The “male gaze”, now popularly known as a feminist theory, was originally a film theory. In her essay titled Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey elaborated on the objectification and sexualisation of women in mass media. According to her, women have been treated as the bearer of meaning rather than the maker of meaning.
This normally gives rise to women’s portrayal to be visually appealing with little to no character depth. One such example is Megan Fox’s portrayal in the movie Transformers where her only character trait is being a “cool girl” whose body the camera continuously zooms into for the pleasure of the heterosexual male audience.
The camera here reduces a woman to a body. This, in turn, gives rise to pretty privilege that is prevalent in the movie industry and real-life as well. Conventionally, beautiful women get the upper hand in roles, jobs and businesses. In contrast, women who are not considered beautiful by the majority are left out. They have to work much harder to be perceived as worthy.
Not to mention that women who are considered unattractive by the majority generally belong to marginalised communities that the dominant communities have oppressed for centuries.
Unfortunately, there’s no winning for conventionally attractive women too. They are almost always reduced to what they look like and other aspects of their personality are ignored. Marilyn Monroe was reduced to a “dumb blonde” and Megan Fox to an “eye candy”.
The situation has only gotten worse as a result of digitalisation. We continuously scroll through social media, looking at awfully attractive people in aesthetic locations. This gives rise to body image issues and eating disorders in many. Multi-million dollar companies leverage women’s insecurities to sell unaffordable products and services in the name of essential “self-care”.
The most important shield that a woman can wear in today’s world is that of self-love. We must love ourselves so fiercely that we can sail smoothly through the journey of fighting insecurities smoothly. And we must always remember what Adichie said in Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions:
“Show her that she does not need to be liked by everyone. Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will. Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike.”
On this Women’s Day, let us learn to cut the noise and love ourselves despite our insecurities.