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Feb 20 2015


Mexico City

Last September, Fusion commissioned artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, 29, to travel to Mexico City and create an installation of her highly-acclaimed art project protesting street harassment, “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” Fazlalizadeh’s visit to Mexico was her first to the country; it was also the first time the STWTS project — for which Fazlalizadeh papers city streets with hand-drawn portraits of women pushing back against their street harassers — had ever been created and then exhibited outside of the United States.

Fazlalizadeh and Fusion editor Anna Holmes settled on Mexico City because they wanted to amplify the voices of Mexican women who are challenging the ways in which their communities turn a blind eye to harassment and violence against women. “I wanted to find out, what do women in Mexico City go through?” says the NYC-based Fazlalizadeh. “What are their experiences? What are their stories? How’s what they experience different from what I experience? How can I reflect those differences in these pieces?”

Street harassment, also known as "acoso en las calles," is an enormous problem in Mexico City and the country as a whole, where rates of sexual violence against women are some of the highest in the world. In Mexico, as elsewhere, says Laura Martinez, director of the Association for the Integral Development of Raped Persons, female bodies are seen as objects, as “something a man can have access to, even if the woman doesn’t want”; a United Nations report in 2010 ranked Mexico number one globally in sexual violence against women, estimating that 44% of females have suffered some sort of sexual violence, from groping to rape. The situation is so bad that Mexico City offers female-only cars on the city’s subways and, in 2008, introduced female-only buses, painted the color pink.

The title of this interactive comes from commentary by Gabriela Duhart Herrera, Director of Atrévete DF, the Mexico City chapter of Hollaback!, an organization founded in 2005 to protest the verbal and sexual abuse of women in public spaces. The interactive tells both the story of Tatyana’s trip and the experiences of the dozens of Mexico City women - students, mothers, politicians, even a police officer - who shared their stories with her. There are also a number of male perspectives on display. (“Here, all the men do it,” said one young man about street harassment.)

Directly above, you’ll encounter 76 short stories of the individuals who wanted to speak out about their experiences with street harassment. Further down, video and still photographs document the six days Fazlalizadeh and Fusion producers spent in the capital meeting, drawing, printing, posting, and in a few cases, avoiding local law enforcement officers and late summer storms. “It was an entirely new experience,” Fazlalizadeh says. “I feel like people kind of have to warm up, because this is kind of private issue that women I don’t think talk about that much outside their group of friends or whoever. But I felt like here, [in Mexico City], people jumped right in.”

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