I always thought that while I walk I can be a spectator or an actor. I can choose to participate in the crowd , or stay and watch how the crowd is manifesting. While I was walking in my hometown I felt that everyone could have been an observer, because I was familiar with their faces and they were with mine. Sometimes I caught myself looking at how others are walking, rather then being aware of the way I walk. What I find intriguing is the fact that I can choose in which ‘movie’ I want to be, how I want to act, and what roles I give the other people on the street, because in each of them are part of my journey.
While I walk, what am I for others? A ghost, an anonymous person which they just pass by in a normal, boring day. I can be both, but what happens when I am noticed, by a women, a child, a man. It’s different in each case, but I am going to talk about the last one.
Sometimes I have the feeling that I am being looked at. I can see a woman who looks at me, but when I see a man doing this, it’s a different feeling completely. I feel in a way that he is invading my space by choosing to focus on me. In comparison to men , I feel that as a woman you ‘get used’ to the feeling of ‘being looked at’. Sometimes when I walk I can feel that I am being watched, but sometimes I just act like I do not know, like the other person does not exist , like he is a ghost. Maybe this can be a passive way of treating the situation. When talking about women in public their status have changed over time, but in some ways it remain the same: ‘Women’s presence in public becomes with startling frequency an invasion of their private parts, sometimes literally, sometimes verbally.’ ( Solnit, 2001, p. 234). Sometimes I was being more of a spectator: ‘Observer, philosopher,flaneur’, ‘he is a painter of the passing moment’. ( Baudelaire, 1964, p. 4). ‘The flaneur’, this character who walks around the city and observe : ‘only a man can be a flaneur’. This spectator of the crowd it is described as a ‘he’. Why is that? Maybe because the man was and still is the entitled observer. They can analyse a woman body, how she moves, the way she is dressed and how she looks for his own pleasure: ‘One of the arguments about why women could not be flaneurs was that they were, as either commodities or consumers, incapable of being sufficiently detached from the commerce of city life.’ ( Solnit, 2001, p. 237). For centuries women, were and still are in some cultures not worthy of being or feeling in public or on the streets as their male counterparts.
While walking on the main street of the historical centre, the same street I walked when I was a child , I noticed that someone was looking at me. He was not a participant in the walking story, he was a pawn seating on a bench which was placed in the middle of the street. Now, I am thinking of what happens when a woman is watched by a man ? Am I being objectified by him because he chooses to look at me, or am I objectifying myself when that situation is happening?
Being outside, on the street already can put anyone in a vulnerable position, because you let yourself be looked at, you present yourself in front of others.
But being a woman and walking on the streets , even if you do not want to be noticed you can not. But I think in this situation other factors can interfere, for example the way you are dressed, or if you are wearing makeup or not. The way a woman was and is dressed says a lot about who or what she is according to society and this was the case since the beginnings of times: ‘ The women who wore theses costumes were themselves more or less like one or the other type, according to the degree of poetry or vulgarity with which they were stamped’ (Baudelaire, 1964, p. 2). How women are dressed can dictate how they are perceived by men.
A woman can be as much as an observer or a spectator of the crowd just as a man can. Someone can look at you, but actually they do not notice you because they were trapped in their own thoughts.
The most beautiful aspect of walking is that it can unveil to me new surroundings. I can create a visual journey of my own and also a journey of thoughts, which remain on my mind forever: ‘ The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it’ ( Solnit, 2001, p. 6). After I get home I can reimagine the whole walk through the images of what I noticed along the way. That is why sometimes when I see something which catches my attention I like to photograph it, to keep a record of my ‘walking story’ and then compare it with the one in my mind.
Each walk is a unique one, it is written along the way, around the footsteps you are taking and where your mind flows in that moment.