Monday, April 02, 2007

The Gaze…
The gaze is male. Ah, how that brings back memories. Theoretical bane of my existence during my college years, concept that makes me want to smack whoever invented it over the head with a mallet…oh, how I loathe that phrase.
Here’s why. I am, by nature, a lustful creature. I am also very, very visual. Trust me, you don’t even want to know how much space on my hard drive is dedicated to picture of sexy people (mostly men, a few women) being their sexy selves. None of this is actually porn per se, but I’m not so sure that one could say that the way I look at those pictures isn’t pornographic in some sense. And if anyone were to offer me actual porn featuring the same people…why thank you kindly, sir/madam, I’ll be happy to take that off your hands.
To be perfectly blunt I’m fairly certain that the only reason my hard drive doesn’t have any actual porn on it is that most porn does not cater to my specific tastes, and they are indeed rather specific. When it comes to men I have a very specific type, and that type is not commonly featured in either het or gay porn, although I’m fairly certain that if I was able and willing to really do some digging in Japan I could find things that do cater to my particular tastes. There are after all VK host bars (and no, I’m not kidding).
So, I’m a visual person. I like to look at people I find attractive. I’m also bisexual, which may give me a somewhat unusual perspective on the whole gaze issue that may be worth listening to.
Firstly, a definition. From Wikipedia…(whole page is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_gaze)


“Laura Mulvey, in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", introduced the concept of the gaze as a symptom of power asymmetry, hypothesizing about what she called the "male gaze". The theory of the male gaze has been hugely influential in feminist film theory and in media studies.
The defining characteristic of the male gaze is that the audience is forced to regard the action and characters of a text through the perspective of a heterosexual man; the camera lingers on the curves of the female body, and events which occur to women are presented largely in the context of a man's reaction to these events. The male gaze denies women agency, relegating them to the status of objects. The female reader or viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male.
Mulvey's essay was one of the first to articulate the idea that sexism can exist not only in the content of a text, but in the way that text is presented, and in its implications about its expected audience.
Some theorists also have noted the degrees to which persons are encouraged to gaze upon women in advertising, sexualizing the female body even in situations where female sexiness has nothing to do with the product being advertised.

