Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

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 10:07 pm (UTC)
So, is male gaze just objectification, then? Or rather, is the inverse - female gaze - the same type of objectification, but of men? I’ve been thinking about whether or not there is a female gaze, or perspective, that elides or shuts men out in the same way; if there’s a way of handling male viewpoint that smacks them in the face and makes them throw the book across the room because it so violates the sense of reality.
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'm not so sure that we can simplify it that way.

I've read some people who believe that we have no way of knowing what a true female gaze is because our society is still predominantly male, so no matter what we think it is no from a predominantly female (or a truly equal) society. While I'm not prepared to go that far, I think that female gaze doesn't have quite the same impact on men as it might with women. For example, most of the guys I know don't mind being objectified, whereas I can't say that with my female friends.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 11th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC)
I think the male gaze is much bigger than objectification.

Me too.
Mar. 11th, 2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
I think, in both cases, it is more complex and it's not as simple as an inversion to get from one to the other. For instance, one of the reasons the 'physically perfect men except for the jerk' book bothered my friend is that he couldn't relate to any of them: the perfect men were not him, and the jerk man couldn't be him either. It wasn't that he minded the sexual objectification but more the nullification of his experience as a normal and good person.