Nikki Gemmell: Doublethink, double standards and double dutch

I can only stand back in awe when I read anything by Nikki Gemmell. Just recently in the Australian she did it again for me with her piece, “The new female gaze is shocking for its novelty and audacity.”

How can anyone talk so much crap in so few sentences? Yes, we get doublethink, double standards and Double Dutch all in one giddy package.

Gemmell wants us men, actually us straight men (she’s particular on that point – more about this later), to be afraid, very afraid, because women are now openly “gazing.” I kid you not. “Gazing,” and brazenly at that.

We’re gazing. Openly and boldly and with a good old giggle, and some men aren’t enjoying being reduced to their mere body parts. The shoe, now, is well and truly on the other foot.

This drivel reminds me of Hanna Rosin triumphantly declaring “The End of Men” without one thought for her own husband or son. Gemmell’s Feminism is clearly of the “Women are more equal than men” variety.

The term “the male gaze” was introduced in 1975 by film theorist Laura Mulvey to describe the way women in film are objectified, voyeuristically, when heterosexual men control the camera.

No, this term was introduced by the Feminist Laura Mulvey into Feminist discussion of movie making in 1975. Of course, for Gemmell, Feminism and its dogma is the only world worth thinking and talking about it. Anything outside of that is for the Neaderthals and clearly doesn’t count.

Let me sum up for you Mulvey’s view on the world of film theory and everything else:

Women good, men bad.

The Feminists would tell you that it’s more complicated than that. She introduced a psychoanalytic perspective to film theory, and that she relied on the theories of Freud and Lacan (how sophisticated!). Who would have thought that a Feminist scholar would come to this conclusion, once she reached that intersection between film theory, psychoanalysis and Feminism: women are essentially good but helpless victims and men are just rotten.

It would be more correct to say that “the male gaze” is what Mulvey accused men of, and not necessarily what men do. Do men look at women? Yes. Is there an element of that which is sexual? There can be. Is that all there is to it? No.

Not by a country mile.

Being social animals, we are constantly looking for signs of where we stand with the other humans in our midst. We check for signs of aggression, acceptance, competition, intimacy, respect, challenge, fear, relaxation, panic and more.  Our hierarchical structures are complex, and depend on context. All of which is constantly being re-assessed in real time while we look for allies and potential threats.

But let’s not have reality invade Gemmell’s fantasy of being insightful.

The man, of course, is the dominant power, the woman passive within the gaze. We’re so used to it, still, we barely notice it.

Of course, it’s only “of course” to the Feminist scholar. The man is not “the dominant power.” What does that even mean? It’s not that we “barely notice it.” We don’t see it at all, because it doesn’t exist. But, if Feminists like Gemmell keep repeating it, it will eventually materialise as truth.

Any man’s delusions of being a dominant power are usually crushed by the relentless grind of perpetual sacrifice. He is constantly reminded by commercial advertising as much as the Family Courts that he is the dominant wallet. Today’s entertainment programs introduce him to himself as the dominant buffoon. And when there’s digging to be done, it is impossible to not notice who keeps getting handed the shovel.

And, of course, the woman is “passive.” Please ignore the outfit by so-and-so, the shoes by some-other-designer and the hours she spent in front of the mirror layering the make-up on.

And yes, her arms are folded to push up her cleavage. And yes, her skirt gets raised when she sits like that. And yes, that helpless but revealing pose takes practice.

But the new female gaze is shocking for its novelty and audacity. And it’s increasing. Openly, boldly, with much humour from the chicks. And it’s not just on film.

See. When men do it, it’s dominating and bullying. But when women do it, it’s empowering and fun.

It’s in the confident, assessing stare of teenage girls who demand their boys be “ripped,” with sculpted abs — and teenage boys are under pressure like never before because they know it takes a lot of work to achieve what these girls want.

So, is the Patriarchy over? Is it done? Not when there are Feminist Funding Frenzies to be had, I’ll bet.

But, are teenage boys under pressure? In the real world they most certainly are. Try their backward slide in education. Try their constantly being accused of being responsible for “rape culture.” Try their shorter life expectancy. Try their workplace death statistics. Try their suicide rate. Adding the “gaze,” as Gemmell seems intent to do, at best would be rubbing the salt in some very serious wounds.

Now those are some shoes Gemmell would not want to walk a mile in.

And are the girls entitled to all these wants? Clearly Gemmell thinks so. And why? Because its retribution for Patriarchy, Dumbo!

Now, try and make sense of this:

It’s sassy and fun but it’s also making a point: how do you like it, boys? Isn’t it ridiculous? How on Earth do we allow these things in a world increasingly respectful of equality? Or is it?

I couldn’t have put it worse.

It seems to me that Gemmell imagines that the imagined world of women’s victimhood is now being spread to boys. And the fact that these boys are being victimised is somehow justified because men used to victimise women. No, the boys didn’t do the victimising, it was the men who came before them. Does that make them innocent? Don’t be silly, they’re male.

However, just because women are now in a position to victimise boys, that doesn’t mean that women are no longer being victimised. No, she’s not giving up her damsel-in-distress status for no one. But, she is taking great delight as she visualises these young men’s distress.

For Gemmell, two wrongs do make a right, and all is fair in love and gender warfare. That is, of course, when the girls come out on top.

Interestingly, she dates this “new” aspect to women, that they can be lusty, to within the last 20 years. Perhaps she hasn’t heard of the intersection between young girls, four lads from Liverpool, and screaming. Perhaps she is unaware that Elvis made a few bucks on female admiration.

Perhaps she’s not even listening to herself.

Given her educated knowledge of film theory, she should be aware that the female gaze was well and truly focussed on celluloid from the beginning. Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert won many hearts in their day, although both were in the shadow of Rudolph Valentino. There was nothing hidden about this “gazing” either, it was just a lack of media to record it, and a lack of gender studies classes to turn it into a sign of oppression.

There is also something disturbing about her treatment of homosexual men. Constantly, she reminds us that the men she is condemning are heterosexual. But what does this really mean for homosexual men?

Is this merely a divide and conquer policy? Gay men are to join Feminists in their outright condemnation of their heterosexual counterparts, are they? Is this so that they can become honorary women? Will they too receive the status of the pampered?

The problem here, of course, is that in male homosexuality, by definition, males are at both ends of “the male gaze.” They are simultaneously saints and sinners.

Gay men, too, will be on the receiving end of the “female gaze.” But Gemmell doesn’t make a case for leaving them out of the “brazen, diminishing objectification.” Should they have something tattooed on their heads to indicate their honorary woman status so that women don’t give them the “gaze.” Or should they simply feel “threatened” and “insecure” like the rest of us?

Is their discomfort an acceptable price for this new women’s freedom (that hasn’t stopped Patriarchy for one minute – all together now “We’re making progress, but there is still so much more to do”).

So as you watch bi-sexual men vanish in a big poof (pun intended) of irrelevance, and homosexual men are caught in this Feminist purgatory, you might ask what that means for lesbians.

Oops. She left the Sisters out. I wonder why. Now there is an awkward conversation of “gazing” I would think. How can women be the victims here without also being the baddies?

But, that’s only if you take any of this Sacred Babble with any kind of seriousness.


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