The amazing Jill Soloway
Hello dear readers. So, this morning I watched Jill Soloway’s Masterclass which she gave at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11 2016. The title of her Masterclass is Jill Soloway: The Female Gaze. If you are so inclined it’s a great watch, I’ve linked to it right there. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Jill Soloway is the creator of the brilliant, heart-breaking and hilarious Transparent – if you haven’t seen it I envy you! Seasons 1 & 2 are on Stan.com.au in Australia and on Amazon.com everywhere else. Season 3 coming soon…Yes!! Can’t wait. Anyway, onto the Female Gaze and returning The Male Gaze.
The term “The Male Gaze” was coined in 1975 by Laura Mulvey, a feminist film theorist and total badass, in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.
The Male Gaze
Soloway paraphrases The Male Gaze thus: “The way in which visual arts and literature depict the world, and women, from a masculine point of view; presenting women as objects of male pleasure.” For more on The Male Gaze see here and here. Basically, when we are watching stories we identify with the protagonist, that protagonist has almost exclusively always been a straight, white, cis-male. We are conditioned to find our way into stories and to see ourselves reflected through this straight, white, cis-male experience of the world. This results in everyone who is not a straight, white, cis-male being “othered”. When you are “othered” you are relegated to being a plot device. You are objectified, you are never the subject of the story. I will leave you all to ruminate on the effect that has on our culture and the toxic masculinity contained within.
Constructing a Female Gaze
Soloway expands Roger Ebert’s argument that stories are empathy machines. She contends that “everybody is writing for themselves…and that protagonism is propaganda for privilege.”
Soloway goes on to describe her construction of The Female Gaze, one that firstly “…reclaims the body and uses it as a tool to communicate…”. One that “…that places a primacy on seeing/feeling – a subjective camera, that prioritises emotions over actions.”
Secondly, her construction of The Female Gaze “…takes the camera and shows us how it feels to be the object of the male gaze…”. That is, stories that show us mostly (but not exclusively) women “…coming of age and how they become what men see, so…the heroine’s journey as the story.”.
Part three of Solway’s Female Gaze involves “…returning the gaze…”. I, as the gazed upon, am now seeing you and I’m going to show you what I see.
Returning The Male Gaze
With this in mind, I would like to present some uber-sexist lyrics from a 70’s rock song (as Soloway does in her talk) as an example of The Male Gaze. What I’m then going to do is insert some returned gaze. Please enjoy!
This song is a Dr Hook song; men wrote it, men played it, men profited from it. It’s from 1975.
“A Little Bit More”
When your body’s had enough of me – Jesus Christ. She’s had enough of you. You can see she’s had enough of you.
And I’m layin’ flat out on the floor – Ummm…maybe you should like, stay there.
When you think I’ve loved you all I can – Are you…indirectly referring to your ability to re-bonerise yourself?
I’m gonna love you a little bit more – Oh fuck…REALLY?!?! Dude, she’s fucken tired!!
Come on over here and lay by my side – Dear Lord, she obviously moved away for a reason.
I’ve got to be touchin’ you – WHAT ABOUT WHAT SHE WANTS!!
Let me rub your tired shoulders – TIRED. She’s fucken TIRED. Even you can see she’s tired.
The way I used to do – Clearly, she broke up with you. You don’t seem to care why?
Look into my eyes and give me that smile – No. You are super annoying and a total narcissist. YOU SMILE.
The one that always turns me on – How nice for you. I thought we were talking about her smile…? Only in its capacity to arouse you.
And let me take your hair down – Wait- she’s moved away, her hair is up…is she literally trying to get out the door?
‘Cause we’re stayin’ up to greet the sun… – Are you physically preventing her from leaving? Is there cocaine involved? Or just constant boners. Be more specific.
Got to say a few things that have been on my mind – Of course you do.
And you know where my mind has been – Ohhh. We’re indirectly referring to dirty talking.
I guess I learned my lessons – I’m guessing you totally haven’t.
And now’s the time to begin – Again, Jesus wept, LET THE WOMAN REST.
So if you’re feelin’ alright and you’re ready for me – Nothing whatsoever in this situation so far has pointed to that being the case, but, appreciate the wink at consent.
I know that I’m ready for you – We get it, you’ve totally rebonered.
We better get it on now – Is that an order? Cause it sure ain’t a request. Otherwise what???
‘Cause we got a whole life to live through… – Oh. That’s why you better get it on? This poor woman. I really hope she ended up getting some rest.
CHORUS (Guess what? She did not get any rest).
FADE OUT. (Still no rest).