And if this theory had stayed in the realm of film theory it would have been fine, but they had to go and generalize, didn’t they?
Now, first of all…how charmingly hetero-normative. What about lesbians, you may ask? And what about gay men, who have no particular reason to wish to gaze upon the female body in such a manner? Well, as always, a good academic can explain away any amount of reality that doesn’t fit their nice, neat little theory. And yes, I’m being snarky, but really, I’m willing to bet I’m not the first person who sat through every class in which this theory was discussed rolling their eyes, and I’m willing to bet that I won’t be the last either.
Basically I think this theory is bunk. Not because of the idea that sexism can lie hidden in subtext, mind – I’m with them on that part. The part of the theory I have a problem with is the idea of objectification.
At the risk of being thrown out of the sisterhood forever I’m going to say it – I objectify people. In fact, I look at people in an objectifying way all the time. By this I don’t mean “I look at people I find sexy”, I really do mean I watch people passing in the street and think “nice ass, shame about the face”. I do exactly what those evil, objectifying men supposedly do – I pick out specific body parts to admire with no regard for the personhood of the individual they are attached to. I look at people in movies, in music videos, in magazines, and to be honest, I’m looking at them as objects, not as people. I do it in the street, too – there’s a little running tally in my head of fuckable versus unfuckable into which every man I pass falls, and a goodly number of the women. And I do this all the damn time. Anyone who knows me in real life knows this, since I have a habit of sharing my internal monologue with my buddies. For some reason it seems that gay men are the most comfortable with this, proving to me at least once more that the prissy straight folk could learn a lot from gay culture if they could just get over their homophobia.
So, there you have it. From the point of view of this theory, I am essentially a man. The fact that I am lacking a penis and blessed with an abundance of boobage makes this a little confusing, but here’s the thing.
I think that everyone objectifies people. Not all the time maybe, and not people we actually know and have relationships with – in fact one’s ability to truly objectify another person may well be inversely related to how well one knows that person – but in some circumstances and at some times we all do it. I don’t think it’s a male thing particularly – I think it’s a human thing.
I also think that society does it’s best to program women not to do it, but that in the end there’s a limit to the extent that programming can override biology. The messages are definitely there, though, but here’s the interesting part (and the part that academic theory about The Gaze does a lousy job of explaining) – lesbians are apparently immune.
I remember that part of class quite clearly. It was printed right there in the textbook – women do not have the gaze, unless they are lesbians.
My reaction was basically, WTF? Lesbians are women too, why should such a basic, fundamental thing be different just because they’re attracted to women? So I started asking questions. It seems that my professor wasn’t used to students who asked questions, because she got rather cross with me. Basically she told me that women aren’t like that (nasty, superficial, objectifying), to which I replied, if that’s the case then what about the lesbians? Are you saying they’re not women? Or that the fact they supposedly have The Gaze makes them evil? Because I’m bi and if that’s what you’re saying…
Then she changed her tune. It’s because lesbians grew up in the same society as everyone else that they have learned to act like men, she said. To which I said – hang on a minute. Why do you assume that these women are just exhibiting learned behavior? How do you know that’s what’s going on? Have you asked them what it feels like from their perspective? And if that were the case, why wouldn’t straight women pick up the same behavior, being raised in the same society and all?
Well, no, apparently. Which is when things got really nasty. I said, what gives you (meaning the generic you as in academics) the right to speak for a group of people without even asking them how they feel, or what their lives are really like? Would it kill you to ask and then listen to what they have to say?
The conversation pretty much ended at that point – stuttering professor saved by the bell. The rest of the seminar group had basically been sitting around staring the whole time, mouths agape. Apparently people didn’t argue with that particular professor very often.
So then I went away and mulled it over for a while, digested if you will. And here’s the conclusion I came to.
None of this actually has anything to do with the gaze being inherently male, really, or else lesbians wouldn’t “have it” no matter how much brainwashing they were exposed to. Also note that how gay men look at each other is glossed over, although there’s plenty of theory about them being trained to look at women in an objectifying way.
What I think is really going on here is a prohibition against anyone looking at men in an objectifying way. The idea seems to be that being the object of The Gaze is demeaning, therefore it shouldn’t be directed at men – that in fact the very idea of it being directed at men is inconceivable. There’s also the idea that women don’t have enough sexual agency of their own to have any desire to look at other people in that way (except lesbians, somehow, don’t forget them!). The theory of The Gaze reinforces that idea, in my opinion, that women are without agency in a sexual sense, that we’re naturally receptive rather than active, that we’re not visually oriented, and I think that idea is nonsense. Sexist nonsense, too, which is why it continues to irk me that so many feminists accept it.
The other unspoken thing here is that if one is to be judged as an object, one can then be judged as an object that is flawed, or damaged, that doesn’t measure up, and I think that’s really at the heart of this theory. Male sociologists love it because it allows them to bask in the illusion that they are not being assessed and sized up on a daily basis, and in many cases found wanting. I actually had this conversation with my male professor in another seminar group, and it drove both him and several of the male students to frothing at the mouth fury. Now note, I’m not a very physically imposing or threatening person – I’m small, I’m soft and girly looking, I smile a lot. And yet those men reacted as if I was actively threatening them. Why?
I think it’s because I’m onto something. Because really, the idea that women don’t look at men in exactly the same lustful, objectifying, thoroughly lacking in regard for the content of their characters way that men look at women? Ridiculous. Go to any boy band show and watch the audience if you don’t believe me. Pick up a teen magazine. Tweener and teenage girls most definitely have the gaze, they just get taught to suppress it as they get older. It’s still there, though, just below the surface, waiting for its chance to break free, and in some of us it never got suppressed at all. Personally I think that’s a good thing.
So, to sum up this long and rambling entry…women have The Gaze. It’s not a male thing, it’s a human thing. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing either. It’s just how human sexuality works. Sure, at a certain point we form pair bonds and all that good stuff, but the initial impulse? Purely physical. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The only reason we think there is anything wrong with it is because we’re all steeped in weird dualistic ideas about the body being in opposition to the mind, soul versus flesh and all that crap, and the sooner we realize that in the end we’re all flesh the better off everyone will be.


And for those who share my tastes, something to gaze upon, produced for and marketed at women.

