From: Margaret Wente, The male gaze, and why I miss it, Globe and Mail -
Friday, Apr. 06, 2012 (edited)
Men don’t look at me the way they used to. In general, they don’t look at me at all. This is what happens when a woman turns 40 (50, 60).
In theory, this is supposed to be an exhilarating passage in the life of a woman. We don’t have to care what men think of us any more.
In reality, it sucks. I’d give a lot for men to look at me like that again.
The trouble with our culture, where we’ve all had the evils of sexual harassment pounded into us for years and where even the mildest flirtation in the workplace has become impermissible, is that we’ve shut out an emotionally enriching part of life.
This is the mutual appreciation of men for women, and vice versa.
Older women also enjoy lustful thoughts, even age-inappropriate ones. I blush to say I sometimes encounter the handsome twentysomething son of some friend and secretly dissolve into a pile of goo.
Once we’re past our child-bearing years, men are primed to lose interest in us. Our desire remains as strong as ever. But they stop desiring back.
When I gaze at the girls of spring, it seems like only yesterday that I was one of them. I wore long hair and short skirts, and sometimes men would pester me unpleasantly – far more unpleasantly than men would dare to do today, before the rules changed.
But, on the whole, being gazed on was not at all demeaning. It was empowering. I was the one in charge, because the choice of how to handle any given male’s response was entirely mine. No matter how sexist or unfair it seems, no one in the world has more erotic power than a 20-year-old girl.
The trouble with the SlutWalk argument – that women should be able to dress as provocatively as they wish without being ogled or desired by men – is that these women want to have it both ways.
They want to display themselves as sex objects without being regarded as sex objects. This isn’t going to happen. Women have a right not to be pestered, no matter how they dress. But if they really want to shut down the male gaze, they’d be better off to don the burka.
Memories of the erotic power conferred by the male gaze are essentially what keeps women wanting to look good. That’s why we make the effort.
The other day, I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen for a while – a younger guy – who actually complimented me on my appearance. (He was gay, but so what?) “You look hot,” he said. And for one delicious moment, I believed him.