“the male gaze”

cw: assault, rape, sexism, mental health

I’ve never publicly acknowledged or addressed being a victim of sexual assault, and it has been something that I minimized and refused to accept for a long time, while suffering a lot internally.

And putting those experiences far out of my mind for such a long time, it came to me suddenly as I was recently triggered after seeing men play a video game with extremely sexualized images of women.

This is a topic that hits home for me largely because as a child the first time I was greeted with a video-game portrayal of a female protagonist fighter-character was Lara Croft.

This had certainly made a mark on me in some way (although not in a sexual capacity and albeit video game technology in the late 90s hardly depicted the female body from a tree trunk), but that I wanted to be just like the badass female that was Lara Croft when I grew up.

Fast-forward to me now, an adult woman, I previously never felt personally stigmatized by seeing these images, and perhaps because I was aware but not directly exposed to it. But when I saw such vivid objectifying depictions of women with unrealistic body proportions (and added looked upon by the male gaze), I felt immediately triggered to a feeling I had at the time of my assault.

It’s a complicated issue and especially because these virtual women are created largely in part by men. And it is that fact that men only want to see/care about the sexual organs of women that the feeling objectification arises; because the entire authority of the woman as a whole is removed.

The hyper-sexualization or objectification in the portrayal of women, in all media, is already known to be detrimental to the mental health of women. What’s less talked about is the effect it has on sexual assault survivors and the perpetuation of rape culture.

What I realized more after I got triggered, is all the instances that I had been triggered before are all linked to the male gaze.

  • “The male gaze is the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure.[1][2][3]
  • The male gaze consists of three perspectives:[5][6]
    • that of the person behind the camera,
    • that of the characters within the representation or film itself, and
    • that of the spectator.” [Wikipedia]
avengers
What if male Avengers posed like the female one? – Reel Girl

My problem does not and never lies with the actual appearance and presence of female figures, but with the presence of the on-looking male.

When women in real life want to dress a certain way, I never have and will not have problems with this and it is always this point that people make to draw a line between real life women and hyper-sexualization. The problem here is that these caricatures of women do not look like real life women.

And I was always aware of the difference in the portrayal and representation of women versus men in media & games, but the major issue here is that is it usually men who are the ones portraying these women this way. Thus, catering to and perpetuating the rape culture phenomenon that is the male gaze.

As put by the author of the Reel Girl blog, people might argue that ‘it doesn’t matter because they’re just cartoons or caricatures, and men don’t look like that either.’ This point has no real foundation because these men aren’t being sexually depicted and misrepresented.

Whether or not men are in their minds undressing and sexualizing that female, the summary point is the difference of my reaction to the sexualized imagery before and after being sexually assaulted, where I felt the second-hand objectification and was triggered to a time when I was objectified.

After being triggered I scoured the internet for the keywords “hypersexualization in video-games,” “triggers,” and “sexual assault.” Before I finally realized that the entire problem boiled down to the male gaze and objectification. Many papers have been written on the male gaze in film and commercials, but I would like to see more research on video games and assault survivors.

 

My reasons for sharing this with you all:

I know this is all a jumble of thoughts that loosely had to do with sexism in video games at some point, but the real message I wanted to share was the lack of recorded experience on the internet regarding sexual assault survivors’ accounts of the male gaze.

And if you are reading this now because you also made a google search looking for answers, I wanted to tell you that yes, your experiences and your reactions are valid, and you are not alone.

One can also make the terrible argument that these virtual women are there for objectifying because they aren’t real. However, that opinion only reinforces the ideas of a rape culture where women are here for your pleasure.

Yes, the male gaze whether or not it be happening in real life, or at an imaginary woman, is indeed triggering for some sexual assault survivors. Because the objectifying of any woman is still objectifying.


Featured image by Lauren YS

Laura Callaghan

On my brief experience working in the music industry…

Or “…my brief experience working in the music industry and why I hated it.”

My experience working in the music industry is peripheral, but it’s an entity that I wish to not come any closer to.

Just to give some background and context, within the past year I’ve turned into radio DJ, turned music blogger, turned club promotor, turned DJ.  And in all those rapidly escalating minor career changes, none of what was being bestowed on me was ever what I had initially intended on doing or even asking for.

Being a girl in the electronic music industry is looked upon as being a sort of rare and unseen gem in a gigantic sausage-fest of DJs and producers.

“Wow!! Is that a girl?”

Why are girls treated like spotting a mythical creature in the realm of club/trap culture and electronic music?

Where are all the girls?

Where are all the girl DJs? The girl producers?

Yes, they’re here, and they obviously do exist.

But I think the bigger question begs something more of the entire community; why aren’t girls welcome?

Well, now you’ve come to the right place.

Because I’m here to tell you exactly why I did not enjoy my brief experience in the music industry, in fact, I downright hated it.

Never have I ever felt so belittled and taken advantage of in a quote-on-quote “workplace”.  I’ve been very steamed about my experience for long enough, but I never had the real time and energy to begin to methodically explain how sexist this industry is.

For starters, the idea that a woman can have interest in a genre of music that is deemed to be “masculine” or, in other words, “not popular among women” (aka not T-Swift), is something men believe to be some kind of a “girl’s boy” quality.  And let the fetishism then commence for those females who have a markedly “unique” or “good” taste in music, because there is very heavy sexualization going on for all the women who are DJ’s and producers.

Not to mention, all of my unpaid work experiences of being hired to simply act as a pretty and ethnic centerpiece, my ideas and the ideas of women who were my peers, were never taken into any serious consideration.

It’s hard to find any articles written by women who are in the electronic music industry that discuss anything about their own personal experiences. Regardless of a few notable tweets by some outspoken female DJs and producers, no think-pieces are being launched on their behalf, and all of the music journalists lack the freedom to publish any editorials on the subject.

As noted by previous articles, women are given much less attention than male artists.  Male artists are consistently promoted, and written about more than female artists.

The path to success for women is not made any easier when it is constantly being undermined by men that have the audacity to use female aliases to be “edgy” or “unique.”

SOPHIE – Producer (UK)

Would naming yourself after a common female name still be a trend for men if there were as many female artists known in that community?  The act of using a female alias greatly weakens the authority that women hold in that genre, while also points directly to the privilege that men possess.

Women in this field constantly live under the fist of the omnipresent patriarchy; because they all live in the fear of what would possibly happen if they spoke ill of all their male counterparts for their problematic behavior.  Being slave to the overwhelmingly male-dominated field, women really aren’t given much of the spotlight and no room to share any of their opinions.

There lacks any safe-spaces for females.  As a result, so many of these women involved in this genre of music glaze over problematic behavior and sexist practices just to fit into the trend and climb the ladder to success.

What’s even more messed up is that there’s a lot of men out there who do try to take advantage of these *special* women (and believe you me, I’ve lost many-a-“friend” for saying no). The concept of “sleeping your way to the top” is very real and it is still very alive and well in the minds of these men.

What’s scary is how far the patriarchy has really penetrated into this field.

And no, I will not just sit back and accept that this is the way the entertainment industries work.

Take this as my letter of resignation, but I do not wish to contribute to working in such a toxic environment.

The fast-track to success is never long and lasting.


featured image by Laura Callaghan

A ‘Girl Jams’ Mixtape

Listen on 8tracks This summer I’ve been getting back into listening to a lot of lo-fi indie rock music. It started with reminiscing on Blink 182, Sum 41, then The Veronicas, The Donnas, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, and the original 90s angst-rock goddess, Alanis Morissette. Watching Freaky Friday (2003) for one of the many hundredth […]