every time I walk down the street.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna Bella

    Stop Telling Women To Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Tatyana is not only an exceptional artist, but also an author and an activist with a powerful message. The messages her art conveys has gained momentum on both national and international platforms. Her art is beautifully bold in demanding respect. Her art is thought provoking and gives birth to many a spirited conversation that are long overdue and necessary.

  20. 5 out of 5

    DearBookClub

    Stop Telling Women To Smile 222 pages ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 It is empowering to see Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's street art displayed over the city I live in. In "Stop Telling Women To Smile," Tatyana discusses transphobia, xenophobia, body shaming, and being unsafe as an undocumented immigrant in America. Her book was amazing to read. Stop Telling Women To Smile 222 pages ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 It is empowering to see Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's street art displayed over the city I live in. In "Stop Telling Women To Smile," Tatyana discusses transphobia, xenophobia, body shaming, and being unsafe as an undocumented immigrant in America. Her book was amazing to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gloria Luberger

    The subject matter was interesting and compelling. Parts of the book were slow and kept alluding to going in more depth later. I didn’t find that it circled back to go in depth. I was really inspired by the content and the artist though.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zach Freeman

    As a man I found this to be an extremely engaging and informative read. The way Fazlalizadeh lays out her artwork, her conversations with women and her steps men can take to improve makes it easy to take in and to reflect on.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Both personal and universal, this tells the experiences of various women (and nonbinary people) with street harassment. Inclusive of race, religion, orientation, etc. I can only hope this street art, and images like it, make some kind of difference in the attitudes of others.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Lowry

    I loved this book because it let me bear witness to the creative process of an artist and also allowed me to imagine this particular issue of street harassment from the vantage point of so many different kinds of women. Eye opening, unique, empowering and inspiring!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angelica

    This is such a great book. Street harassment is a very real and serious problem that occurs to many women's around the world. It's important to talk about it and to stop normalize it. I recommend this book to everyone, and if you read it and find it irrelevant, you are part of the problem. This is such a great book. Street harassment is a very real and serious problem that occurs to many women's around the world. It's important to talk about it and to stop normalize it. I recommend this book to everyone, and if you read it and find it irrelevant, you are part of the problem.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Important book. Author is a really good writer and interviews a wonderful cross-section of women who experience street harassment. Who hasn’t? Love her art project. Powerful. Appreciate the chapter “A Message to Men.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    REAL TALK 👌🤙👊🏽♥️🍿😎

  28. 5 out of 5

    Micki

    An amazing, layered, inclusive book. I urge everyone to read it. It’s eye-opening for whichever communit(ies) you are part of.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This was an interesting and important read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Bob

    Us men sometimes just need to listen & be told that women usually don't solicit comments about women's appearances. Great book & multiple women's views given . . Us men sometimes just need to listen & be told that women usually don't solicit comments about women's appearances. Great book & multiple women's views given . .

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