Still think we don’t have The Gaze?

70 comments:

Rootietoot said...

Well of course we have The Gaze. Phooey on anyone who says otherwise. If a person can feel sexual attraction, then they can have the gaze. I know I have it, and I'm about as benign as it gets, sexually speaking. Fortunately for the whole world, there isn't just one type that individuals are attracted to. Your skinny Asian men do nothing for me, and I'm fairly sure my big hairy middle aged Caucasian men do the same for you. Viva la Gaze!

Zan said...

Oh yummy pictures. And I'm gazy. No matter how many attempts have been made to beat it outta me. Lalalala.

I don't do it all the time, but yeah. I'm shopping and I see someone attractive and I'm all. . .oh yeah. Totally hittable.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing should have started and ended with, "when men control the camera the camera becomes the tool of the men, and sees what the men look at." Any attempt to extend the theory beyond that, and certainly to extend it beyond the confines of presentation of text, runs into the same essentialist shit about who is visual and who isn't and falls apart right away. The theory properly speaks to communications, not sexuality.

Thomas

Renegade Evolution said...

I have the gaze, and I use it, and I don't feel bad about it either. So there, Heh.

Cassandra Says said...

Rootie - You have no idea how pervasive this (really stupid) theory is in academia. It's almost never questioned - the way it's taught is more like religion than sociology. I guess that's as good a reason as any to prefer the hard sciences, huh?
Part of what's often taught is that because of The Gaze there isn't much variation in what "type" people are attracted to because we've all (supposedly) been trained to respond to the same type, like Pavlov's famous salivating dogs.
Thing is, attempts at programming desire don't work. Look at you and I with our widely diverging preferences as an example, and we're both less than 10 years apart in age, Caucasion, middle class, and I even spent part of my childhood in the South...now extrapolate that to the rest of the world.

Cassandra Says said...

Zan - Yummy pics are my job. Making your brain explode is so amusing...and hey, if I do it often enough mabe there will be room to move in a bigger coffee table and another couch!
And I do it to...there was one yesterday at Whole Foods, actually. Volunteered to get something off the top shelf for me because I'm all shrimpy...I was totally watching his ass while he did it.

Anonymous said...

Any assertion that everyone finds the same things attractive is just nonsense. Rather, the cultural rules about acknowledging attractiveness require people whose tastes are not the socially approved ones to shut up about it or pay a price for nonconformism.

Thomas

Cassandra Says said...

Thomas - Yep. And I really wish people would stop saying "you're not really visual, you just think you are".
This is a theory (one of many) that really should have stayed within it's original context rather than being randomly applied to other situations. Apart from anything else doing so is intellectually sloppy.

Bad academic, no cookie.

Cassandra Says said...

Ren - Shameless as always. That's what we like to hear.

Cassandra Says said...

Thomas - I've actually heard the assertion made that people are at this point incapable of being attracted to anything that deviates from the "standard" as a result of excessive media exposure. Which is indeed nonsense.

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trinity said...

The thing I notice is that people use terms like "The gaze" or "Objectification" in very specific ways that already presuppose whether they're good or bad. I recently read a feminist post on objectification that attempted to claim that anyone who said they objectify consensually for fun in bed is lying, or more likely just misinterpreting what objectification really is. Objectification is inherently demeaning, and no one would want to be demeaned in the way.

Where, to me, it's rather disingenuous to pretend that people don't objectify consensually, and that people don't enjoy receiving the attention. A current crush of mine has a lot of fantasies about literally being turned into an object that is used for various sexual purposes. So the fantasy will be that some evil top uses him to death, and then preserves the body in such wise as it can be used for sexual purposes again and again. He'll insert this into fantasy scenarios even when I have no particular desire to go there. It's a fantasy about being used as a thing. That's just what it is. His case is more extreme than people who don't have that as a kink, true, but it is literally about being object-ified, dash intended.

Anonymous said...

Cassandra, the next time I'm stroking to images of a woman with arms bigger than my calves, I'll have to remamber that I only _think_ I'm fantasizing about a woman with arms bigger than my calves, and that somewhere in the core of my subconscious brain in a process understood only by film theorists, that image is transmogrified into a cheesecake photo of Pamela Anderson.

Thomas

Cassandra Says said...

