Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Being gazed at in receptionist work reveals itself
to me in this episode as ……………………....…
accepting or modifying it in the act of
putting it on.
The experience of reception practice in the
episode described above had several powerful
dimensions, which the receptionist expressed in
colourful metaphor summarized in the follow-
ing points:
Linking the Signifi cance of the
Phenomenon with Social Discourse
Exploration of power relations
I visualise being the recipient of the tourist gaze,
as being a display of candy in an open jar that
is exposed for visual appreciation, but not for
touching or tasting.
As can be seen from the above accounts, the
gaze of a guest can be received favourably by
the host who offers invitations to sample certain
services and suggests possibilities for other lei-
sure pursuits. At the same time, the gaze of the
guest can be seen as an 'intrusive eye' by
the host who may react with a 'resisting gaze'.
The resisting gaze is necessarily subtle given the
asymmetry of power relations between the male
guest who comes from an affl uent social context
and the female receptionist from a third world
country who is in a subservient labour context.
The fact that Mr Abubakar was a valued
guest held the receptionist back from wanting
to complain about him to management. Inter-
estingly, these sentiments are echoed by a
number of service workers who experienced
sexual harassment from customers: 'It's not
really suitable to blurt out what you think in
front of the guest. Waiters or receptionists are
not supposed to react like that, even if they are
really upset' (Folgero and Fjeldstad, 1995,
p. 307). Folgero and Fjeldstad report that work-
ers have felt that 'telling off' (scolding) custom-
ers for sexual harassment would constitute
unprofessional conduct. Some workers were
afraid to say anything because they did not
want to jeopardize their job. Some felt it was
part and parcel of the job, '. . . if you work in a
reception you play the receptionist. Then
you've got to take what comes, and make the
best of it' (Folgero and Fjeldstad, 1995, p. 308).
Folgero and Fjeldstad observe that some work-
ers viewed their service role as being similar to
that of an actor/actress in a theatrical perfor-
mance whereby they were expected to act out
a particular script. In this acting role 'the actor
[sic] is like the whore who feels nothing for the
man she is with, but lets herself go in his arms
anyway as a demonstration of her professional
competence' (Diderot, 1773, as cited in Roach,
1985, p. 138).
I perceive receiving the tourist gaze in reception
work like being an ornament in a shop that
customers might think they could pay for and
I picture the predatory gaze in reception work
as being like a rabbit confronted by the
headlights of a car.
The feeling of the predatory gaze is like being a
butterfl y pinned to a board.
Being gazed at is like being scrutinised through
an X-Ray machine.
Distilling the
Phenomenon - Interpretation
The following are examples of some of the inter-
pretative themes that were distilled from the
portrayal of Mr Abubakar's episode:
Teasing the senses: 'lovely to look,
but don't touch'.
Receiving the tourist gaze in reception work
is like being treated as an inanimate thing,
like an ornament on display. It has a sense
of teasing the guests' senses, beckoning
and saying, 'look but do not touch!' It is like
being a dish of food to be smelled and ap-
preciated visually, but not to be consumed.
Receiving the tourist gaze in reception work
is like being on display, like a dish of food,
like candy in an open jar vulnerable to the
temptation of guests.
Exposed and vulnerable.
Receiving the tourist gaze in reception work
is like being a rabbit caught in a trap.
Being shaped into response.
Receiving the tourist gaze is like being
offered a defi ning garment to wear and
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