The ‘male gaze’ is the objectifying gaze men look upon women with. It is commonly defined as objectifying women for their appearance while simultaneously keeping them under a form of patriarchal surveillance.
Indeed, I could not deny it exists. In fact I am certain it does. Who has not witnessed a man look at a woman with a disgusting lust. Or worse, a look, an assessment – clinical, cold, objectification of a piece meat.
The space within which such glances are given – an imbalance of physical strength between men and women and a man’s world purpose built for men (this is a historical fact) – make the ‘male gaze’ potentially powerfully negative.
Feminism makes much of the male gaze, but it does not consider the male experience. It does not consider human experience and then compare female experience to it.
Meet the ‘female gaze’. It is far more subtle, selective and it aims to peer into the soul of a man. The female gaze is much like the male gaze, it is complimentary although potentially highly intimidating. Women sometimes don’t even look at you, they look around you, they look near you, they look at who you’re talking to and how that person responds to you – they assess. They assess you for your confidence, you’re status, your masculinity, your power over others, over the group. They don’t just assess you as a person, they assess you as a ‘man’ whatever that is in this day and age. Think how it feels to be under the ‘gaze’ or the assessment of a smart, naturally very intuitive woman who can literally smell your confidence and ability as a human being and as a man.
I’m not sure which gaze I’d rather be under: one that looks at you as a physical thing or one that assesses you to the core of your being to see if you measure up. ‘Not measuring up’ as a man, is a harsh indictment (an indictment read to you by the focus of your emotional and sexual longing no less) not so much about how you look, but who you are.
You can rationally dismiss rejection based on appearance. Try rationally dismissing rejection based on your human and masculine qualities. Oh and by the way, this ‘rejection following assessment’ by women is instinctual, carved to perfection by millennia of evolution; just like a man’s assessment of a women’s appearance based on reproductive ability, it can’t be helped. Unfair? Sorry, it can’t be helped.
As Kirk Cobain penned in the song ‘In Bloom’, ‘nature is a whore’ and nature is deeply unfair to those that do not measure up (regardless of gender), even within a society with laws against unfairness. The ladies simply don’t find you attractive buddy, because, well because you are you. While the ‘male gaze’ is also a fact of life, it is superficial and at least on a rational level can easily be dismissed by a woman as men being superficial cunts.
Am I over egging this? A bit. But the point is that most feminism fails to look over the fence to see what men experience to see how it compares to female experience, to see how human experience compares to women’s experience.
Society is more aware of the male gaze, just as society is more focused on a women’s appearance – the men as looking, the women as being looked at. The male gaze and its associated products (images, pornography, etc.) is more obvious, objectifying and easily packaged, commodified and sold in the patriarchal capitalist market place.
The female gaze is different and less obvious, but it exists. Its associated products are romance novels, which, no matter how trite at least attempt to explore the depth of love and sexual attraction and obviously depict idealised males that are pleasing to the ‘female gaze’. The objectification of men in these novels is deeper than the skin deep pornography made for men, but objectification nonetheless. Romance novels are women’s pornography.
Men and women both objectify just differently. Yes the impact of male objectification has had a larger obvious negative impact, but feminism only delegitimises itself by not acknowledging and discussing objectification more broadly. Lets call it ‘human on human objectification’. Yes you first heard it here! And yes I got the copyright.