Streets need to be swept of street harassment

I’m saving up for a new ride. It’s a pink street sweeper — specifically one that cleans up street harassment.

My goal is to rid the streets of creepy winks and derogatory comments so women can walk peacefully without feeling like they’re on display for others.

My inspiration is Tatyana Fazalizadeh, a Brooklyn-based oil painter and illustrator, who’s leading an ongoing global street art project focusing on street harassment.

“… The main goal is to make us rethink what’s considered normal and acceptable treatment of women,” Fazalizadeh said to CNN.

People around the globe were inspired this weekend, following International Anti-Street Harassment Week. With permission from property owners, supporters covered their communities from the United States to Australia with portraits of women from Fazalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” art series, which was named after one of her self-portraits.

The pieces are on display in hopes of ending street harassment.

Some of the messages on the pieces are:

“You can keep your thoughts on my body to yourself.”

“Critiques on my body are not welcome.”

“Women do not owe you their time or conversation.”

“My name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo, sweetheart, ma.”

“Women are not seeking your validation.”

Amen, sista!

We’re not walking around this campus and this city to be eye candy for anyone.

Most of the time, I’m walking to class on a mission, trying not to trip and wishing I could freeze time before hearing the Rockwell Hall clock tower ding. It constantly reminds me that I have short legs on my short body and that my walks across campus take me much longer than I bargained for. No one wants to see the hop/skip/run/jump that I try to master most mornings.

I recently read a quote from the fashion designer Oscar De La Renta, “Walk like you have three men walking behind you.”

No, thank you. Get a load of this you creepy onlookers:

I’ve fallen to the ground three times walking across this campus. Also, I’ve been politely informed twice that my dress was tucked up into the back of my backpack. I also get constant reminders that our great city is a North Pole wannabe and the painful, gusty wind is not a fan of my everyday ensembles. Walking and holding down my dresses is no easy feat, and I’d like to think that I’m in taking a stroll in an invisible bubble. The other pedestrians can’t see me, right?

Though I joke about my walks on campus, I’ve been disrespected enough to know that some men need to be reminded of the message on another one of Fazalizadeh’s displayed pieces: “Women don’t owe you anything.”

Our body is ours, not yours.

Think of your mothers, sisters, cousins and friends before you say the inappropriate things that are on your mind. Would you want a man to say them to the women you love? If not, then don’t say them to us. I’m a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin and a friend, and I have a whole support team who doesn’t want you disrespecting me.

This past Friday night, I was standing with my friends and a man murmured some rude comment, swiped my backside and grabbed it with his hand as he walked by. Excuse you, sir. Keep your hands to yourself. My imaginary boyfriend is going to beat him up. While I wish that could be true, I’ll stick up for myself and say “ew.” Have some respect.

Not only is that completely violating, it’s also just plain rude.

To make matters worse, I was wearing my roommate’s lace dress. Thank goodness the man wasn’t wearing a ring that could have gotten caught and ripped the fabric, because then we would’ve had bigger problems than just me questioning his gross morals and manners.

I’d like to remind this touchy man of two of Fazalizadeh’s pieces that state, “My outfit is not an invitation,” and “You are not entitled to my space.”

I was fully dressed from head to toe, with everything but the skin on my hands, neck and face covered. I shouldn’t have to even make that disclaimer. Men shouldn’t be touching me, especially if they’re strangers.

Knock it off, guys. Let a woman have fun and not have to worry about you touching her. That violating moment and feeling will make me cringe for days.

Fazalizadeh and I aren’t the only women who feel that this problem needs to end. She began posting her work in the streets of Brooklyn in 2012 and has spent the past year and a half visiting women across the nation. She’s been making new posters according to what the women have experienced from gender-based street harassment.

It turns out that the harassment occurs in many different ways, depending on where the women live. Whether they experience calls from men in cars, or groping and staring on public transportation, women from cities all across the country feel the same impact.

Fazalizadeh found that women were feeling vulnerable and unsafe in their areas, thinking that their only reason to go outside was for the enjoyment of men.

“It creates a sexually hostile climate in our streets and communities,” Fazalizadeh said to CNN.

My soul sisters and I had to start thinking about what routes we take, our body language and what we wear. Let’s fix this problem.

Fazalizadeh said she hopes her project will inspire discussion and collaboration between men and women.

I’d love to talk further and work on this project, while respectfully walking side by side.


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Twitter: @LiveWithColly