Trin - So we're back to the "you don't know what you're really thinking, I do because I've read lots of theory" argument again? It just never stops.
If you have to insist that other people's lived reality doesn't exist in order to prove your theory then perhaps you ought to consider the fact that it may not be such a great theory. And as soon as you find yourself saying "I know how you really feel" stop, take a deep breath and realise that your own subjective reality is not universal. This isn't magic, it's called adulthood. The idea that the entire world thinks and feels the same way you do is something that people are supposed to outgrow sometime during puberty.
Which some of us never do outgrow, apparently. That essay in your link caused some serious eye-rolling here at chez Cassandra.


Wonder what they'd say about Thomas and his love for big arms? Since men are actually allowed to have The Gaze and all...

Octogalore said...

I too agree that we all have the gaze. Maybe women are more subtle about it.

I think men do feel scared at the thought that they too could be pieces of meat and therefore found wanting in that regard.

Recently I admitted to having the gaze, or more specifically the related issue of having physical attraction as a gating factor for a romantic relationship. This was in the context of a critiqe of men for doing this. I acknowledge that maybe men are more focused on the physical first and foremost. But I think this will change if more women are in positions of power and power becomes more of an aphrodisiac associated with women as well.

Also agree with everyone being programmed to admire different things. Although sometimes there is common ground (what do we all think about the private investigator on Shark? Anyone?)

Renegade Evolution said...

Trin:

That post is full of shit.

So sayeth the professional object...who DIGS it.

Heh.

I am being mean today.

Trinity said...

Ren, I'm quite aware that person is full of shit. I've read some other posts on the blog before, and she often seems pretty smart about other issues, but she really has no clue whatsoever about that one. Like a said, I think some people are only using these terms to refer to things they don't like an artificially cutting off their definition before they get to things they do like.

Cassandra Says said...

octogalore - I haven't actually argued my theory on this for a while. I tried to do so on IBTP a long time ago and got a lot of head-patting and "silly girl, you just don't realise you've been brainwashed, what men do is DIFFERENT". Which is funny - I suspect that if there was a way to make my interior monologue possible it would horrify most of them. We'd be back to "OMG, you're a man!".
I suspect that part of my, well, aggressiveness about this theory is that I've spent a great deal of my time involved in subcultures in which men are blatantly and willingly objectified by women. I've had other feminists try to explain this away with the "those men aren't really objectified since they're consenting", which begs the question, what about women like Ren? She's consenting, too. Why is that any different to men who willingly pose for sexy scantily-clad pictures? The guy at the bottom of my post...a few years ago he posed for pics naked in a swimming pool, floating on his back. Total full frontal. It was published in a magazine (and DAMN I wish I could find those pics).
If anyone wants to tie themselves up in intellectual knots "explaining" why that isn't objectification and a perfect example of women having the gaze and directing it at men then I'm all ears. Seriously.

Sits back, passes around popcorn.

Octogalore said...

Cassandra -- I think the headpatting is the women's equivalent of the male madonna-whore syndrome.

My completely non-scientific free association: Some men are uncomfortable with female gaze because while they think they can be hounds one minute and presidents the next, women must be all-pure, or should be. Because men sometimes have a hard time objectifying one minute and admiring their object's more substantive qualities the next (eg accepting that the madonna and whore could be one package), possibly they worty that a woman who has the gaze similarly cannot resolve both desires and therefore must be simply a whore.

I think the women's (or to be more specific, the radical feminists') version of the m-w syndrome is the good feminist-bad feminist syndrome. There's alot of "bad" about the male gaze from a radical feminist standpoint, as it predominantly, albeit with some exceptions, rewards femininity. But if women too admit to having the gaze, that provides a kind of excuse for men having it. You can't really admit to objectifying muscles or a tight ass and still complain about a guy objectifying the female equivalent (or vice versa for the lesbian/gay version). So then you're complicit in men objectifying women and therefore a bad feminist. You cannot objectify and still be a good feminist, a la m-w syndrome.

Cassandra Says said...

