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The Female Gaze: Challenging Stereotypes of Women

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Kathy Bibang, Opinions Editor

Photo courtesy of Target.

The term “male gaze” has been used for many years as a way to portray women in movies through the eyes of heterosexual men. But what about the female gaze? What is it, and how does it differ from the male gaze?

In modern society, the female gaze is referred to as the perspective of women about women in front and behind cameras. It is different from the male gaze since the male gaze tends to oversexualize women and portray them as objects of the desires and fantasies of men.

On the contrary, the female gaze tries to portray women the way they are, and not how men think women are. Instead of depicting themselves as passive objects of desire, the female gaze portrays women as active agents in their own sexual experiences and life in general. It also emphasizes healthy female relationships and friendships, showing women bonding and supporting one another, rather than competing and/or tearing each other down.

With ongoing conversations about inclusion, discrimination, racism, sexism, etc., the conversation about how female characters are portrayed on television through the lenses of male audience members versus how male characters are portrayed through the same perspective has been on the rise for the past couple of years. The term “female gaze” resurfaced on many social media platforms, specifically TikTok, but I am not sure if they completely understood it.

A man on the platform, whose username is “StrangestK3vin,” made a bunch of videos in which his facial expression changed from shy to confident with music in the background, and although it was not a big deal, many netizens started to say that he understood the female gaze. Apparently, he “mastered” it, but no one knows exactly how. In reality, the term does not refer to physical appearance or anything like that, and many people still kept saying that he indeed understood the female gaze.

The female gaze is not about seeing oneself or others with a filter. It is about showing what is there and accepting that it is what it is. Nonetheless, some people still do not get it.

On Twitter, netizens were having conversations about the standardized male gaze in cinema and art, movies such as the ones created by Marvel were mentioned. They pointed out how male heroes and female heroes were portrayed. While male heroes look powerful, strong, well-equipped, and ready to save the world, female heroes look sexy, with little clothing on and on the sidelines.

There is another side of the female gaze, the one that challenges traditional stereotypes about gender roles. Movies such as Wonder Woman and Mad Max: Fury Road depict strong, capable women that defy stereotypical notions of femininity and are not defined by their relationships with men.

I should point out that TikTok users used the term in the wrong way, but it is good that some people who did not know about the term decided to do some research and realized that whatever trend was going on had nothing to do with the female gaze.

The female gaze is very important because it shows a perspective that challenges the dominant narratives of mainstream media and represents a shift towards more authentic and diverse women representation.

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