In the age of TikTok, the female gaze has lost all meaning

In 1866, Gustave Courbet painted a provocative Art Nouveau icon: The origin of the world. Hanging in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the painting shows a woman’s thighs, torso, part of one breast, and her hairy genitals. It is one of the most beautiful and powerful paintings of all time.

Gina Gribbon, a quirky Brooklyn figurative illustrator, often paints her partner, Mackenzie Scott, in the same vein. In one painting, Scott is lying naked, her breasts, thighs, pubic hair, and fluorescent pink nipples painted on a huge canvas.

“I can’t think of any other sacred painting that’s still so shocking,” Strangebone said in an interview with Vogue magazine(opens in a new window) of her liking The origin of the world. “I would love this painting more if it was painted by a woman, but the premise that we all come from a woman’s body is very human. It’s the opposite of a woman’s anatomy—it takes into account the physical and spiritual realities of a woman’s body.”

Gripon and Courbet’s paintings have much in common, but there is one distinct difference between the two: the gender of their creators. In my opinion, both artists painted women in what some might argue is the female gaze—a term in feminist theory that refers to the representation of women in art as subjects endowed with agency. But many art historians argue that Courbet’s painting must have been created from the male gaze because the women in the painting do not seem to have much independence; She doesn’t even have a face.

It’s the subject of much controversy, and the term, originally used in film, has made its way into the depths of the art world. Now, it is being misunderstood on TikTok.

What is the female look?

The female gaze was not formulated until after feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey began dissecting the male gaze in her 1975 essay “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema(opens in a new window),” where she wrote that the male gaze depicts a male fantasy on the female character in the film. Underneath the male gaze, women are to be seen and shown, with their “look” coded for strong visual and erotic effect so that they can be said to connote to look at her “.

Through the male view, a woman is not actually a person at all; It is a plot device used to promote the man’s story. “She is the person, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero… that makes him act the way he does,” said director Oscar “Bud” Boettcher Jr. in the 1950s(opens in a new window)According to Mulvey. “Women are not the slightest bit important.”

Lisa French is Dean of the School of Media and Communication at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and author of a book The Female Perspective in Documentary Film: An International Perspectivedescribes the female gaze using the example of the 1990 Jane Campion film An angel at my table. In one scene, a few girls go into the woods after a swim, and they sit and talk and do a “feminine”—French says the whole interaction speaks to how women view other women. “They are kind of To express women’s culture. ”

We’ve come a long way in the past 48 years. The art we now take in has evolved so far beyond the language we use to analyze it that the two are at a turning point; One must be willing to bow down to the other to continue growing. On TikTok, users talk about male and female gaze, but they twist those terms into something that isn’t quite right because the platform creates their art based on that.

Under look TikTok

If you spend time online, like Rayne Fisher-Quann, the feminist culture critic who writes the newsletter Internet princess(opens in a new window)you might think that the female gaze is “good” and the male gaze is “bad.”

TikTok is not a platform for nuances.

Online, the male gaze has been used “almost exclusively to refer to things men look at or like things men like to look at,” Fisher Cowan told Mashable. “This is just blatant misrepresentation where people hear something like the word ‘male gaze’ and think they can assume they know what it means.”

There is some truth to the idea that “the male gaze is what men think women want and the female gaze is what women think women want,” Fisher-Cowan explains, but the Internet dilutes “the actual theoretical meaning of what they were.” He’s supposed to.”

For example, some users on TikTok are complaining that Ryan Reynolds is hot with the male gaze, but Michael Cera is hot with the female gaze. The feminine look is when the men wear skirts and the women have armpit hair; The masculine look is when women have large breasts and men have well-proportioned muscles. At one point, months ago, users said that there was a person named Kevin “mastered” the female gaze(opens in a new window) by posting a series of thirst trap videos where he lip syncs to music acting nervous and awkward before becoming confident; His videos went viral, and the comments at the bottom of the videos said he really “gets the female gaze.” Kevin, of course, doesn’t actually represent the female gaze as the term was originally intended. His presence cannot be through the female gaze, the male gaze, or any other type of gaze. Kevin is a real person and, like distraught indicates(opens in a new window)It’s kinda bad.

In film, the female looks at three points of view: the director, the characters within the film, and the spectator. On TikTok, you can be all three even when the cameras are off. Through daily videos, main character animation, and “do it for the plot” rhetoric, we are eroding the lines that separated ourselves as people from ourselves as commodities.

“Increasingly, people are using the language of film studies to understand themselves,” Fisher-Cowan said. “Social media has exacerbated this thing that has always been there, especially for women, of having an outside observer or feeling like you have to improve your life to the ever-present consumer in your head. Popularizing these film studies terms…has to do with the way we are packaged.” It’s all for consumption.”

This isn’t new: language changes online all the time. Academic and professional jargon makes its way onto social media and then gets completely misappropriated. The unfortunate fact of ruining the true meaning of a phrase is that it becomes flashy, overused, and hateful to all, slanderous. But with this reallocation, we’re taking a societal issue—how women are seen, spoken of, and marketed—and turning it into an aesthetic issue.

aesthetic self

Not everyone even thinks Courbet’s painting was feminist at all.

“The painting was highly controversial from its inception, and over the course of nearly a century and a half the small vulva portrait passed from one male collector to another, hidden behind draperies, faux panels, and articulated landscapes,” Lillian Milgrom, first person authorized by the Museum Orsay to copy the painting, Wrote an article about Daily Art Magazine(opens in a new window). “Modern art criticism has often vilified L’Origine du monde as emblematic of the exploitative male gaze prevalent in art history. What happens to a painting—and to the view itself—when subjected to a fixed female gaze?”

We can debate whether or not a painting depicts a woman through a masculine gaze or a feminine gaze precisely because it is art—art is designed for discussion, to be unpacked and packed back up and pondered over for centuries.

The problem with discussing ourselves as if it were art is that it opens us up for discussion and tears us apart as if our humanity is not at stake. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our online aesthetics are rooted in our identity as people. But we are not art on canvas or fictional characters in a movie. The view we see is our view.

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