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The Art of Being Looked At: An Insight into the Female Gaze

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

“We should insert a clip from an elaborate montage that is solely devoted to focus on the aspects of femininity that the audience relate to the most!”, said every cinematographer ever with a male gaze and internalized misogyny. Being an object of admiration as well as condemnation is something that women throughout the cinematic history have had to endure. The phenomenon of holding women on pedestals and consistently reprimanding them is an inevitable element of the male gaze.

The male gaze is the way in which most men perceive a woman. It could be for her looks, her overpowering emotions, her potential to achieve greatness or maybe her desire to love and be loved beyond everything else. You cannot tell me that you don’t see multiple things that are absolutely wrong about this narrative. It is utterly flawed and the sad part is that we see so much of it in the movies and shows that we hold so close to our hearts. It is one of the the reasons why the world is so critical of women and how they present themselves; be it an ingènue or a damsel in distress. It is also the reason behind crippling insecurities of young girls who see these extraordinary women with no apparent foibles on their screens and wonder if this is the standard that they have to compete with. Of course, the truth is that the idea of having one beauty standard is absolutely absurd (specially if it’s essentially Euro-centric) in a world full of so many ethnicities and an enthralling amount of diversity.

Now, the question is, are men the only ones who look at women through this gaze that is so apparently demeaning? The answer is no. Through all these years of inaccurate and unrealistic representation of women, all genders have been conditioned to look at women that way, to objectify them beyond belief and to commodify them to a shameless extent. As a devious offspring of patriarchy, this phenomenon has become a part of the human mind that is not peculiar to one specific gender. This is why an insight into the female gaze is extremely cardinal to the sanctity of cinema and equal representation for all.

The female gaze looks at the world through the eyes of a woman; a concept that most movies and TV shows should get familiar with because it’s high time now. It is said that when we look at the world through the female gaze, the narrative is fairly transparent rather than a fib that is curated only to cater to the needs of an audience with unrealistic and inherently misogynistic expectations. People often assume that the female gaze intends to objectify men but that is far from the truth. The things we see in movies like ‘Magic Mike’ are in no way representative of what the female gaze stands for. The aim is not reversed inequality but equality. So, the female gaze humanizes men and doesn’t look at them through the ‘alpha male’ spectacle and separates megalomania from men. Instead, it looks at all genders alike for their humility, passion, potential and every other human tendency with no bias towards one particular gender. Looking respectfully is the aim.

Something that has gained a lot of popularity , as of recent , are the characters written by women. We see so many posts talking about the ‘men written by women’ and ‘women written by women’. Contrary to the popular belief, these characters do not yield any superpower that makes them universally likeable. In fact, they’re just ordinary people who are more sensitive to the struggles of women and acknowledge the fact that we live in a world that does ,indeed, make things difficult for most women.Another question that comes to mind is which woman’s perspective should we talk about? Because a cis, het, white woman would have a different set of views as opposed to any woman with a different ethnicity or race or sexual orientation. The plague of privilege should also be considered as not every woman stands on the same platform. So, what should be done about this? How do we overcome these differences? Inclusivity is the answer. Equal opportunities should be given to everyone who has the potential to make a substantial impact and has something valuable to share. I learn about inclusivity everyday and still think that it’s not enough. So, there’s definitely a long way for us to go but the ripples of change are already here and I couldn’t be more grateful.

And even if we derail from the entertainment industry overall, I think the male gaze is a part of you and me too. I look at myself for all the things that are ostensibly nice about me. But I forget about my depth as not just a girl but as a human being. And I work to rectify that perspective everyday. It’s just that through media, it is easier to learn about things that I couldn’t have learned about in any other way. That is why, the female gaze should be of utmost importance for cinematographers and directors of the future because it is the only way to view the world as it is and not as some people would want to view it.

As a concluding remark, I would just like to say that whether being placed on a pedestal or not, whether being objectified or not, the art of  being looked at is not easy. Being perceived is nerve wracking when you actually think about it. So, being respectful with our gaze should be the only way to move forward. I hope that in the foreseeable future, I would be able to find more movies and TV shows with a narrative that is fairly transparent and representative of the reality; yours and mine alike.

Anjalika Tiwari

Delhi South '23

Anjalika is a student of Kamala Nehru College. She is an ardent believer of the fact that inspiration can be drawn from anything and everything. A dreamer at heart, forced into the pragmatic world, she encompasses an adequate amount of research as well as personal opinions in her articles.
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