I've never held a particularly strident stance on the issue of men staring at women in public—sometimes it's fine, mostly it's creepy, and the difference hinges on a jillion subjective subtleties. Some women like it, plenty of women do it to men (irrelevant! Power differential!), and anyway, if we make having eyeballs a crime then only criminals will have eyeballs. SCIENCE FACT. So as long as women's voices are being heard and considered (you know, the women who don't feel comfortable being publicly roped into every stranger's sexual fantasy) and men at least try to keep it on the civilized side of creepy, then whatever. Have at it.
However! That was the old me, before I read this article in Toronto's Globe & Mail, which I cannot prove wasn't originally written on the flayed skin of a missing prostitute. Titled "Why men can't—and shouldn't—stop staring at women," the piece attempts to make a reasoned argument for why the male gaze isn't creepy (in fact, men are doing society hella favors!), but instead reads like an episode of Law & Order: SVU (one of the ones where Liv uses her sexuality as a weapon and it backfires and Elliot has to rescue her). If you need me, I will be joining one of those weird churches where they live in a corn field and dress like unyielding Victorian governesses. Has anyone seen my crinoline starch???
Anyway, according to this article, here are the reasons why it's totally awesome for men to ogle women on the street, no matter how uncomfortable it might make some women feel. (Because fuck your feelings! My boner has feelings too!)
1. Men can't help it.
It's right there in the headline! That's how true it is! Whether they want to or not, men CAN'T stop staring at women. Staring is also referred to later in the article as "unavoidable." That's just how male sexuality works! Do you really want men to stop doing something that they can't stop doing? What's next—women should stop being really really good at laundry?
2. There was this girl on a bicycle this one time.
And she looked great. Plus, she had the gall to be cycling near the author's eyeballs! What the fuck else was he supposed to do but ride 10 feet behind her with his eyes creepily fixated on her pedal-pumping buns??? It was the only way.
3. The weather.
It is a scientific fact that when the weather gets hotter, women's clothes get smaller, and when women's clothes get smaller, men have no choice (see no. 1) but to catalogue and analyze every single one of their body parts (see no. 8). Don't like it, ladies? Last time I checked, men didn't make the weather—Mother Nature did. Bam.
4. Women pick out their own clothes.
Of the girl on the bicycle, the author notes, "Her body held my interest, but so did her decision to wear a miniskirt on a bike." See? It was her decision to dress like that. The author didn't sneak into her closet and knock the burka out of her hands.
5. Men have been shamed and oppressed for too long!
While suffering nobly through his post-ogle shame spiral, the author says, "I could hear the charges: objectifier, perv, pig, man." I can't believe that imaginary person throwing imaginary charges at the author had the nerve to use "man" as a pejorative. Men should really start sticking up for men once in a while. Staring at women is just civil disobedience, if you think about it.
6. Because science!
After the traumatic bicycle incident, the author turns his mind to scientific inquiry: "I decided to spend the rest of it cruising the city, investigating the famous male gaze, to find out just how ashamed we lads ought to feel." Because couching creepy proprietary paternalism in academic language like "male gaze" totally makes it not rapey! It's called intellectual curiosity. (Bonus male victimization: They're so ashamed! Quit shaming them!)
7. Men are sad.
"These days, with women charging so fast past us, we're happy to feel anything." Yeah. Maybe if women put out more, the poor neglected menfolk wouldn't have to just take what they need!
8. Women have bodies and walk around.
Are you aware that women have all kinds of body parts that they use to move around in the world? Right in the places where men also are!!! SOME OF THESE WOMEN EVEN HAVE BOTTOMS. The author takes time to note many of his favorite disembodied woman-parts (if you add all of them up, they almost make a human being!): "Details that catch my attention: lively calves, French blue puff skirts with white polka dots, red shoes, dark skin, olive skin, pale skin, lips (various shapes), curly hair (to my surprise). A pretty girl with too much bottom squeezed into her yoga pants—and, mysteriously, twice as sexy for the effort." Don't forget, ladies, that you're not just being gaped at, you're also being judged. Good luck finding that perfect bottom-to-yoga-pants ratio for ultimate man-pleasure!
9. Whatever this means?
"A slim blond in enormous sunglasses carrying a banana peel as if it were a memo." To be fair, I would totally stare at that too.
10. Every woman is like a story problem.
"But each woman makes you think, parse her appeal. The busty brunette in her 20s is wearing a rich emerald-green ruffled blouse, but it's sleeveless and obviously not warm enough to wear outside. Is she a bad planner? Would she be a sloppy mate?" Again, women make men do this. Quit making strange men parse whether or not they want to mate with you, women!
