Food for Thought: The Indian Male Gaze and White Woman

This photo is a perfect food for thought!

The photo (part of an AP news on rape in India) presents in real-life-situation the psycho-socio-politics of look and gaze and the operationalization of violence and power through male gaze.

The way the photo has pictured one of the 'normal' events (of look and gaze) in South Asian society tells heaps. The photo is intentionally trying to foreground the "gaze" of the typical Indian men (see pic: there are three Indians gazing at the white woman) upon a White woman tourist in a busy tourist hotspot of India (New Delhi Gate).

This exposes the reality of India -- the male stare or gaze -- which most Western tourists either hate or feel weird about. However, among men in India, this norm of gazing at woman has been internalized so deeply that neither the "gazers" nor the locals around them notice what's wrong or weird about it.

In the picture, there are at least three male gaze captured: 1) the man in blue T-shirt standing beside his red luggage is staring at the bare thighs of the white woman who, obviously, is not "looking back" at the gazers. 2) the man in white shirt is also engaging in a curious and voyeuristic male gaze upon the white female. 3) there is a third man with the same gaze on the right hand side and he is only half in the frame. There could be others doing the same thing at the same time making the white woman feel uncomfortable.

The effect of voyeuristic gaze of multiple men is discernible on the woman. She is looking straight down and seems to have been trying to ignore what's happening to her in the busy marketplace.

Picture this incident in Sydney, for example. What is likely to happen? This will not happen in the first place because the norm is that you should not stare or make eye contact with a stranger in a way that could potentially create uncomfortable situation. If there is an eye contact, that has to be for the purpose of some kind of communication. It could be even a simple communication of greetings like 'hello'. If it happens, the one who is being looked or gazed upon would respond in whatever way the situation would demand. The person subjected to a gaze or stare is not likely to just ignore the gaze. But in places like India were voyeuristic gaze are so pervasive and are like a norm among males, responding to them seems either trouble making or meaningless.

I think, it could be a matter of lengthy scholarly research as to how the differences in so called norms lead to conflict and violence. The act of look and gaze could be one case to look at. This much for now, just a food for though. One more pic of gaze:

(Photo source: AP. Photo Caption reads: In this Tuesday, April 2, 2013 photo, German tourist Carolina De Paola, 22, walks near the landmark Gateway of India in Mumbai, India. A fatal gang rape in New Delhi didn't deter Germans De Paolo and Canan Wahner from traveling to India for a six-week tour. On a train, a man grabbed De Paolo's breasts from behind but she never reported the crime, deciding there would be no point. Violence against women, and the huge publicity generated by recent attacks here, is threatening India's $17.7 billion tourism industry with a new study showing tourism has plunged. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
Top photo source: AP


  1. I'm a white Western woman who has traveled to India and I would never wear a dress that exposed my legs (incl my upper thigh), arms and also my bra! That's crazy! Yes, I agree that wearing this outfit doesn't give men the right to stare at you like you're dinner, and no, I'm not implying this woman deserves being leered at because of her choice of clothes, I'm just pointing out that people don't dress like that in India… Consider the appropriateness of your clothing everywhere you go. Conservative country, ultra non-conservative outfit? Seems intentionally provocative to me. Until Indian women dress like this? Better to leave your slip dresses at home.

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  2. True she is dressed to attract attention, a flimsy slip dress which looks more like a t-shirt and her underwear is exposed. Men are just reacting to what they see! White bare flesh!! It is inappropriate in some cultures to show bare legs and arms, but western women think they can dress how they like without consequence.

    1. The western women think they can dress how they like without consecuences(rape)well,here in our culture men dnt rape women for how they dress,besides,your conservative indian women are victims of harrasment and gang rape,besides if you indians dislike"white bare flesh"why you consume so much pornography with white women??you indians have a very twisted sense of morality,a woman cant dress as she wants,yet you do allow your women to commit multiple abortions and even are worldwide known for your huge gender inbalance,it seems all the religious fundamentalism you have just does nt matter when it comes to killing unborn babies.there too many worst things going on in your country than a white woman wearing a dress,so try first solving ur social issues instead of judging on other cultures

  3. Not agree...they are just looking her because she is different from them..... same happened with me when I was in thailand...people were looking at me on the beach because I have a turban and long beard, many people ask us about Mehndi on my wife's hand.. explained to all but they had surprising look on us !

  4. there is one proverb in India which says 'Jaisa Desh Waisa Bhess'... it means wherever you go you try to one of them.. try to belong to them... that will attract their attention in right manner.. try wearing their costumes.. they will respect you for respecting their culture... the people here are still simple...

  5. You can spend your entire life doing scholarly research on the "Indian male gaze" only to have realized that you wasted your life, and the number of tourists to India grew by 12% each year. Even a schizophrenic will be able to tell that the body language of the men in the picture above, and the expression on their faces are far from sexual. The woman is beyond naked, per Indian standards, and the man in the white shirt rightly seems disgusted. The other man, in red, seems to have been reminded that the woman is high-class and he is low-class, and has a long way to go - common issue among many Indians. If I was there, I would have also stared at the woman with disgust, the same way I get stared at when I walk into shops while wearing shorts and flip-flops - they refuse to entertain me as a customer. Keep researching why.
    If a woman walked the streets of Sydney bare breasted, she would definitely get a ton of "sexual stares" and those full of disgust, too, because she went beyond the acceptable limits. So, stop imposing your beliefs on others and keep your mouth shut until you fully grow a brain.

    1. What a lot of crap!!!indian women dress conservative and they are gang raped, those men stare at the white woman becuz they are perverts,dnt blame it on her or how she s dressed..becuz indian perverts are at the highest rates of rape in the world,they even rape lil gals!!!is you indians who should grow a are obsesive consumers of pornography,real life white women are nt like the ones you see in the adult films you watch,you indians also need to learn some moral too maybe that may help you to stop being the rape capital of the world


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