Fighting Unwanted Cat Calls, One Poster At A Time For women on city streets, unwanted attention from men often comes in the form of cat calls, whistles and roving eyes. New York artist Tatayana Fazlalizadeh says she's had enough and is taking her art to the streets.

Fighting Unwanted Cat Calls, One Poster At A Time

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Well, it's finally summer across most of the country. We've shed those winter layers of clothing, and some gals know what that means: a seasonal uptick in catcalls, whistles, roving stares. From member station WNYC, Stephen Nessen takes us to New York City where one artist isn't going to take it anymore.

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: Under the cover of darkness, wearing a black knit hit, black leather jacket and black Chuck Taylors, Tatayana Fazlalizadeh is nearly invisible. She's scouring Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, for a blank canvas.

TATAYANA FAZLALIZADEH: So, yeah, this is one of those spaces that I'm not sure about, like, if it'll work. Like, I might put this up, and then tomorrow morning it'll be taken down because it's somebody's, like, property or something. I don't know. But we're going to try it anyway.

NESSEN: The 27-year old takes a long look down the street for police. Reaching into a plastic grocery bag, she pulls out a blue water bottle.

FAZLALIZADEH: It gets a little messy. So I don't want to...

NESSEN: She squirts down a blank wall with wheat paste and slaps up one of her trademark posters - a stark pencil drawing of a young woman staring sternly with the words below in bold: Women are not seeking your validation. It's in this neighborhood that she endures daily catcalls and unwanted comments from men. This is her way of talking back.

Smoothing the poster over once with her hand, she casually walks away. But it's too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You know that's illegal, right?

NESSEN: This is the second time she's been stopped in recent weeks. But she has an out. Before the wheat paste dries, it peels right off the wall like a magnet, so the officer let's her go with a warning. Back at her tiny apartment a few blocks away, Fazlalizadeh says the catcalls got so bad she couldn't take it.

FAZLALIZADEH: It happens almost daily to me, so I wanted to just kind of express myself and speak up for myself.

NESSEN: Popping by another poster plastered on the side of an abandoned building on a busy residential street, 22-year-old Sapphire Monet stops in her tracks. This one reads: Stop Telling Women to Smile. Monet says street harassment is more than a hassle.

SAPPHIRE MONET: Every day, a psst or a yo or a hey or, excuse me, what's your name. And they might get disrespectful and call you by a body part.

NESSEN: She's glad the posters are up but says it all about how you carry yourself, how you respond. She just keeps her headphones on and ignores the guys on the block. Thirty-year old Anthony Williams runs a clothing shop on a busy strip in Bed-Stuy. He says he's not being offensive when he calls out at women. It's part of his DNA.

ANTHONY WILLIAMS: What, holler at women? I'm a man. I'm supposed to. I mean, I think every man, if they see a woman that they feel is attractive, should try to do what they can to see if they can acquire this woman.

NESSEN: Michelle Brown says guys like Williams don't bother her. Let them give it their best shot.

MICHELLE BROWN: Nothing beats a try but a failure, you understand?

NESSEN: She's unfazed by the daily deluge of catcalls.

BROWN: I don't pay it no mind. I hold my head high, smile and keep walking. It doesn't bother me. They just - they just looking for attention, and I don't give it to them.

NESSEN: Back on the streets, it's near midnight.

FAZLALIZADEH: Let's see. It looks like some wood paneling down here on this corner. Maybe we can check that out.

NESSEN: Fazlalizadeh still has a bag full of posters, some wheat paste and just found another blank wall on a busy street. This poster reads: Women Don't Owe You Their Time or Conversation. And this time, there are no cops in sight. For NPR News in New York, I'm Stephen Nessen.

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