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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. 11th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
I own a copy of Cloud's End, but I haven't read it yet. I've read Mockingbird, Firecracker and Galveston. I own Nobody's Son (which my partner has read but I haven't yet) and The Night Watch, which I haven't read because I need to read Resurrection Man first and that means finding a copy.

I'm a bibliophile, my to-read pile is more a to-read shelf, I've got a few hundred books waiting in the wings for me to read them.
Oct. 7th, 2014 08:28 am (UTC)
This is about 7 months late, but if it's still relevant I've read both Resurrection Man and The Night Watch twice and if you are going for plot continuity or pieces of characters' lives they are completely fine to read in any order. They're set in the same world with the same magic returns phenomnenon, and that's all. If you're going chronologically because patterns are pleasant or because you want to see Stewart's development as a writer or some other reason, the reading order is important there.

I love Sean Stewart's books. I wish he were writing more!

Edit: oh my, I'm a year and 7 months late. (On the other hand, my own to-read bookcases see some books wait a really long time...)

Edited at 2014-10-07 08:30 am (UTC)
Oct. 7th, 2014 08:38 am (UTC)
Okay, that is good to know, since I still haven't bought the first book. Thank you.
Oct. 7th, 2014 09:29 am (UTC)
LOL, you're welcome!

The Night Watch, Nobody's Son, and Passion Play have always been my favourite Sean Stewart novels.
Oct. 7th, 2014 09:40 am (UTC)
Well I haven't read any of those three, though I own two of them. The first I read was Mockingbird, so I have a big sentimental love for that. I liked Firecracker nearly as much. Galveston I found interesting, but I found I had to work harder to like the characters.