The Left isn’t wrong about everything.
The “male gaze” is a real thing. (Thank you — to a man, John Berger — for eloquently popularizing the notion, years before Whatshername came along, I’m fairly certain).
(God, I hope this doesn’t mean I have to go back and watch Girls though…)
A famous Susan Sontag meditation on this aesthetic paradigm bears repeating: “The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes, it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks – heavier, rougher, more thickly built … There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every grey hair, is a defeat.”
I have to insert a bit that longtime 5FF readers may know by heart:
That when The Beauty Myth came out, my (very attractive) radical feminist roommate at the time scoffed, “Yeah, sure: write a book like that when you look like HER!!” Anyway:
This is still how we treat most female authors. “I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think, and women what they feel,” said Eleanor Catton after winning the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries. “In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them.”
There it is again: chance, accident, and the passive construction of female artistry – not “How did you create?” but “How were you struck?” Catton puts it well:
“The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.”