12 November, 2006

Dickensian Ogling

Hassan Fattah of the NEW YORK TIMES reporting on "beach pests" in Dubai:
As winter arrives in this Persian Gulf city, the masses are thronging by the tens of thousands to its white sandy beaches, wearing, in an unlikely exercise in maritime coexistence, everything from black flowing abayas to slinky bikinis.

Thronging right alongside them are Dubai’s “beach pests,” the gangs of men who trudge through the sand, fully dressed, to ogle the women.

Mostly laborers at the front lines of Dubai’s building boom — toiling on manmade islands, innumerable high-rises, even a dome in the desert for the world’s largest indoor snow park — they flood the beaches every weekend to leer at women, photograph them and occasionally try to grope them in the water.

“They pretend to take pictures of their friends, but they are really taking pictures of you,” said Anika Graichen, 23, a German hotel receptionist who has lived here for three years. She lay on the beach last week trying to ignore various groups of men who passed by with their eyes locked on her.

She is almost used to them now, she said. “I think I can understand it,” she said. “It’s the only place they can have a look at women.”

Indeed, for the estimated 500,000 foreign workers here, most from the Indian subcontinent, the chance to spot a woman in a bikini may be hard to pass up.

They typically live in a Dickensian world of squalor, working 12-hour shifts six days a week, often denied their wages of about $150 per month for months at a time. Most of them secure work by taking out loans from recruiting agencies at home to get here, forcing most to stay on for years without seeing their families and loved ones. The workmen have become prevalent in Dubai’s public parks and beaches as their numbers have swelled, and because of the lechery-on-the-beach factor, they are especially noticeable at this time of year.
Full story is HERE.

26 comments:

Mme Cyn said...

Which is why I sun by a private pool. Yes, we feel sorry for them not having their womenfolk around, but why should we women have to suffer the indignities of being ogled? No beaches for me, I'm afraid. Too bad, really, because going to the beach used to be such a pleasure.

black belt 1st dan,shotokan! said...

it's the way it is,somethings,they will never change

BD said...

Beach pests? I say its all the peculiarities of cultrue we all have to learn to live with and adjust to. In most cases theiy're not ogling. They are just looking in the normal way they look. To those not used to it, however, it's ogling. As for the sunbathers, they're just doing the normal thing they do--perfectly innocuous, culturally speaking. To some, however, it is being provacative. In time, the starers may learn to stare less and those who behave provactively may learn to do less of that. In the meantime, let's just give each other breathing space--ignore other's faux pauxs while trying to be sensitive on our own part.

Mme Cyn said...

bd -- Sorry to disagree, but I'm a frumpy, middle-aged English teacher in a modest black one-piece who would normally never turn a head on a beach, and even I have been groped, propositioned and treated to bits of anatomy on Dubai beaches that I don't care to observe on any but my nearest and dearest in the privacy of my own home. This is neither innocuous or a simple faux pas.

BD said...

That is different. I guess there are some things that the male half of the species, the gentlemanly ones at least, would not have realized goes on.

i, Bobo said...

the gentlemanly ones at least, would not have realized goes on.

I desperately want to agree with you -- but don't you think that the attributes of "gentlemanly" behavior are learned? Isn't our definition of a "gentleman" just a combination of education and social conditioning placed within the context of a specific culture?

Because that's what was so interesting about this to me -- the idea that this society is so completely out of balance at present that this type of thing occurs.

I believe it will all work itself out in the end -- but for the time being I remain a fascinated observer, watching a society come to terms with modernity.

BD said...

Not really clear on the meaning of your comment, iBobo. Are you saying that the "oglers" might very well be gentlemen in their own culture--that their social conditioning teaches them to be this way?

My point was that, not being a woman, I perhaps never really notice the kind of behaviour directed at women, some of it offensive or inappropriate. I've seen the guys in groups that have been referred to here, but truthfully I never noticed that it was to the extent described here.

i, Bobo said...

Are you saying that the "oglers" might very well be gentlemen in their own culture--that their social conditioning teaches them to be this way?

Perhaps -- although I'm not a huge fan of cultural relativism. I just meant that if something were outside the so-called "norm" of a person's culture, would they instinctively have the ability to place it within the context of another culture?

secretdubai said...

I desperately want to agree with you -- but don't you think that the attributes of "gentlemanly" behavior are learned? Isn't our definition of a "gentleman" just a combination of education and social conditioning placed within the context of a specific culture?

