“The male gaze” debunked for k-pop fans

So Red Velvet’s new song came out and Kpopalypse doesn’t give a flying fuck.  Why?

  1. It sounds like miss A’s “Breathe“, which I thought was shit.
  2. I’m too busy fapping to the debut by nugus 4Ladies who have a much better song AND a better MV.

I’m sure every blog out there is going to have a 4Ladies review, given the sheer amount of tears being generated from fangirls thanks to the video director taking the sexual content to the next level in k-pop or whatever the fuck you want to call two women doing this sort of tame, coy stuff:

Hey it takes special tactics to be noticed when your nugu group debuts in the same week as SM’s new girl group and naturally I’m all for it.  Of course, you can’t tell people shit – whenever something like this happens, all the armchair feminists come out to play, throwing around stupid terms that they only half-understand.  Some of you have noticed that the latest round of tears from k-pop liking pseudo-feminist dickheads has been infused with a term called “the male gaze” so I thought I’d take a little time out of my fap schedule to explain exactly what the fucking fuck that means to prepare you to deal with the onslaught of complete bullshit that you’ll soon be reading in every 4Ladies article.

Head deep enough into any comments section about the 4Ladies video and you’ll see people talking about “the male gaze”, like it’s something more tragic and depressing than the Sewol Ferry and Fukushima combined.  But what the fuck is “the male gaze”, anyway, and why do people care so much?

“The male gaze” is a term that comes from 1970s film and visual media theory.  The basic idea is that because heterosexual men control the cameras and cinematography, women tend to be the ones being looked at, rather than the ones doing the looking.  Therefore when you’re watching film where this is happening, it’s like you’re seeing the film through a male perspective, even if you’re not male, thus defining maleness as “the norm” and anything else as “the other”.  If you’ve got half a brain in your head, you’ve already worked out what’s wrong with this theory – it assumes that if you’re female you’re such a fucking dopey wallflower and the gaze of the camera is so powerful that it actually takes precedence over the thoughts inside your own head.  So the entire “male gaze” theory is actually really insulting to women straight off the bat, it’s basically telling you that you’re a stupid bitch who is easily tricked by pretty colours and flashing lights like a kitten chasing a laser pointer into a toilet bowl.

Let’s look at some examples of “the male gaze”.  Here’s k-pop singer Son Dam Bi.

Sondambi_Marieclaire21

You’re a heterosexual guy at a rooftop party and Son Dam Bi is there, she’s looking hot in her red dress.  Nervous but determined (can I ever use that word again with a straight face?), you pluck up your courage, introduce yourself and buy her a drink.  Far from being cold or standoffish, she’s warm and receptive.  You get talking to her, she’s a nice girl and you’re starting to get along.  Hopes are high that this might go further.  After an hour of polite conversation, you’re really hitting it off.  She bends over and whispers in your ear “come with me”.  She takes you by the hand away from the main bar, through a stairwell and up to a secluded balcony.  It’s just you and her, above the traffic.  She looks into your eyes with an expression that says “it’s your move”.

Here’s another Son Dam Bi pic.

Son-Dam-Bi-Marie-Claire-1

It’s late and you’ve taken Son Dam Bi back to your apartment after a night out on the town.  She’s still in her evening dress as she carefully removes her earrings and jewelry.  She looks ravishing and you’re not intending to wait any longer.  You approach her from behind, she sees you in the bathroom mirror and turns around, expecting your warm hands on her back as you gently move to embrace her.

According to feminist visual media theory, these are easily-explained classic “male gaze” presentations.  This is you, a heterosexual male, looking at Son Dam Bi, at precisely that moment when you’re just about to make your move.  Or is it?

Keenly observant readers may have noticed some carefully hidden text in the above images that gives a clue to their origins – see if you can find it.  That’s right you fucking sneaky detective cao ni mas, these images are from a photo shoot for Marie Claire magazine.  If you know anything about Marie Claire magazine at all, you’ll know that it’s a magazine mainly devoted to fashion, and aimed at women. According to the magazine’s own statistics, their readership is predominantly female with a male-to-female readership of just under 1:8.  The 1:8 ratio of male-female readers also correlates with another interesting factoid – recent statistical studies show that the ratio of “heterosexual” to “non-heterosexual” people on the planet is also hovering at around 1:8 so it may not be an incorrect assumption to say that the magazine’s slim male readership may be predominantly gay.  So why is this “male gaze” stuff in there if only women and gay guys care about Marie Claire?  Is it because Marie Claire is part of the oppressive patriciachal system that is conspiring to keep women down?

