28 April 2006

Confronting the Lebanese Gaze

A little while ago, I started running. Shortly thereafter I determined that I needed a better way to handle unwanted attention (in the form of comments from passers-by and rather obnoxious staring). My plan was to take some advice from Art History, and confront the gaze.

Well, its been almost a week, and I've faithfully been out running and putting the lessons of history into practice. Along the way I have observed who is looking and how they react when they see I am looking.

Lessons Learned
1. Adolescent and young adult males are the ones cat calling. Although Men over 23(? I can never guess ages) sometimes look, they are not the ones who comment.
2. Young men seem to feel most comfortable commenting when they are in the presence of at least one friend. Moral support perhaps?
3. The Lebanese (like most everyone else I've ever met) don't like to be caught staring. In roughly 60% of cases, they look away when they see I'm looking back.
4. The other 40% percent were looking at my face anyway. They tend to maintain eye contact when I look. No doubt they recognize me. I've been there every morning for two weeks now. (Yippee for me! I haven't given up yet!)

Case Studies
1. One morning I ran past two young men who were walking the opposite direction. One called out to me "Good morning Sweetheart! Welcome to Lebanon!". I looked right at him the whole time, expressionless except for an increasingly arched eyebrow. On my return leg I passed these two again. They neither looked nor spoke to me.
2. On another occasion I ran past two young men who were standing around doing nothing (who hangs out at 6 am??). One of them called out in Arabic with that look on his face. I did not overt my gaze, which I could tell by his expression was quite unexpected. I ran on, and noticed a few hundred yards later that the two were following me on a scooter. The same youth called out something else in Arabic before making a U-turn and vanishing.

Results and Evaluation
Yesterday and today, I have not been welcomed to Lebanon. No one has stared in an untoward fashion. I consider my implementation a success, and by extension, have proven the significance of what Manet did over a century ago.


Matthew said...

I still think a tazer is the best choice.

Anonymous said...

You had best be careful, Matthew, it sounds as if her gaze is as effective as a tazer.

katperkins said...

You know, when you first proposed this plan I thought it a great idea. I often walk around with that expression on my even if guys aren't trying to talk to me. It ocurred to me while reading this last post that even though your solution seems perfectly normal to us, I think if I told this story to my friends they would think it was really weird. We seem to be a special breed.

Mary Ann said...

Hmm. I imagine there are people out there who like to be objectified, and I know there are people who like to objectify others. But I always thought they were the exception, and as such I would think they are the special breed.

Anyway, you and I agree about this. Keep looking back.