Put it like this: in the UK, it's not normal for people to walk down the street with their breasts completely naked (whatever certain people from this region may have been brainwashed to believe). If I went on holiday to some Pacific Island nation where this was normal, would I stare? No. In fact I'd be even more likely to avert my gaze, because it's not usual in my country to see this.

So these men that stare - they are, quite frankly, unsocialised animals. But what I find more wicked is a prevailing culture that teaches them to believe (and not just them - plenty of educated people in this country too) that flesh=sinful=immoral=fair game for perverts.

BD said...

Seems like a nice discourse to carry out in a sociology or anthropology class--this whole issue does, in fact. Do these guys really have so much pent -up desire as a result of being repressed by religion, society and culture--as some have suggested? With the risk of sounding overly academic, it would be interesting if someone really studied the dynamics of what is going on here--and hopefully they wouldn't get deported!

BD said...

But what I find more wicked is a prevailing culture that teaches them to believe (and not just them - plenty of educated people in this country too) that flesh=sinful=immoral=fair game for perverts.

Well said! The whole mentality is so chauvinistic and hypocritical. You (the woman) is such a sinful creature for giving me (the man) these bad thoughts of which I have no control or responsibility.

blogrosh said...

"more wicked is a prevailing culture that teaches them to believe (and not just them - plenty of educated people in this country too) that flesh=sinful=immoral=fair game for perverts. "

FINALLY - someone's laid out the hush hush culture/moral equation out so well, plain & simple. nice post SD.

blogrosh said...

Oh shit, BD shared similar sentiments first!

note to self - read all posts before commenting : )

(embarrassed :)

Anonymous said...

"So these men that stare - they are, quite frankly, unsocialised animals. "
If socialised animals in your country find naked breasts a normal sight. Then leave our animals alone, this "socialization" is not part of our culture and yes to see a woman's flesh is sinful and NO we women don't have a problem with that.
Welike our "unosocialised animal".
And regarding those guys who are staring, let them stare, they have eyes. They are either appreciating "a beautiful animal" or discovering a naked one. Its all good in our books.

DG said...

Slapping me on my face & not letting me cry too? If you want to impose your culture on us, what you people expect in return? I am not defending the oglers, what they do is wrong. But who is giving them the chance here?

Unsocialised animals? Cool. What about the social animals lying on the beach almost nude? You have your culture, I have mine. If I am supposed to respect your culture in your country, I guess I am not asking for too much if I expect the same from you here.

If the cultured people feel offended by the presence of these "pests", then why they go to such places in the first place? There are so many private beaches operated by the hotels, why not go there to get a tan?

This world is really a strange place. People with darker skins die for a fairer one & vice versa. No one is happy or content with how his Creator made him.

Have a look at this funny but ironic pic. Sorry if anyone felt offended by my comment.

secretdubai said...

You have your culture, I have mine.

So your culture reckons it's OK to ogle at other people's bodies?

Somehow I don't think so. I'm sure there's more than a few verses in the Qu'ran about modest behaviour and averting ones eyes.

Just because one can steal, doesn't mean one should.

marwan said...

SD: Not all the offenders are Muslim.

BD said...

One point made in a comment by mme cyn was that even modestly dressed she found a variety of inappropriate behaviour directed toward her including groping.

Also, SD made the point that even when something is "strange" as in not common in one's own culture, a decent person will at least not resort to staring.

I read one blog account where a person describes being surrounded in a bus station in an Indian town. The object of attention: a Western female in normal attire for her. Her clever response, along with her travel mates, was to stare back at individuals in the crowd as intently as they stared at her. The result: One by one the starers stopped staring.

Some things, like excessive staring being rude, are perhaps universal forms of etiquette. Therefore the comments about people being "animals" are not directed toward and racial or national group, but at those individuals who choose to do so.

A further point, dressing in a manner appropriate to one's culure, even when outside of one's own culture, may indicate some lack of sensitivity, but ogling, voicing lude comments, etc. is a form a proactive harrassment. The two are not the same. I.e., the ogler is not just being insensitive he is harrassing and threatening the other person.

secretdubai said...

even modestly dressed she found a variety of inappropriate behaviour directed toward her including groping

And this is very signifcant. Even if you discount the fact that this is supposed to be a beach tourism mecca, with images of people in bikinis used in all the promo brochures for hotels, airlines and property developments, the fact is that you could sit on the beach in long trousers and a t-shirt, and you'd still get harassed.

