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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. 12th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
Re: I think that there is truth in what you say
That one reason for pursuing wealth and power is to impress other men, but I think that at the same time they can be trying to impress women and also very possibly using such elements to bolster their own egos.

As to romance novels, Cosmo, etc. then that's possible, but based on my experience with other men I have mostly had the impression that men think that what women (especially many younger women) say they want and what they actually do want differ enough as to make trying to "study" women either useless or counterproductive. Being "appropriately" honorable, respectful, etc. can quickly lead to being classified as a friend while the woman moves on to that bad boy who is oh so wrong but with just a few changes can be the perfect man. Besides, men are often given the impression that they are supposed to be confident and imo it's true that projecting a fair bit of confidence will get you farther than trying to memorize a lot of books or tips for how to woo a potential love interest.

Sex can be easy to get, though sex with the person that you really want can sometimes be quite a bit harder. But status of course will often help and it's likely that men who are working to achieve that are doing so for multiple reasons.