The male gaze harms the perception of women
Women in films are rarely viewed as their own person. A majority of the time, they are objectified, sexualized or used as a tool for the male protagonist to get ahead.
This is called the male gaze in which women are portrayed through a masculine, sexualized lens that adheres to a male standard of what it means to be a woman.
Oftentimes, women portrayed through the male gaze are belittled as their body means more to the audience than their actions and goals.
This is harmful as it provides an outlet for men to justify their misogynistic actions as well as negatively impacts women’s self-esteem and self-perception.
The effects of the male gaze continue to be studied but the most resounding effect would be how women feel forced to fit into the standards brought forth by the male gaze in real life.
Whether they feel inclined to follow the standard or rush to reject it, it still creates a divide of what it means to be a woman as femininity is pushed to be the main determining factor.
A common idea that arises would be the “I’m not like other girls” phenomenon where young girls reject femininity by choosing hyper-masculine traits. Although the idea is to fight the patriarchy, it only serves to further abide by it as the “other girls” who present feminine traits and hobbies are viewed as villains rather than the misogyny that is born within the patriarchy.
Femininity is not the villain nor are the women who feel happy to follow traditional feminine roles.
The female gaze, which can vary by person but still carry the same message, is an emerging term used to describe the way films portray women as well as men to be intimate, multi-dimensional people.
A recent example would be Greta Gerwig’s adaption of “Little Women” which follows the lives of four sisters in America. Amy March, portrayed by Florence Pugh, adds a progressive aura to the film as she claims to not be ashamed to have to marry rich but that she views marriage as an “economic proposition” where it’s the only way women can showcase their success.
To add on, the cinematography in the film focuses heavily on the faces of the characters, their hands and their words rather than the groundless sexualization found in other movies.
The female gaze aims to humanize women to be more than their relationships with men which is a rarity in film. What is so great about “Little Women” is that it still keeps the element of marriage, love and traditional female roles but it allows the women in the film to explore those aspects and how it pertains to their goals, motivations and self-perception.
All in all, the male gaze continues to pester society as it uncomfortably paints women to be sexual objects when in reality, that is far from the truth.
There should be more room for films that utilize the female gaze to humanize women, celebrate femininity and provide a space that allows women to question their roles in society without being painted as a villain.
What it means to be a woman is different for everybody and that should be allowed to be explored.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a sophomore journalism major who can be reached at [email protected]