Since her creation, Wonder Woman has been an icon for many young girls. Her strength and heroism stood as an example of what a woman should be, at least — according to comicbook.co — this is what many many young girls thought.
When looking at Wonder Woman as a superhero, there are some noticeable differences between her and her male counterparts. While, yes, both male and female superheroes are given unrealistic bodies, Wonder Woman’s is accentuated by her short-bottomed and low-cut suit. The young girls reading Wonder Woman comics grew up wondering why they didn’t look like her. This then makes you wonder… who was Wonder Woman designed to please?
According to theconversation.com, the term “male gaze” was coined by film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975. It refers to a representation of women in visual arts and literature that appeals to what a heterosexual male in the western world’s ideal woman looks like. Wonder Woman was originally designed for the male gaze, representing standards that women today subconsciously hold themselves to. According to psychologytoday.com, the appeal to the “male gaze” is why women are often oversexualized in many forms of art—movies, comic books, television, etc. The oversexualtion of women due to the male gaze has proven to be detrimental to how women view themselves.
Psychologytoday.com also states that the male gaze can be traced back to two main vectors: social encounters and exposure to media. Social encounters include the unwanted catcalls and looks that women may receive. On the other hand, exposure to media sets unrealistic body standards that surround women in their everyday lives. From ads with size-zero models to face cleanser commercials with women with flawless skin, women are left feeling self-conscious and inadequate in the face of the media’s consistent catering to the male gaze. Essentially, the male gaze is everywhere. It’s so ingrained in our lives that we practically don’t even notice it, so much so that our reaction to it is subconscious.
Psychologists have coined the term “self-objectification,” or “the process of habitual body monitoring, wherein women monitor their bodies as they believe outside observers do,” to describe how women deal with being under the male gaze. The Objectification Theory looks at the consequences of women being treated as a sexual object rather than a human. This theory is nothing new, yet the subsequent studies of how this unwanted objectification can lead to self-objectification is slowly being uncovered.
Within the last 20 years, according to the southerneronline.com, it has been discovered that women who self-objectify themselves tend to be more susceptable to anxiety and shame about their bodies and therefore increased vulnerability to depressive moods, sexual dysfucntion, eating disorders, and just an overall lack of confidence.
You might think: I want to look good for myself and only myself. And if that’s true, more power to you! But the standards set for how a woman should look were never created by just you but, instead, the male gaze as well. Although it has evolved, the male gaze has and continues to shape the way women look at themselves.
In a world where women, on average, are making about 80% of a man’s salary, the last thing we need is someone telling us how to look too.
Even if women can overcome the harsh beauty standards society sets and walk into work confident in their skills and appearance, they still feel the effects of the male gaze in professional environments. A study found that confidence in women isn’t appreciated in the workplace anyways. Instead, low and behold, looks are.
An academic review on the attractiveness of new hires says that, “Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.” This is unsurprising, as people are attracted to attractive people. But to what standard are they considered attractive? Why do people who are tattooed or overweight have trouble getting the same jobs even if they are more qualified?
This brings us back to the male gaze. Or, in other words, society's standard of beauty that is placed on women not just in the workplace, but everywhere.
It has also been found that because of the pandemic, women have been experiencing the effects of the male gaze over work zoom calls. Shanaya Jaiswal, a young strategist at a Mumbai-based advertising agency, found herself receiving off-putting comments when she said she wanted to change to be more professional: “You have a very beautiful voice, you don’t have to change. Wink.” The male gaze seems inescapable.
So yes, the overbearing male gaze exists, on and offline, but now what? How can we, as women, overcome such an enduring concept?
First, it requires you to surround yourself with people who are less interested in appearance and more interested in substance. For me, that was The Women’s Network at SDSU. This was an obvious way to avoid the male gaze because: 1. It’s an all women organization and 2. The network’s mission is to redefine ambition, which in itself means redefining how we view ourselves regardless of others.
In joining a network or community such as TWN, the standards that society has placed on us slowly diminish and a greater purpose than living up to beauty standards emerges. A purpose that isn’t concerned with anybody else, let alone their gaze.
https://thesoutherneronline.com/84232/comment/male-gaze-creates-harmful-mindset/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-clarity/201711/taking-back-the-male-gaze http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.sdsu.edu/10.1037/pspi0000358
https://resetyoureveryday.com/video-calls-zoom-women-male-gaze-covid/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomaspremuzic/2019/07/17/its-time-to-expose-the-attractivenes s-bias-at-work/?sh=410fa4ef1324
https://resetyoureveryday.com/video-calls-zoom-women-male-gaze-covid/ https://www.thecrimson.com/column/new-romantix/article/2017/2/17/qiu-the-gaze/ https://comicbook.com/dc/news/wonder-woman-costumes-best-worst-anniversary/ https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-does-the-male-gaze-mean-and-what-about-a-f emale-gaze-52486