The problem here is dialogue. No one ever explains to these men what is acceptable. They get no orientation when they arrive on how Dubai works, what is expected, and so forth. These men don't read 7Days. They don't read this blog. They don't ever hear our concerns. It could well be that some of them at least would be shocked and horrified if they realised the offence they are causing (though not all, given the ones that stay around grinning even when their victims express anger).

The behaviour needs to be curbed before it happens. They need to understand the boundaries.

Anonymous said...

Those men all of you are talking about are mostly men who can't afford to bring their wives or can't afford to have a girlfriend.
"So your culture reckons it's OK to ogle at other people's bodies?" You miss the whole point DG was making here SD as usual you are busy making your own point not seeing others from their perspective. He said he doesn't thing ogling is right. Didn't you read that. then he said this country has a culture of modesty and the religion of Islam, if you encountered a local guy who stared at you while you were wearing your bikini, then he will look at what is not a common scene to him, it doesn't matter what religion he is when he is a man, a man is a man. It will always be a challenge for him to avoid the "lovely" site of these socialized animals.
the bus story bd, buses are mainly full of expats, usually Indian, Pakistani's, Filipinos, they are single, they miss women, so they will stare, its disgusting.

BD said...

^^^ Your argument follows the simplisgtic logic that poor, lonely, desperate men cannot control their actions. I don't buy that at all, and I'm a guy. We have all kinds of biological urges that we are expected to control all the time. That's part of being civilized and living in a society. Men CAN control what they do with their head or their eyes. I do it all the time. So, I have some urges... maybe they spring from long pent-up desires. Still, I can control them. If I don't, then I'm at fault.

John B. Chilton said...

It's not just about affording to bring their wives. Below a certain salary the UAE does not allow them to bring their families.

The NYT story doesn't tell us anything we don't know living here. It does let would-be tourists know what it's like on the beach, especially on the weekend, and it's not consistent with the images the tourism bureau puts out.

What will be the response of local authorities? To limit access to the beach and crowd the low-wage ex-pats into an even more Dickensian world?

Anonymous said...

"I do it all the time."
bd I can tell from your picture that you do :)
I guess those men are more horny...

i, Bobo said...

SD hit it right on the head:

"...supposed to be a beach tourism mecca, with images of people in bikinis used in all the promo brochures for hotels..."

One of the things I find absolutely absurd is this ridiculous notion that you can re-create Las Vegas in the Middle East and avoid all the problems attendant in doing so.

If you build a tourist industry that attempts to be attractive to Western and/or secular interests, then of course you are going to bump into these issues. After all, how could you reasonably expect to embrace a Western business model without it impacting the model of your own society?

The Devil did not do this to you, my friends -- your leadership did it to you, the same leadership that built these resorts, the same leadership that encouraged multinationals to pour money and infrastructure into this country, and the very same leadership that is dragging you kicking and screaming into the 16th -- excuse me -- 21st Century.

Now it's time for that leadership to step up to the plate and protect two disparate but equally important components of the new society they've created: the tourists who spend their money sunning half-naked and spending cash on all the lovely bling available here -- as well as the workers who are brought here as (essentially) indentured servants and are made to suffer the indignities of a corporate environment that feeds off their blood. The crazy thing is that all of this exploitation occurs without proper representation or labor organizations (which means ELECTIONS and UNIONS, in case you didn't get it).

So I really don't know which one makes me more distraught -- the rampant immaturity and unsophistication when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality or the absolutely horrific manner in which this places allows -- no, actively encourages -- the exploitation of its workforce.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you naked animals.

Anonymous said...

A conversation I had with a group of friends highlighted the massive cultural differences and misunderstandings that lead to these problems.

It basically went along the lines of me asking "is a guy stopping his car in the street, driving slowly and shouting 'you are beautiful' harrassment" to a man all my male Arab friends said no (I was the only Western male in the discussion). All of the women (a mixture of one westerner, two lebanese and one indian) said yes.

I asked whether they thought it was intimidating for a woman to be followed by a guy or a group of guys persistently trying to give them their phone number. Most of the men said it wasn't, all of the women (and they all said that this exact scenario had happened to them) said it was very intimidating.

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