speaking here as a person also occasionally inclined to use dude/bro/dudebro/etc. to distinguish a particularly repellent type of male specimen, i have to say this stance, coming from a male-identified person, strikes me as frankly very dudely. i’ll freely admit i lack the theoretical background to thoroughly engage with the concept of the male gaze as outlined first by laura mulvey and developed further by later scholars, but i am nonetheless comfortable in saying that you don’t get to give yourself a get-out-of-misogyny free card just because you don’t want to root for drunk girls making out with each other for your pleasure. i can’t imagine a conversation about gender and media that would be a good place for men to talk about why they are Not Like Those Other Guys, mostly because i can’t imagine it being a good idea to center men in a conversation about gender and media and that’s exactly what’s going on when you rush to clarify that you’re one of the good ones.
or to be more obnoxious but also perhaps more honest about it: “how men feel about the concept of the male gaze” is up there with “what it’s like to be a male liz phair fan” in the world of things i am so thoroughly uninterested in i could plotz.
OK so I totally did read this in context before jumping in and the whole post made me even more twitchy. I don’t know a lot about a lot of things but I do know a greater-than-average amount about the male gaze.
One thing is, where does “gaze” fit into the music-listening experience? This is an honest question, I’ve done a lot of film theory but almost no music theory (though a bit of cultural theory type stuff which is where a lot of this conversation seems to be?). But pretty much the whole idea of “male gaze” is about an implied (by default male) spectator, and also by an actual look.
Obviously gaze is going to function differently in music. I’m not saying our latter-day experience of music (especially music by women) isn’t heavily visually mediated, but ultimately you don’t gaze at a song. The fact of gazing is actually pretty important to the approach as put forward by Mulvey (in terms of the apparatus of the actual cinema space, in terms of the link between the screen image and the importance of the mirror stage in infant ego formation). The idea is that there’s two pleasures spectators get out of films: voyeurism and identification. You can guess which gender gets voyeured at and which one gets identified with in the Hollywood model.
Of course the Ashlee Simpson example is even more complicated because the production and release of Autobiography was the subject of a successful MTV reality show, so it was literally saturated with gaze (arguably, male gaze even?). I mean, no one doesn’t know what Britney Spears looks like, or have a bunch of stories about her that they can’t help but bring in to listening to her. Same with Ashlee Simpson, for that matter, where most people would be listening to the album with some knowledge of her TV show, her famous family, the way she was positioned vis a vis her sister.
I think RGR brought this into the conversation and I feel like the way she’s used it has been pretty specific to actual gazing but I still think the question of how the gaze is being deployed when we talk about music is probably important. For me, like, sometimes I experience a song via its music video first, but often it’s while I’m on a bus or walking to the store or sitting in my room or dancing with friends or at a desk doing data entry, so there’s not necessarily a visual component. There’s just disembodied noises in my ear. I don’t know, can you objectify a voice? Sounds always seem to be much slipperier. That separation of the voice from the body seems wildly relevant to me, in the way that it can (at least kind of) deny our to-be-looked-at-ness. That might be a stretch but I think the gap it creates between the voice and the source of the voice is probably A Thing. Eh, I’m kind of on shaky ground here, I don’t know a lot about music qua music.
My main point was that it was talking, pretty specifically, about a camera’s gaze, in cinema, in the Hollywood milieu. I am comfortable expanding and re-working those ideas to talk about other visual media, because it’s an important and useful concept - art, photography, TV, various advertising images, music videos - but I don’t know how “the gaze” works for a medium that both is and very much isn’t visual.
The other thing I’d say is, “male gaze” as coined by Laura Mulvey was in fact - arguably - talking about a spectator-in-the-text, a kind of implied male subject whose unconscious voyeuristic fantasies are played out in Hollywood cinema. I mean, I suspect part of the reason she said “male gaze” and not “the gaze of some really bad males, not all of them” is because it’s not about individuals, it’s about hegemony. It’s systematic.