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December 2002

Frozen in a cat's stare

Paraphrasing John Berger's "Ways of Seeing", Mazloum, Madame Bayaz's cat, often maintains the position of the voyeur, thus by implication bestowing upon all things other the status of being-looked-at-ness. Feminist theorist, much like Iranian film censors, have found this status troublesome and debated for years about the implication of celebrating it as the marred marker of female subjectivity, always cautious of placing "her",ie. "woman",in the position of an objectified being. I, frankly, invest little in these debates, or more to the point, wouldn't enter into them if my life depended on it. But let me not defer the confessional further and quickly summarize the events that have led up to my principled position on the matter.

Last week, I mentioned Laura Mulvey's work on voyeurism and the male gaze to Mazloum, as I wanted to review Mulvey's now twenty some year old remarks on the cinematic gaze in an attempt to evaluate their relevance for our understanding of the (movie) stars. The cat must have taken offense at my attempt to resurrect the devil-of-an-issue in the first place, because for days following Mulvey's and, hence my, fleeting thoughts on the oppressive qualities of the male cinematic gaze under conditions of patriarchy, he moved himself from my bed into the spare bedroom and rarely raised a whisker to acknowledge my presence with or without food. Being ignored by my own cat,is more troubling than his gaze, I must admit. Hence my reluctance to raise the hairy issue of the gendered nature of the gaze again, for as I mentioned, it became clear to me, as he extended my banishment, that his stare rarely distinguishes between objects and subjects. All things enter the realm of being-looked-at-ness under Masloum's gaze, thus all subjects and objects are feminized in Berger and Mulvey's vocab. Clothes are as precious as lovers in his eyes. And conveniently, the reverse also rings true: people are as ignorable as a planter in the corner of a room. With this dialectic in mind, doors are as likely to open if you stare at them long enough, than to not. So why not stare? And that's a dose of cat-logic for you.

But what's in a cat,really? Why pause to consider a cat in plotting destiny? Need we be reminded that the national form, Iran's geographical boundary, is that of the cat? My thoughts are that if the imagined community is constitutive of national consciousness, as some have argued, then we must conclude that the nation is imagined, in the darkness of the night, from within the dialectics of its distinguishing national quality, namely, the dialectics of the cat's stare. What the national subjects see in the process of imagining a nation, that is, in coming into consciousness of eachother's shared life, is not only national time measured by the calendarical date that marks a new day under the Farsi newspaper banner, but also the voyeurism embodied by the cat whose form they inhabit. So stare away, my dear, it's what makes you a (national) subject, and here's a tip or two on what to focus your gaze this month.

Farvardin: Aries
You're so into detail this month... staring at details in art, strips of film, and even the slips of tongue that reveal the inside of your head to you. You're being naughty aren't you? It seems that the devil's in the detail.

Ordibehesht: Taurus
Can't stop opening the refrigerator and staring at an empty shell? You have no appetite this month and no energy to do creative shopping. Eat out with friends and order hors d'oeuvres instead.

Khordad: Gemini
You need to tear yourself away from those monitors and go out for a walk in the wilderness. You've got the future on your mind.

Tir: Cancer
Stare at the tip of your nose, because everything beyond your extremities has gone haywire. Don't add to the chaos. Just spend the month taking care of your business.

Mordad: Leo
Staring at a door for hours, you'll notice that what walks in through it is a bag, then a body. This month you'll have to watch for the minutia that make the world of difference.

Shahrivar: Virgo
Culture shock: Ever move to a suburb only to realize what's missing is life? Well, honey, deal with it. The job and your new commitments will demand it. Stare at that piece of paper you signed to remind you how you got there. Your freedom is just a sheet away.

Mehr: Libra
One could be cockled by looking at its form alone, but if I'm right, you seem to be staring at a microphone this month: You're developing a personality and that alone is enough to demand everyone's attention. Picking up a radio show on the local bandwidth may be just the right thing to do.

Aban: Scorpio
You can't decide if its love or hate...but, like a cat you'll spend the month staring at the significant one with a great degree of intensity. Perhaps you'll get lucky andcuticals9;ll finally make the decision for you and pounce.

Azar: Sagittarius
Have a look at the damage you've done to your cuticals this last month. What's up, honey? Do you feel like you're behind on something? How many times must I reassure you. The stars will have it their watravelingr wish is for your future fame. Calm your worries.

Dey: Capricorn
Staring at the back of someone's head? Apparently you're travelling this month, buses, trains, airplanes, cars...maybe counting the number of grey hairs will give you something to do.

Bahman: Aquarius
Remember how you played hookie all summer long? As always, the stars will have it that one must reap what one sows. You'll be staring at letters of rejection all month long. Though there are blessings in that too, I must say.

Esfand: Pisces
Snow flakes, snow flakes, snow's either them or rows of cans and dried goods that you've arranged and rearranged in your pantry. Better make the best of it. Take delight in shifting forms and shapes, as the colors won't change much beyond white for you this month.

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