Octo, someone wrote this to you on that thread you directed me to...
"1. Octo - How many men have you been attracted to that partake in all of the trappings of femininity. Have they shaved their legs and armpits, tweezed their eyebrows (and any other stray *unsightly* hairs), died their hair, had manicured fingernails and toes? Worn uncomfortable clothing (and underwear) on a regular (daily?) basis, adorned themselves with objects that have no practical use? Worn (subtle) make-up to accentuate their positive features…etc.
When a woman looks for attractiveness in a male, she is not looking for an unreasonable amount of grooming, money and effort put into creating a fictional image of a man. You, as a woman, are expected to be attracted to what a real human being looks like.
Yet we think it’s perfectly reasonable to be with a man who looks for and expects things in women that are illusions of what it is to be *truly* feminine. Unless a man does all of the above grooming, it’s not even stevens, is it?
(Even the most groomed of males don’t get anywhere near expending the amount of energy and time that women do, so lets not try and argue that the shaving of the face on a daily basis somehow equates to all of the above and more.) "

Um, OK...you know all those pictures I posted during desire week? Does anyone here seriously think those men wake up and roll out of bed in the morning looking like that? Without the aid of hairdressers and make-up (which they typically apply themselves, btw...the last entry of mine wore eyeliner pretty much every day until 6mths-1 year ago)?
So, you want an example of a woman who does demand those things in her male partners? Then let me raise my hand. I have never dated a man who looks completely "natural". I will not fuck a man with hair on his body anywhere other than the groin and the undersarms...and even then not if it's too bushy, and I'm a fan of men who trim or wax. Most men I've dated dye their hair, including Mr Cassandra (who is currently contemplating going completely blond). In fact, many of my exes spent far more time in front of the mirror getting ready to go out than I did, and I'm fairly girly.
As far as what the average, unaltered male human being looks like, the male equivalent of what the radfems are suggesting...belch! I wouldn't touch one with someone else's vagina.

So, am I a man? I know many other women who are like me, too...in some subcultures I'm the norm.

But no, the desire for artifice is purely male. Yep. My attraction to men with dyed hair and make-up who keep themselves in the kind of shape that requires active measures (calorie restriction, gym time) is a figment of my imagination.

See what happens when we generalize?

Cassandra Says said...

As far as yer average guy is concerned, I meant BLECH, but the way that came out was actually kind of funny, huh?
Belch. Snort.

Veronica said...

If anyone wants to tie themselves up in intellectual knots "explaining" why that isn't objectification and a perfect example of women having the gaze and directing it at men then I'm all ears. Seriously.

Stand back... I'm gonna try.

Ok. *takes deep breath*

If (big if, there, right?) we can accept, "When women hate women, it is only men hating women by proxy." Then surely it follows that, "When women objectify women, it is only men objectifying women by proxy." And, given that women are the Sex Class, and that cannot be reversed, it's likely that when women objectify men, it is only men objectifying women objectifying men by proxy."

Or, alternately, as women cannot oppress men, and The Gaze is inherently oppressive, it's logistically impossible for women to have The Gaze. They may have a gaze, but not The Gaze.

Cassandra Says said...

Veronica - Phew, that was painful. Want some lemonade and a towel?
A few problems...first, what if we DON'T accept the premise that women only hate other women by proxy? I went to an all girls boarding school...I'm pretty convinced that women are capable of hating each other for their own reasons without any male input. And then there's the fact that the second part of your formulation doesn't necessarily follow if one does not accept that idea that objectify = hate.
Also, in terms of the specific subculture I'm referring to (note the pics during last week)...mainstream patriarchal culture was actively offended by and resistant to the rise of that subculture. Repeated claims were made that such a thing was doomed to failure and would never sell because girls/women just aren't like that (visual, objectifying). It's now a multimillion dollar business spanning multiple media (film, animation, print media, music, internet content) which is leaking out of it's original context (in Japan) and making inroads in America and Europe. Without much marketing in the West. This entire process took less than 15 years. This stuff creates it's own demand - it's serving an already existing desire, filling a market niche.
What is that market niche? Girls and women who objectify men and demand product that services that desire.
Most men who are aware of this phenomenon don't like it one bit, but are powerless to make it go away. Which makes me smile a little every day.

Cassandra Says said...

There was a similar attempt to create a subculture centered on women looking at men in the seventies in the West but it sort of fizzled out and went underground. It never really died, though (my goth buddy Arwen can chip in with anecdotes here), and I'm pretty sure we're heading for a resurgence. I'm also pretty sure it has nothing to do with what men as a group want.