No, you dickhead.  The reason why is because it’s not really there at all.  It’s just a figment of crazy feminists’ imaginations, who act as if people looking at them is some kind of assault on their bodies instead of just normal human behaviour that humans of all genders and sexual persuasions engage in, plus typical k-pop fans who read too much into everything as always.  It’s a fashion magazine, it’s the clothing that is of interest to the readership in these pictures.  When fangirls get hold of images like these, confirmation bias is at work – if you want to see a porn scenario in these pictures, you will.  On the other hand, if you want to see fashion modelling, you’ll see that instead.  I shadily put inviting heterosexual fap scenarios under each picture to bend the bias inside your head to the way that I wanted you to think because I’m a sneaky cao ni ma too, but the cold hard fact is that Son Dam Bi probably just happens to be on a balcony because the photographer thought that it would be a good spot to take a photo.  If you read more into it than that – great, if not, they hope that you at least will read the magazine and find out where you can get that dress she’s wearing.

“But what about 4Ladies”, I hear you ask “surely they’re just there for the guys to fap to?  Isn’t that “the male gaze”?

Who says it has to be?  If you’re a woman, is your perception of what you’re seeing so weak and wallflowery and threatened that you have to defer your subconscious to what a guy sees?  Is that a problem for you?  Is it an issue that we’re looking at girls and not guys?  Here’s JYJ’s Jaejoong, in a photo that could be of any man in any k-pop group, but I’ve used him because I felt sorry for JYJ being left out of that book I reviewed not long ago:

jaejoongth

Is it weird for me as a heterosexual guy to look at Jaejoong with his shirt off?  Only if I’m so weak-minded that I let it bother me.  If girls want to fap to this, I think that’s cool, because fapping is for everyone.

K-pop fans who complain about “the male gaze” are generally fine about “the female gaze”, which is equally catered to in k-pop, by… every single male group out there in k-pop.  You can see plenty of fanservicey action of guys doing stuff to each other onstage for the pleasure of the predominantly female audience which far outstrips the honestly fairly coy groping and grinding of 4Ladies’ debut video, and the boys do lots of photoshoots for their fans too.  But wait…

jayparkm

Is it really “the female gaze” when this photo of Jay Park is for Men’s Health magazine, a publication as squarely and unashamedly aimed at men as the title suggests?  Maybe the photo is arguably “female-gazey” in the imaginations of fangirls, and I could write a scenario about how you, a young fangirl dating Jay Park the man of your dreams, have just interrupted his outdoor gym activity for some cuddle time, to help lead your brain in that direction if I wanted.  However the reality is probably that the photographer just wanted a clear shot of his upper body with his arms up so Men’s Health readers could see in an unobstructed way how unbelievably fit he is, so they said “grab that pole over there and look at the camera”.  So once again, it’s not all about you, you wacky sniveling fangirls.

I couldn’t give a fuck either way anyway.  I’m fine with both “the male gaze” and “the female gaze” whether it exists or not outside of my own personal bias and perception.  I’m one of these crazy radical people who thinks that people of any gender should be able to look at each other and enjoy the experience of both doing the looking and of being looked at.  Wow, imagine that.

