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The Male Gaze and Society's Expectations for Women

CW: This article discusses topics of sexual abuse/harassment which could be distressing to some readers.

A common factor in the way women are viewed is their looks. The theory of the "male gaze" spoken by Laura Mulvey, stems from the view of women from a heterosexual man's point of view. For example, in films such as 'Avengers Age of Ultron', Scarlett Johansson can be seen sporting a skin tight leather suit with heeled boots accompanied with perfectly styled hair. In comparison to 'Black Widow' where Scarlett can be seen with her hair pulled back for practicality purposes. 'Avengers Age of Ultron' was directed by Joss Whedon while 'Black Widow' was directed by Cate Shortland, two directors who have two contrasting focal points. A heterosexual male will focus on a woman's attributes instead of the storyline of a film as it appears more entertaining to viewers. The theory of the 'male gaze' embodies the sexualisation of women, showcasing a woman only for her body.

While positive change has been made in the last 50+ years concerning equals rights and the feminist movement, people still have a set mindset on the hierarchy of men and women. Jumping right into a topic as vast as this one can be overwhelming, take it one step at a time. Conversations are important but there is no room in 2022 for boundaries and objectification of women due to what they wear, how they act or simply how they live their lives.

A Man's World

Women cannot wear anything without men suggesting, insinuating, or complaining about the way they look. If you dress too covered up you do not appear to be as much of a woman but if you dress too revealing you are labelled as inappropriate. Quite impossible standards that have been set - wouldn’t you agree? I do not think it has ever occurred to men that women do not dress for the male gaze, they dress as a form of displaying their individuality.

An expectation set by society has taught women that they are seen as nothing more than their physical appearance and attributes such as intelligence and a good heart no longer matter. We live in a world that does not accommodate for women. The harsh truth is that we have to make our own rules and do what others think we are incapable of doing. There has always been a different language for women; a man is allowed to voice his opinion, yet a woman can only overreact the situation. A man is able to earn a good income, yet a woman who earns the same must have cheated her way to success. It is hard for a woman to try and be who she wants to be in a world that is better suited to a man and their ‘needs’.

“The male gaze transforms women into an object of desire and pleasure.” (LinkedIn, Estelle Rodrigues, 2021.)

Was It My Fault?

In regards to sexual abuse against women, women are often questioned about what they were wearing as to how seriously their allegations are taken. There is no excuse or questioning needed when discussing sexual abuse or harassment, a woman is never to be blamed for what another person has done to her against her own will. It is not all men yet it is almost all women who have endured a form of sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime.

No woman should feel as though she is at fault for her safety on account of her appearance. No means no. No woman is asking to be harassed and it should not be seen as a discussion or a debate as to who is at fault. Is it not obvious? In 2022 you would hope that when women come forward with a claim they are welcomed and made to feel comfortable, yet the environment is far from a safe haven for many.

My Body, My Choice

In recent news, many states in America are trying to make abortion illegal and charge women if they experience a miscarriage. This is trying to override the Roe v. Wade legal case set in 1973 to make abortion legal. As a young woman myself, it does not seem right that laws regarding women’s bodies is being discussed with a group of white males. What could they possibly know or have any relevance to women’s bodies?

Being human means living a life of your own and finding your happiness, this cannot be done through boundaries and set rules women have to follow to keep themselves safe instead of teaching men basic human decency. Women are givers of life yet we are not able to have the decision over our own fetus. It is as if we are living for others, a show animal that must follow instructions. It is our bodies, yet we do not have a choice over it.

Push Against the Boundaries Set for Us

No matter the gender you go by, I encourage you to break down these walls set for us that are stripping women of their human rights. Sign petitions, share Instagram posts, and tell your friends when they tell an inappropriate joke. Do more than just do nothing, as history is repeating itself.

There is mass amounts of men who have set an example for how to be a decent man, it is not all men this is evident, but it is too evident that women are still seen as sexual bodies there to please men. The stigma needs to change, one voice at a time. Will you be that voice?


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