Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Sport of Gazing

A self-proclaimed scopophobic I am because there is nothing in this world I detest more than being stared at by people. It's unnerving because I know it's ojectifying. My naturally curious nature compels me to ask what could be so interesting about another human going about their daily lives that it incites one to stare. So much so that one cannot divorce their eyes from them, must gaze incessantly and continue to do so even when the person gazed at notices. It's rude and we've all, if we've been conditioned by Western standards, been socialised to know that staring at others is simply impolite. But in the spur of the moment, some individuals will forget all of what they've been taught and invade another's privacy without consideration.

There are exceptions and being aware of them, I should ease up on my judgements. Lost in thought or concentrating intenseley a person will look at an imaginary spot in space for a prolonged period of time. It may just so happen that there is someone occupying the position in which their line of vision is directed. I understand that. I do it sometime. But this exception often accompanies a blank expression and a kind of absent glint in the eyes. In that case, one can know what the cause of the gaze is. A person whose mind has drifted off to Wonderland .

So when the stare is concentrated and intense on you and it's barely imperceptible. What's the deal with that? Noticing this doesn't make me a narcissist but I am slightly interested about it. Considering my "foreign" appearance in a nation xenophobic. South African blacks are hostile to those that seem foreign in appearance. Worse still the paternalistic white South Africans. Knowing this helps me understand that staring perhaps from these types of individuals implies that in me they identify a separateness, a difference and it draws their curiosity and interest as does the fact that I end up gazed at whilst going about the mundane routine of daily life. I prefer this argument to the following which I found on wikipedia under the "Gaze" article:

Gazing at someone and seeing someone gaze upon another person, say much about the relation between the observer and the observed; and about the relations, between and among, the subjects of the gaze (the people, place, thing being gazed at); and about the circumstance of the gazing. Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins say that gazing's mutual nature reflects power structures (the nature of the relation between the gazer and the gazed-at subject) that tell us who has the right and/or need to look at whom.[citation needed] Although the gaze might be regarded merely as the action of “looking at” a subject, Jonathan Schroeder says: it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze — an idea basic to feminist textual analysis.

This is where the notion of the male gaze originated in feminist theory. Because society is regarded as male dominated and slogans such as "sex sells" exist which we see manifest in the continual objectification of women in the media, the gazer is in essence the one who supposedly claims to hold the power cards.

I don't like this at all. It's unnerving - being looked upon as an object. Terrible.

No comments: