For a while I’ve resisted writing and drawing with my feminist cap on, in fear that people (particularly men) would find it unattractive. HA! But that ship has sailed and I am now starting to become more open with my “controversial” ideas.
As an illustrator, a lot of my mind is explained through drawings. I started looking at the Male Gaze through a “Fuck Off” series of illustrations that show women being harassed by the eyes of men. The drawings speak for themselves, and try to convey a sense of continued frustration as a woman.
Before I continue,I’d like to put in a disclaimer: This is by no means written with the intention of man hating. I am simply drawing attention to experiences that women often have while living in the city. I’m also basing most of this work off of my own observations and feelings. In a way I hope that this piece of writing will raise some sort of awareness and encourage women to speak up if they need to. And perhaps help some men understand that what might perhaps be meant as friendly jest, can cause great discomfort for ladies. My friends will vouch for me and say I’m slightly boy crazy anyway 😉
Now that’s out of the way, back to the topic.
The male gaze. Why is it that women are expected to just take it, no questions asked? As though it were a gift with a “no return” policy. And if we do ask or say anything, we’re met with anger and threat? A simple “No thank you” is met with a “Well fuck you then bitch, you’re ugly anyway!” When did having the right to refuse something become a crime?
At the same time I know I’m guilty of looking as well. Men probably at times hate the way girls giggle and stare when we spot someone attractive. Maybe it makes them feel uncomfortable the same way we do. If so, then why does it feel so much more inescapable when the eyes belong to a man? (I’d like to hear what men have to say about this topic – go on, I challenge you.)
I find particularly in the summer time that the male gaze is everywhere. Down the streets, in the cafes, through the car windows… The unsubtle turn of the head when we stand at a pedestrian crossing. Sure, I can’t deny that sometimes I enjoy the attention, but when it becomes invasive I find myself at a loss of confidence to walk away or to simply say “stop”. Many would blame women for asking for attention, with reasons such as: We dress too provocatively or we look like we want it. If it is our fault, then should our clothes be labelled with a disclaimer: “Wear at your own risk of harassment”? The argument that women are to blame seems flawed.
A friend of mine shared her experience of being on the London tube frustrating and confusing. She pointed out that there are men not only stare, but try and touch women in public in sly ways. Such as brushing our backs or walking too close for comfort. How are we meant to gauge whether it’s a mistake or intentional? She also added that to cause a scene would be disagreeable. Surely all would be denied… Unfortunately it would seem that we’re left at a crossroads. I somehow doubt a man leaves his house anxious that he’s going to get awkwardly stared at or “accidentally” touched.
Having said all of this, I do think there is a danger of over dramatising this. Where do we draw the line between friendly admiration and unwanted attention? I don’t really know. The man in the van could have just been trying to make my day by honking. Or did he just want to have a bit of fun. This makes me think perhaps I take things too seriously. Or am I right in feeling awkward? I know I’m not the only one confused.