The male gaze. Overt. Undeniable. Encompassing.
Sometimes it seems even as a woman, I’m seeing the world through the male gaze.
When Natalie Hage spoke about her experience being body-shamed on a plane this past summer, one part of her story stuck out: the man next to her, despite not being touched or inconvenienced by Natalie once seated, felt entitled to be seated next to a thin person. Or perhaps, more specifically, a thin woman.
Physical standards for men and women differ greatly, but what’s significant is their varying levels of enforcement. Though one could argue that the image of the ‘ideal man’ is just as unrealistic as that of the ‘ideal woman’, men’s bodies are not judged and policed in the same way women’s are. As a result, men, and many women, expect women to fit the ideal but not men. Less than ‘ideal’ bodies are often accepted and even applauded among men, such as the trend of the ‘dad-bod.’
Here’s a challenge: name a positive fashion trend with the word mom in it.
The male gaze is everywhere, in literature, fashion, cinema and day to day life.
All of this eventually leads to events like the one Natalie experienced, when men are offended because women dare to exist outside the ideal and aren’t ashamed of it.
Being fat isn’t the issue in itself. As much fat-shaming as exists, the visceral hatred we see toward fat women only seems to emerge when these women carry themselves with confidence or seem happy. As all the magazines and advertisements we looked at in class showed, being fat can be changed. Surgery, diet pills, exercise, diets, even dressing in certain ways can make people look thinner.
But not wanting to change— that’s a problem.
There’s a beautiful saying I see often these days: pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world as a woman.
But it is.
Natalie’s experience just reinforces the notion that women exist for male pleasure. And until we as a society are able to move away from the patriarchal traditions and values of objectifying women, we will continue to pay.