Or we could just accept that The Gaze isn't inherantly oppressive and that to the extent it is currently experienced as oppressive that's a result of our current social structure rather than anything inherant or fundamental.

Veronica said...

Hey, I didn't say I believed that women can't Gaze.

I find the whole Gaze Construct a little... ethereal really--the Everyman which is no one and everyone at the same time. And, for The Gaze to work you need The Patriarchy, which always sounds to me to be a little bit like The Illuminati.

Seriously, I just have trouble with the notion that the worst thing a dude can do is look at you. Fuck worrying about The Gaze. I'm just a little more concerned with The Fist, and The Gun, and The Suface to Air Missile, and The Multinational Corporate Entity.

Cassandra Says said...

Hey, I didn't say I actually thought you were being serious...I'm just debating because I like debating.
The whole "oh, the gaze, it burns us!" does seem pretty dumb to me. I grew up in the Middle East - men looking at me funny seems a little trivial in comparison to, say, honor killings. And I know, the argument would then be "oh, but it starts with the gaze and then by some mystical process evolves into honor killings", except that in reality the societies that treat women most appallingly are those in which they are least likely to be subjected the the dreaded Gaze. The reason I keep banging on about this, and will continue to do so, it precisely because it's trivial and it's a distraction from the important stuff.
That and the fact that getting all bent out of shape about something that women do too is just a tad hypocritical and generally unhelpful to the movement's greater goals. Seriously, are we really a movement to stop men checking out women's asses? Because that's not what I signed up for.

And don't even get me started on The Gaze's mutant offspring, the ridiculous term "eye-rape". That one makes me want to throw bricks at people.

Veronica said...

Ooh. What about 'Blog Rape?'

Cassandra Says said...

V - WTF is Blog Rape? Trolling on crack?

Veronica said...

Apparently, it's "quoting without permission."

Octogalore said...

Cassandra – hey, thanks – I totally missed that one, which is too bad because I’d have loved to respond to it.

You are so right, we, or at least you and I and probably a number of others, do demand certain measures from our SOs. I happen to be into hairy guys, although I do demand that my husband, and other guys I’ve been with in the past, take care of stray nose, ear, back, and neck hairs. My husband, being Jewish as well, has more hair maintenance given all this stuff than I do. Especially since his hairy areas are more visible than mine and need more constant upkeep.

The person who asked me the question said: “You, as a woman, are expected to be attracted to what a real human being looks like.”

Well, I guess I am not really a woman then, or don’t meet the expectations, because I would not be attracted to a guy who had “real human being” stuff like love handles, beer gut, skinny biceps or calves, non-developed glutes, etc. Makeup isn’t really my thing, but I do like cool sunglasses and watches and suits and other things that are often more expensive for men than the female equivalent.

“Even the most groomed of males don’t get anywhere near expending the amount of energy and time that women do, so lets not try and argue that the shaving of the face on a daily basis somehow equates to all of the above and more."
I actually think that while women who want to meet patriarchal standards can get away with just cardio in terms of working out (although of course anaerobic exercise as well is good for all kinds of health reasons), men, with the added expectations of size (visible as well as non-visible, haha) have a larger onus of pumping iron in addition to cardio. So while I grant that maybe the total time is greater for women, the differential between the time spent by “guy I, superficial, possibly male woman, would find attractive” and “woman that Patriarchy would find attractive” is probably fairly minute.

I’m so glad to meet another member of the “superficial, possibly male woman” club!

Cassandra Says said...

Octo - My whole desire week meme was all about women as consumers of male beauty. The standards may vary - Ren and I for example are pretty much 180 degrees apart in terms of tastes - but the basic mechanism at work is the same. As soon as you say "beauty" you're usually talking about something that's an artifical contruct in one way or another.*
I've always found the whole "men are so much more shallow" meme mind boggling because my own standards are so ridiculously high. I'm bi, and I my standards for men are actually far more rigorous than my standards for women, BUT I wouldn't date the hairy everywhere and no make-up type of woman either.
Yep, I must be a man, despite the boobs.

*With the notable exception of my much-adored bass god/avatar, who I've seen up close and who really does seem to roll out of bed looking like that. Hell, sweaty and exhausted he still looks like that. Not fair, really.