So given that this is all completely normal human behaviour why do k-pop fans bring up “the male gaze” like it’s some big issue?  Well, they’re misogynistic idiots who hate women, and as a way for them to engage in their favourite sport which is criticising women in k-pop, it’ll do.  (Yes, a lot of them are women themselves, but you don’t have to be male to be a misogynist.)  So as per usual, feminism is being used by jealous women to promote attacks against other women more attractive/successful than them, which seems to me to be exactly the opposite of what feminism is trying to achieve on a broader scale, things like:

  • Women getting paid the same as men for doing the same work at the same competency level
  • Equal access to opportunities for career choice, career advancement, leisure, etc
  • Being able to walk down a street without some fuckhead trying to rape or kill you
  • The same access to choice in the sexual sphere that guys have
  • Freedom from some perverted nutbag trying to cut your clit off because they’re stupid enough to take completely literally everything in some religious book that was written hundreds of years ago back when women were considered to have the same amount of human rights as a donkey

I’m cool with all that stuff, and if that’s what feminism is, call me a feminist. However I’m not cool with:

  • Preventing sexually explicit art/performance/fashion/activity
  • Censorship of politically incorrect (or any other) speech
  • Anti-pornography
  • Morally conservative bullcrap like telling women that it’s their responsiblity to cover their skin up so guys don’t rape them
  • Nitpicking at other women and tearing them down because they’re more successful than you

If you look at the two lists above, you’ll notice a pattern.  Everything in the first list is all about trying to open access up and give women more choices about what they can do so they can be successful and stand on an even footing with men.  Everything in the second list is about trying to close off access to things and to say to people “you can’t say/do/think/fap to that because that’s not what feminism is”.  So in summary I support feminism that gives people more options and ways to experience and enjoy life, but I don’t support feminism that tries to lay down draconian rules in attempts to restrict people into running their lives according to some stupid fucking moral code.  Sadly, most people who follow k-pop only give a shit about the second type of feminism, and that’s why I don’t give a shit about them.  Here’s another GIF of 4Ladies, because my “male gaze” needs a workout.  All heterosexual men please cast your sexual-oppression-beams this way.

Maybe if we all stare hard enough our oppressive “male gaze” eyebeams will disintegrate their clothing.  We won’t know until we try.

10 thoughts on ““The male gaze” debunked for k-pop fans

  1. Trufax.
    There were several waves of feminism. What you approve is what feminism was in the beginning (first wave) and what you disapprove is what feminism is now (second and third waves) The movement itself was split by the Feminist Sex Wars between sex-positive and anti-porn factions, so there are several feminist positions now, not only one.

    • This is very much true. I myself identify as a feminist and agreed with everything said. There are plenty of other feminists, possibly older women who grew up in a different time frame, who might disagree with me on issues such as with porn because of their own educations or experiences etc. To the end of it all though feminism put simply is for accepting people as we are and not just looking at our body parts.

  2. A feminist is just the fangirl version of a women rights activist. The fangirl version of anything is quite silly.

  3. Normally I quite enjoy reading your take on various forms of criticism, but this take on the male gaze is simplistic to the point of disingenuous, and misses the point of the theory completely- and worse, conflates said theory with feminism in general, which is a mistake. Mulvey’s ‘male gaze’ is yes, a result of feminist theory, but it doesn’t speak for all of it, and took far more influence from psychoanalysis than it did from feminism. The key word here is ‘theory’- it’s a concept or an idea that allows people to reconsider art/the world in a critical way- i.e to reassess the WAY we perceive those things, and WHY. Personally, even when I have issues with a particular theory, say feminist theory or post colonialism or auteur theory- whatever (and I don’t disagree that a lot of it is wank), I still appreciate that the point of them is question our own complacency. The strength of the ‘male gaze’ argument is actually unintentionally reinforced in your post by your mention that women are just as likely to present females in a sexualised way- that women take pleasure from maximising the fetishistic elements of their bodies- that what we perceive to be attractive in women has been so strongly informed by this language that everyone (women included) are complicit with their own sexualisation.

    That is all separate from the fact that people are stupid and don’t know what they’re talking about, and also separate from the fact that some people are puritans and will use any argument they like to cover up the fact that sex makes them uncomfortable.

    I have no problem with women being explicitly sexy etc. and I actively enjoy looking at them (and sexy men- what’s not to like?) but I also think that it’s naive to believe that my pleasure in looking has been uninformed by a visual education of sex, money and MTV, and I see nothing wrong with being made uncomfortable with the idea that I’m some loser schnook who has been brainwashed into believing it’s ok. Essentially – the more arguments the better.

