Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture

When Confronting A Male’s Gaze Becomes Slut-Shaming

At the beginning of August, a video of a model who wears a JK costume and poses for groups of photographers being scolded during an anime convention held in Shanghai went viral. In the viral clip, a passerby can be seen shouting to the model clad in a Japanese-style school girl uniform (also referred as JK, an abbreviation of "Jyoshi Koukousei," meaning high school girl in Japanese) and scolding her as "shameless" and "a disgrace to the community of JK culture". Along with that video, several up-skirt photos of the model taken secretly by a male photographer on the spot sparked heated debates over whether the model's poses are acceptable in public quickly got sparked on social media. 

Being the storm’s center, the model received immediate backlash from many netizens who criticized her for indicating sexual suggestions and asking for sexual attention. The model quickly responded on Weibo (one of the biggest social media platforms in China) that she never intended to arouse sexual attention and did wear a boy short to avoid body exposure. She also added that she already called the police to find out the person who sneaked to her behind and took photos of her upskirt without consent. Finally, she wrote, “I don’t think being sexy is a crime.” Supporters also came to her defense demanding punishment on the person who committed sneak shots. However, opposers still called the model a “whore,” and the main focus was mainly on the model’s behavior rather than the photographer. Countless slut-shaming and cyber-bullying direct messages were sent to the model.

It is not something new that society condemns females for what they present with their bodies in public. In a country where traditional views of women being obedient and conservative have clashed with modern feminist perspectives, tensions are common when it comes to these topics. Last year, Rayzha Alimjan, a Kazakh actress who didn’t wear a bra also made the cyber world embroiled in a war of words about women’s freedom of dressing in China. But when people talk about freedom of dressing, they’re not talking about dressing itself but judging about one’s morals based on how they dress. If a woman reveals more flesh than the social ideology accepts, the onus is usually on women to deal with the sexual harassment and sneaking shots. Despite the rise of the #METOO movement around the world challenges this perspective successfully, there is still a long way to go in China where scrutiny becomes harsher and feminism activities are relatively more suppressed due to confined protest rights and traditional values these days.

But among many voices that oppose the model’s dressing and poses, one of them tends to be some feminists. They criticize the model’s action for confirming the gaze of the masculine spectator and humiliating women as a unified identity. Some of them also try to slut-shame the model by calling her a “slave” of the male gaze.

JK culture indeed originates from anime in which the male gaze is quite common. Male perspectives play greater roles in shaping our society where it is more recognizable than its female counterpart and stereotypes of women are more reinforced. As women, we surely hope to challenge these stereotypes by confronting and mitigating the male gaze. However, ambushing any individual (especially females) for their certain behaviors that confirm masculine perspectives would only run counter to our desire. 

As females, we encounter “gaze” all the time throughout our life: We are disciplined to close our legs tight when we sit even if it is not the most comfortable and natural pose. We are disciplined to cover our breasts because they told us the females' breasts are related to sexuality while males aren’t. We are disciplined to avoid being gazed and comply to the rules stapled by male gazers even if it means sacrificing partial freedom and easiness.

When gazers gaze at us, they are exercising power on us. They are the rulers of this game. Slut-shaming a woman because certain behaviors of her are catering to the male gaze is no more than being a slave of this game. When a woman tries to express herself, she is the subject rather than an unconscious object. She might be objectified in male viewers' eyes. But she could also be her own master who has every right to determine how to express herself, even in an over-sexualized way. Her identity should not be stigmatized by viewers' wills but her own. We should never forget that the male gaze and over-sexualization of females are systematic issues for which no individual should carry the blame on a personal level. And the best way to fight back is probably to increase more female gaze— because exercising gaze is exercising power. The unproportionate gaze in male-created institutions (e.g the movie business, advertising, fashion) reflects unproportionate power in the real world. It is this imbalance of power that divides male and female who are no longer sexual equals. 

Hence, condemning and slut-shaming women for trying to please men are merely conforming to the male gaze rather than fighting against it. After all, there is no such thing as being a slut in this world but under a male’s definition.

Xinyi You is currently a sophomore at Michigan State University. Journalism is her top choice in college while Sociology also attracts her. She sees herself as a Marxist feminist. As a loyal fan of Figure Skating, she would love to discuss competitions and skaters through youxiny1@msu.edu .
Similar Reads👯‍♀️