Cassandra Says said...

Also, I would argue that under the current paradigm what's required to be considered a really hot guy involves about as much effort as what's required to be a really hot woman. It's not my personal thing at all, but the current standard for men leans heavily towards the kind of musculature that one can only get from spending a lot of time at the gym (which is also a class thing).

Cassandra Says said...

Also, from that thread at IBTP...I have rarely met men who seemed to be turned off by my brains. There have been a few, but there have been more who seem to find braininess a turn on. The majority seem to be indifferent, ie. it's neither a turn-on nor a turn-off. Which is certainly different than how men are seen - braininess in men is usually seen as a turn-on as long as they're not hopelessly dorky - but isn't at all what people on that thread were suggesting.

Veronica said...

So... does that mean that men who are attracted to intelligence aren't "really" attracted to intelligence, as they're not allowed by dictates of Patriarchal command??

blair said...

In Mulvey's defense, I do think her theory is most relevant to a very particular context...not just film, but classical narrayive hollywood films. I took a great gender and film course where we read Mulvey first...and then a lot of what we read after that either critiqued or built on her theory. A lot of the later theory dealt with women as active consumers of cinema, with men as objects of the gaze and with the fact that Mulvey's initial essay completely ignores queer desire. My professor was totally fantastic and a lesbian, you could tell she thought Mulvey was important to read, but not Gospel by any means.
Tweener and teenage girls most definitely have the gaze, they just get taught to suppress it as they get older
I think that is sort of the point. I don't see how any feminist theorist could actually argue that women just naturally don't have the gaze. But saying it gets suppressed because so much of our visual culture caters to the male gaze is another story (although even saying that is an oversimplification)

blair said...

ps. I just found your blog recently and love it....the entry on the relationships between food and sex... I thought you read my mind!

Cassandra Says said...

V- Clearly they're imagining things, thinking that they can go against the patriarchal standard. But wait...they're men, right? So they're in charge, right? So they can do whatever they want, right?
According to that other thread men who don't hate smart women are bizarre stastical abberances who are as rare as unicorns.

Cassandra Says said...

Blair - Clearly you had better professors than I did. Mine presented Gaze theory as gospel, and treated attempts to argue that it might not be perfect or applicable to certain situations as heresy. When were you in college? Maybe the theory has moved on a bit. That would be nice.
And I have, unfortunately, seen many feminists argue that women inherently just don't and can't have the Gaze. Which is indeed both dumb and problematic from a feminist perspective.
Thanks for the pat on the back by the way!

Veronica said...

Damn it. So, I went looking to figure out what the source of this mess was. And, anyone that calls Helen Mirren a whore...

Christ.

For real... what planet are they on? I just... can't take it. The vacuous insistence of Biblical literalism applied to feminism is simply not healthy.

Cassandra Says said...

V - I didn't have the strength of will to follow that link. Why are we supposed to think Helen Mirren is a whore again? I started reading at octagon's comment.
As far as I was able to parse from the comments she's a whore because she's skinny and posed for Architectural Digest (note - not Playboy, Architectural Digest). Umm, OK. Unless we mean whore in the "capitalist pig" sense I'm not getting it.

Veronica said...

Because she wore a dress and sat on a bed. She's therefore a "whore" and (of course) a "sexbot." She later says that she meant "the 'reduced-to-whore' scenario." She also deserves to lose the "respect" of all right-thinking women. Apparently, wearing a ballgown on a bed is "hookerly" as well.

Veronica said...

That one had a bit of pronoun confusion, I think.

But, you get the gist.

Cassandra Says said...

And once again Twisty completely ignores class...which is the actual implication of someone sitting around in a ballgown.
Also, ballgowns are not typically very sexy garments. I've worn them, and they're mostly stiff, uncomfortable and, dare I say it, rather spinster-aunt-ish.

blair said...

Cassandra, I just finished school a couple years ago. So, yeah, pretty recently.

Octogalore said...

V and C -- my apologies for drawing you into that morass.

I always feel compelled to respond when there's a mass pile-on against a smart woman for the sins of femininity, marketing, or (gasp) both! Problem is, then the pile-on shifts to guess who.

