The Male Gaze

The Male Gaze September 5, 2014

This video was taken by a woman crossing a busy pedestrian bridge in Cairo. She held her cell phone close to her mouth and pretended to talk on it in Arabic, but was actually recording. She was dressed as you see in the beginning of the video, in a conservative skirt, a shirt, and a cardigan, with her hair down. The entire recording was done on one five minute walk. To read more about this video and how it was made, click here.

I showed this video to my husband Sean, and he had this to say:

I think “male gaze” can be communicated by example of predatory intent in the animal world. e.g. dogs using eye contact as signals of aggression (not quite the same) or lions lazily watching you from a distance. 

Too often the male response is that it must be awesome to be the center of attention like that. It isn’t. Sean gets it. It feels predatory, invasive, threatening. When we women walk in public, we’re not looking to find a guy or hook up with someone. We’re simply trying to get from point A to point B, ideally enjoying the weather and sights along the way.

Now inevitably some guy will become indignant. “Are you saying we can’t even look at attractive women?” Newsflash: there’s a big difference between indiscriminately staring and looking at someone discreetly. I look at attractive people when I’m out and about all the time—both men and women (I’m bisexual). There’s lots to like! But when I look at an attractive person, I’m careful to do so in a way that won’t make them uncomfortable. I’m conscious of how my actions affect others.

Of course, some other guy may point out that this video was made in Egypt, and argue that things are different here in the U.S. Well you know what? I have friends who have stopped using public transit because of the amount of harassment they’ve faced. Think about that for a moment. I don’t have statistics on the levels in various countries or cities and I have no doubt that they vary quite a bit, but a lot of guys simply don’t see harassment because they’re not women.

Guys, look, if a woman is flirting with you, feel free to flirt back. But don’t stare at the woman walking by you on the sidewalk, and don’t catcall her either. When you do that you make the public space uncomfortable for women, and that is not okay.

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