11. Because some anonymous women in Toronto said it's okay.
Oh, it's cool then.
12. They're married! It can't be perverted!
Everywhere he goes, the author makes sure to consult creepy married dudes who leer at women like it powers their car. One "claims he spots at least two stunners a day." But it's okay, because he's married. And as all female bartenders know, married men are incapable of making women uncomfortable.
13. Women have boobs.
"I'm having a hard time concentrating: Ki's waitresses are brain-stopping. Cleavage seems to be the prix fixe." Silly women. Having boobs while working at a restaurant. Those boobs are on the menu, just like food! Classic boobs.
14. Shame is good!
"But a little bit of shame is good: you can't take your gandering for granted." I don't know what that means, but it's super convincing.
15. Men have daughters.
"Women might not credit that a man can look at someone of that age without lust, but as the father of someone that age, I can." See? He's not looking at them with lust! It's just that he happens to be a noted daughter expert! He's such an attentive father that he pays non-lustful attention to all daughters. (This, by the way, is the same guy who "spots two stunners a day," like he's keeping a fucking bird-watching journal.)
16. Charles Darwin.
"X believes men look at attractive women because attractiveness means the women are healthy, an evolutionary advantage." Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
17. Not staring at women is pointless.
Would not staring at women "help" anything, the author wonders? He quickly decides that, no, it wouldn't. Better keep staring at women, then. So glad we had this chat.
18. Women aren't hiding.
"There are people sunning themselves all over downtown Toronto, glades of flesh and sunglasses. Ninety per cent of them are women. It's not as if they're hiding." Yeah!!! If women don't want to get eye-raped all day, they should hide in their houses and never ever let sunlight touch their delicate, milky (or dark, or olive) skin!!! Because everything in the public sphere is the domain of men. Women live inside! Where the kitchen is. By venturing into male space—like the park—women are basically saying "Dear men's eyeballs, Eat me! You're welcome!" Silly women.
19. Some 50-year-old lady that the author knows misses getting her bottom pinched.
So, case closed.
20. It's women's lib!
That same woman shares an anecdote: "The first time she stepped out of the library this morning into the quad of semi-clad women, 'I thought to myself, oh my god, do you remember what it was like to be able to expose your legs? It wasn't even sexual. But it was liberating.'" And let's not lose sight of what women's lib was really for—titillating men.
"This is another thing that made the girl on the bike so appealing: she was free. It would be nice if we all were." The author is literally George Washington riding on a bald eagle right now and the eagle is pooping on Osama bin Laden.
22. Our culture is just too up tight, maaaaaan.
"The problem for us as men is that we're in the wrong culture, and we're men at the wrong time. We're not a culture that empowers men with casual sensuality." Blah blah blah something about sexual liberation. Something about France, something about ancient Greece. Blah blah blah.
23. The only alternative is watching double-penetration porno on one's Blackberry all day.
"In a world where, thanks to this thing, I am only two clicks away from double penetration and other forms of pornographic nastiness, the act of merely looking at a girl who is naturally pretty—I mean, we should celebrate that." Yes. Sir, you are a hero! You get all the medallions!
With WOMEN on them!
25. Intellectual curiosity. Again.
"I look and gaze at all women in the street, whether they're beauties or not. They're all interesting." They're just interesting. I'm just interested. God, you must be really perverted if you're making my innocent interest into something sexual. Because it's totally not...
26. Except yeah, it's totally sexual.
But that's okay, because men are hella humble about it. "For me the question as I look at them is a little more modest: Would they sleep with me?" Ladies' choice! Wooooo! How big of you, sir.
27. IT PUTS THE LOTION ON ITS SKIN OR ELSE IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN.
"'Beautiful women are like flowers,' W interjects. 'They turn to the sun. But if they don't receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.'"
28. Because the worst man on earth said so.
"Some women assume the male gaze is sinful and hurtful and evil, that men can never look at women in a different way. But that's not what the gaze is about. Because a sophisticated man would not hesitate to gaze, and then he might be filled with regret and loss, and therefore gain self-knowledge." What's it called when you fall asleep, barf, and die at the same time?
29. Men need to feel alive.
And here's the big closing gambit: "Longing makes us sad, but at least it proves we're still alive. Which is why men like spring so much, for the short time it lasts." Awwwwwwwwwwwwww. Sorry, men. Not wanting to be reduced to bouncing sacks of body parts by every single man we pass on the street was TOTALLY out of line. We didn't realize that we were making you dead inside. Our bad. Carry on.
Why men can't – and shouldn't – stop staring at women [Globe & Mail]
Image by Jim Cooke