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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 05:21 am (UTC)
It was, however, a case of "I will dismiss your argument with anecdata." Not relevant.

And see above about how a sexual gaze -- looking upon a man as a sexual object -- will often be assumed to be homoerotic unless specifically marked out as otherwise, and *then* it becomes "safe." IOW I was specifically NOT talking about a presumed "female gaze" in my original comment.
Mar. 11th, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
It was, however, a case of "I will dismiss your argument with anecdata." Not relevant.

Um, your argument was:

And, further: I am quite convinced that being viewed as an object is quite disconcerting for heterosexual white men. Not irritating or reductionist, though, and certainly not in the same way. Being viewed as an object (*especially* as a sexual object) is emasculating and threatening to such men. Because of the unfamiliar loss of agency, and because of the concurrent perceived threat of sexual violence and violation.

And it is opinion that is also not backed up with data. He wasn’t asking for (or demanding) data from you as support for the validity of your opinion; he assumed--as I did--that you were offering your opinion. I might be missing something, but his reply did not seem to me to be dismissive - whereas yours basically said he had no place in the conversation. It is possible that he has no place in your opinion - but again, I opened the OP with the stated intent that this be a place where non-personal attack responses would be treated without censure.
Mar. 11th, 2013 05:40 am (UTC)
Look. If you can't structurally see that "well, speaking as a heterosexual man, my personal experience trumps your analysis" isn't a case of opinion vs. opinion, then there's no point in having this discussion at all. I'm not going to do your homework for you, but mine is not just an opinion. Go take a poll if that's what it takes to convince you, and get back to me. I'll wait.
Mar. 11th, 2013 05:46 am (UTC)
And I am now going to ask you to step out of this particular discussion thread. I understand that you perhaps have standards in your own LJ that of course you are free to enforce - but this is not your LJ, and in my LJ, when I have gone out of the way to set the parameters in the OP -- which I do not normally do -- I mean them.
Mar. 11th, 2013 05:50 am (UTC)
If you think any of what I said constitutes a personal attack, then you are right, I shouldn't be in this discussion at all.