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A question about male gaze

Last night, when I was falling asleep at my keyboard and did not want to sleep, I went off to the internet to read about books. (Not my books, though, because that frequently wakes me up in the Bad Way, because - author.)

One of the books was a novel called Stormdancer. It is the first in a series that is set in not-Japan but which makes use of elements of Japanese society in a kind of “this is cool, let’s use this” way. This is a book, according to quotes in reviews, which is firmly anchored in the male gaze.

The protagonist is a woman.

I’ve been thinking about books, written by men, in which women are handled well. Or, to be more specific, in which I think women are handled well. It’s a question I used to be asked while working at the bookstore, and therefore a question I’ve turned over on the inside of my head, time and again.

And this morning, because I am writing and my creative writer brain has slowed, I have returned to this, having spent an evening reading about male gaze.

All of the male authors I’ve recommended or cleared as “writing women well” (Sean Stewart for example) are entirely absent male gaze.

(I once asked Sean Stewart how he handled his women, because he was one of the few male authors whose viewpoint felt so natural to me I would have believed he was a woman if I hadn’t met him, and he said “It’s not magic; I just write about them as if they’re…people.” One of the ways he achieved this, I realize in hindsight, is jettisoning male gaze.)

Male gaze irritates the crap out of me. Most of the women I know who notice their bodies are likely to say “I need to lose weight around my thighs” or “my stomach is so flabby”, so if you really want to write from a female viewpoint, you don’t have your character notice her fabulous perky breasts or creamy skin or etc. Because. Well.


Is there a female gaze that has the same weight, and is irritating or reductionist in the same way? Do male readers feel reduced to uncomfortable margins by female gaze?

I realize that this is a touchy question. I am actually interested in the answer and will accept any answer that is given that does not constitute a personal attack on any other answer that’s given - but I want people to answer without fear of censure.


Mar. 10th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
Not being male I don't feel qualified to answer directly, but Sartorias recently did a review on Goodreads of a self-published and quite popular m&m fantasy, which seems to have started in fanfiction - to her it seemed to be titillation for the female gaze - and I think a lot of m&m, whether in manga or in books is expressly written for the female gaze.
Mar. 12th, 2013 04:48 am (UTC)
That was my first thought, actually, to point out M/M fiction.
Mar. 12th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
Not that there aren't amazing books out there which are m&m, though. I point to Ann Somerville's Darshian Tales, especially Kei's Gift - or the heartbreaking (but in two instances late in the book very fanservicing) Sidecar m&m by Amy Lane (which is basically a look at the situation of gay Americans in the 80s) - oh and Whisper in the Dark by Tamara Allen, who does a very sweet love story in New York, but highlights a) the development of radio, b) the feelings of survivors of the Great War c) life in gay circles in New York of the 20s.
Mar. 14th, 2013 01:01 am (UTC)
I'll have to look them up. There are a few M/M authors I like and follow closely, but in general I don't enjoy reading it, mostly because of gaze issues I suspect.
Mar. 14th, 2013 01:06 am (UTC)
Female gaze issue. *sigh*