The Female Gaze Through Male Eyes?

Isabelle Ede

Sustainability Editor

Can the female gaze be seen through male eyes? After watching Little Women (on Netflix, highly recommend) last night, I wondered if such rich, female emotional depth is exclusive.

As a woman, I saw myself in Jo and how she acted when confronted with certain obstacles. While I have not read the book (I know, I am a fraud), what I understood from the movie was that Jo March, the main character, is the reflection of the author herself.

This movie is a sequence of amazing scenes that cover women’s roles in society, death and loss, love, and marriage as well as economic struggles. Saoirse Ronan who plays Jo has that iconic moving scene where she talks about her perspective, saying that women are fit for more than just love, but admits to loneliness. Florence Pugh who plays Amy March, the youngest of the four sisters, also caused a stir with her “well I’m not a poet, I’m just a woman” monolog. Emma Watson who plays the eldest, Meg March, gives a unique perspective of balancing married life with economic problems. There are many other characters who instigate conversations, and they are all represented through the female gaze. So, what exactly is the female gaze?

Little Women' Review: This Movie Is Big - The New York Times

Credit: Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures

According to Wikipedia, “The female gaze is a feminist theory term referring to the gaze of the female spectator, character or director of an artistic work, but more than the gender it is an issue of representing women as subjects having agency”. Considering this definition, can a person who identifies as being male tap into this point of view?

Often in literature written by men, the female characters are given odd personalities and appearances that usually suggest sexual importance. It sometimes feels like these male authors have never spoken to a woman! If you search up “male authors badly describing women” you’ll read some pretty crazy examples.

If you are still confused about the differences between the male and female gaze, there has been a discussion on the portrayal of female bullies in the artistic world and its relationship with the male gaze. While male writers would typically make a female bully or villain to be blatantly mean and aggressive, the female gaze would represent that same character as sneaky, actually quite warm and inviting to her victim. The best example of a female bully written by a woman is Regina George from Mean Girls (another great movie). Regina preferred to befriend her victim and manipulate her completely in order to gain control.

The concept of female gaze has been recently developed and mostly originating from women. I believe that the point of this view is to educate others on how women think beyond their male-generated stereotypes.

With time and an open mind, I believe any gender to be able to imagine the female experience of life. However, those of us who have lived female lives will most likely be more successful at portraying it. No good to gatekeep the female gaze, but it’s damn fun when it’s reserved for the girls (gays and theys if willing).


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