    Finally- it’s never a double a standard when it’s the marginalised/minority doing exactly what the “patriarchy”/dominating group do to them- why do people never understand this? i.e. white people are not allowed to make racist jokes, but minorities are allowed to make white jokes (in Western countries). It’s not reverse racism exactly because the balance of power and privilege lies with the dominant group.

    ***It’s not that I don’t have plenty of problems with the idea of the ‘male gaze’- trust me I do- but I also don’t believe it’s completely worth dismissing. Slightly off topic- my personal take of the rise of the so-called ‘female gaze’ is simply: Capitalism- we’re all the bitches of capitalism.

    Also, I apologise for the essay.

    • It’s not separate though, that’s the whole point. People will conflate the two things whether they belong together or not. Which is why this post exists. Armchair feminists will get on k-pop sites and talk about “the male gaze”. The critique is simplistc because the usage is simplistic.

      Either you’re cool with jokes about people or you’re not cool with jokes about people. Saying “X can make jokes about Y but Y can’t make jokes about X” is bullshit – regardless of who X is and who Y is. Of course it’s a double standard. Rich and poor people make jokes about each other. Black and white people make jokes about each other. Men and women make jokes about each other. So fucking what. It’s a fact of life and people will always do it regardless of whether it’s “right” or “wrong” or which side has the “privilege”, so we as a society might as well just learn to live with it rather than trying to shove a sock in people’s mouths whenever they say something we don’t like.

      • I said the double standard line in a pretty blasé way, so it’s fair that you might not get what I was trying to say- which is that the reason why it doesn’t go both ways is because there is an inherent power imbalance in those scenarios- so for instance a joke about black people from a white person is so much more damaging than the other way exactly because of the privilege the white person enjoys (but often doesn’t realise).

        To put it in real life terms relating to the ‘male gaze’ since that’s the topic at hand- which again is not a theory I live by!!!- I’ve had some pretty crummy experiences with sexual harassment and the like- **this is by no means a sob story!, I once quit a job over it (and it wasn’t even directed soley at me- I just didn’t want to work w the jerk anymore), my sister and I once got roofied, I’ve had strange men ask if I wanted to have sex for money, I’ve been cat-called walking down the street in the dark, I’ve had weird men follow me etc. the list is sooo long none of them are worth recounting. I mean, I had one of those things happen to me just last night walking home from a movie- these are normal, mundane occurrences for a woman anywhere- so normal that in comparison to some of my female friends, my experiences sound like nothing. Some of my girlfriends have had far worse experiences where men they trusted completely betrayed them in really awful ways- I mention all of these not to complain- bc we’re all fine, but to illustrate how average these experiences are for women, none of us are statistical anomalies. When I walk down the street at night and a guy is walking behind me (seriously dudes, you should always make the effort walk ahead of a lady at night so as not to freak her out!), I do have a tiny infinitesimal moment of pause where I worry. The point is that the sexualising of women (by jokes, by looks, by touches) by men can feel genuinely threatening in a way that most men will not feel about the same being done to them by women. Men may be grossed out by being ogled or approached by a woman, but I’d argue it would be rare that they would feel physically or emotionally threatened. Reverse double standards don’t apply because it’s not a stable playing ground where the effect is equal.

        Believe it or not, but I do agree with you, I absolutely don’t believe in parading around the ‘male gaze’ as a veiled attempt at slut shaming- it is the WORST. On the weekend for instance, I took a cab home late at night, and the driver commended me for not looking like a ‘slut’, and I’m sure he thought he was being flattering, but it’s actually exactly why people keep bringing up outdated theories like the ‘male gaze’ – bc the appearance of women is highly coded- and accordingly colours the way they get treated. The point of the ‘male gaze’ argument is supposed to question the way that we look- to think about why we look the way we do and how we then make our judgements, and personally I can’t find fault with that ideal, even if it fails. But, ok, I’ll give you that people treat the ‘gaze’ and feminism as if they’re synonymous. Also seriously I apologise for long comments, I don’t comment online in general bc I can’t keep things concise.

  4. “Let’s look at some examples of “the male gaze”. Here’s k-pop singer Son Dam Bi.”

    Uh… those aren’t good examples of male gaze AT ALL. Sorry, you really missed the mark here.

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