[NOTE: I may be wading into perilous waters with this post, but I hope, whatever your feelings on these matters, you’ll read it all the way through and not just reflexively dismiss me as an unworthy ally. Your comments are welcome, preferably here rather than on Facebook or elsewhere.]
A few days ago, I saw an artist post a Supergirl drawing to his feed on Facebook. It was definitely cheesecake, so some folks would react to it like it was an assault on all that is holy, but it was just a simple pinup with an old-style sweet sexiness to it.
The first comment under the picture was from some guy who wrote, “More like SuperBITCH!!!”
I was taken aback. I’ve seen stupid. I’ve seen misogynistic. But what the fuck was in this asshole’s head when he wrote that? Did he think he was complimenting the artist’s work somehow? Did he think he was making a boisterous positive statement about the hot superhero in the drawing? Did he think what he was saying was edgy or cool and made him look good? What the fuck was he trying to communicate? Surely it wasn’t “I’m a pathetic shithead,” which was what I saw him saying.
I don’t know if the artist was annoyed, if he let the comment stand on his page, or if he might have even agreed with the comment (whatever weird message it held). But all of that was secondary to my confusion about what was in that guy’s head and the bleak disquiet I felt seeing him express it.
I posted the above on Facebook. Ironically, my very next post was apparently so misogynistic that it inspired another writer (whom I share real world friends with and have a good amount of respect for) to kick me off his friends list: Continue reading →
I’m usually annoyed when someone pulls out the “male gaze” concept in a discussion of art and culture. While the idea has undeniable merit, it is often wielded as a bludgeon of ABSOLUTE TRUTH. In other words, men like looking at sexy women and it ruins the world, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.
I happen to think that much of this sort of thing has its roots in the innate differences in men’s and women’s cognitive wiring. That doesn’t mean we should just accept the baseline set by our neurology as the sole standard to consider, but it does mean that there’s probably nothing wrong with men liking to look at sexy women, or vice versa, or even having art that caters to such desire.
Still, just as we aspire to more than simple orgasm in our relationships, we should aspire to higher levels of cultural relationship as well. At the very least, we should think about these things, and consider how the ways that we think and create impact the way we relate to each other.
Author Kate Elliott has written a very balanced, thoughtful post considering the male gaze (and other gazes) in fiction, and I recommend it for everyone, but particularly for writers. She avoids the fanatic’s tendency to use the concept as a blanket condemnation of men and their wicked staring eyes, which I appreciate as a man with a finely tuned male gaze of my own, and shares some insights I’ve never considered. I’m a better person, and likely a better writer, for having read it.