Saturday, 11 August 2012

the female gaze

I've been reading about the concept of the male gaze, and finding the idea just as perverse and troubling as you might imagine.

What is the male gaze and why is it a problem? Being viewed, observed, regarded, by men, is somehow damaging to women. It's similar to the idea that a woman's virginity is her purity. If she has sex with a man, she becomes polluted. The concept of the male gaze extends this idea so that even being looked at by a man damages the woman and causes her to lose value.

I propose two truths regarding men's experience of the female gaze. 1. Men crave the female gaze;
2. Women injure men by denying them the gaze.

If you've ever been around men, you've seen men trying to earn the female gaze. How do they do it? They try to be good enough at something to earn her attention. This might include displays of humor or intelligence. Often, men display skills, especially skills that are dangerous (skateboard tricks), or skills that took a lot of practice to develop (musical expertise).

If you observe women in these situations, you'll note that many are pretty open in their disdain. They refuse to acknowledge jokes, and look off into the distance with studied ennui as the men perform dangerous stunts. According to the unwritten rules of engagement, men aren't allowed to show that this hurts. By treating men as invisible, women are able to maintain a position of power. Even a putdown from a woman is often received with gratitude. It's less painful than invisibility.

It's not necessary that the woman in question be "hot," in case that's what you're thinking. Men crave the female gaze so much that they will perform like trained monkeys for almost any woman, younger or older, skinny or chunky, pretty or plain.

So, if the female gaze is received as a valued gift, what insight does this give us about the male gaze? Is this is just the old sluts vs. players schtick, only on a less corporeal plane? Does the female gaze build up, whereas the male gaze destroys?

If you really believe all that, let's talk about how it would be if men suddenly deprived women of their gaze. How would be if men simply forced women to work for their gaze, the way women do with men?

Next time.

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