I also somehow feel masochistically drawn to point out where various theories, stated like blanket truths, don't apply. Not because, as is so often claimed, I am a Stepford Cheerleader who is programmed (by guess whom?) to defend the menz. But because perpetuating the belief that there's a wall that's inpenetrable isn't good for WOMEN.

I also have found that men (the ones you'd want to be, anyway) are turned on by intelligence. The fact that it often needs to be presented in some kind of somewhat appealing package doesn't trouble me. I mean, wouldn't you rather vacation in an attractive place or be drawn to a book with an attractive book jacket? Sure, one can take this to extremes, but as I pointed out: since many women are aesthetically picky creatures (yours truly, Exhibit A), isn't OK for men to have some level of appearance-related gating factor as well?

Octogalore said...

Oh, and one final point before I promise my vent is over. What also often happens in these discussions is that someone says "Octo, why are you only talking about het women? Or women in non-third world countries? Or women who like strawberry ice cream and roller coasters? Or..." you get the general idea.

I often feel so apologetic: "well, I am sorry, I do happen to be (mostly) het and non-third-world and I kind of like strawberry ice cream so I thought that's what I would talk about... I am such an awful, exclusionary person!"

I think it's great to be able to extend one's line of thought to other circumstances, but why is it invalid to speak from the reference point of one's own experience level initially, and then be open to discussing that of others'? I think it would be somewhat presumptuous for me to declaim on the lesbian point of view... or the point of view of someone in a different country I know nothing about... doesn't mean I don't care or want to learn.

OK -- over and out.

Cassandra Says said...

Octo - No need to apologise. You did me a favour, since I can't bear the wade through the bullshit over there any more. You are a braver woman than I.
I fell bad that you get piled on, but I also would expect that to happen. After all, you're being an individualist! Which is male-identified and bad! And your feelings as a het American woman are irrelevant...but the feelings of all those other het American women are totally unique and important and must be heard.
Yawn.

Veronica said...

I think it would be somewhat presumptuous for me to declaim on the lesbian point of view...

Well, you are talking about a blog that's most famous for a lesbian making Grand Proclamations about fellatio...

* * *

So... if women can't have The Gaze, what can we have then, according to The Theory

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I commented over on Trinity's link from this, but I wanted to drop by over here and thank you all for a fascinating discussion.

Cassandra Says said...

V - Shh. Twisty is Every Woman. If she is disgusted by the idea of blowing a man it couldn't possibly be because she's, you know, not into men. It's because all women are disgusted by penises, even the straight ones. Didn't you get the memo?

Cassandra Says said...

Also - Not only do you get no Gaze, you get nothing. If you think you do get something you're deluding yourself, silly girl. And taking that tone with other women isn't condescending at all. She only talks to you like you're 5 because she cares about you.

Veronica said...

Nothing?!

I can't even have a Look? A Furtive Glance?

DAMN.

Cassandra Says said...

Veronica - There will be no Furtive Glancing around here, young lady. Your persistance in wanting to Look (not that you actually CAN, but you seem to want to) makes me suspect that you are actually a man.
Are you a man? Got a penis hidden under that flamenco skirt?

Veronica said...

Oops. Ya got me.

I am His Dudeliness.

Tobias said...

What I think is really going on here is a prohibition against anyone looking at men in an objectifying way.

...

The theory of The Gaze reinforces that idea, in my opinion, that women are without agency in a sexual sense, that we’re naturally receptive rather than active, that we’re not visually oriented, and I think that idea is nonsense.


Cassandra, I don't think there was prohibition, but I suppose it just never really happened publicly until recently. Funny story in that context - When I was an intern in a French Bank in the late 90s, my desk had been placed opposite the director's personal secretary's. A fun woman of about 60 years, who actually retired while I was there. Guess what her boss offered her as a personal gift on her last day at work? A group ticket for a "Chippendales" show for her and a couple of her friends...

Cassandra Says said...

Tobias - Oh, please, there's definately a prohibition. Get a group of women talking about what they do any don't find sexy and watch the guys squirm, especially if the women get explicit about what they don't like. Double plus points if anything about penis size, shape etc is mentioned. One anecdote doth not a counter-argument make. The Chippedales are only allowed because they're supposed to be seen partly as a joke.

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