Women on Sex
3 years ago by
Female gaze. I often struggle with this term. Or is it a movement? I struggle to understand it. I tried to deconstruct it many times. Fit in. Lean in, if you will.
Sometimes my search for the right type of Female Gaze makes me mad. I frisk myself.
The Female Gaze was created as an antithesis to the Male Gaze. Male Gaze being the prevalent one, for obvious reasons that I don’t need to get into here. Stereotypically, Male Gaze objectifies women, flattens their characters, and creates one-sided vision of people who do not conform to their world view. Their masculine world view.
Female Gaze, in turn, is the golden egg. Women taking the reins, creating their characters with a full appreciation for who She, a woman, is. She is serious, she is strong, she is deep, and she is self-sufficient.
The term Female Gaze is defined by a woman observer telling a story.
I am a female photographer, I tell stories through images for a living. I am at my happiest when I can simply daydream for awhile and meditate on what I want to create, how to do it, how I want the viewer to feel when they see the result. It’s the kind of high that is as tangible as the high you get after three cups of coffee in one go. I have to admit, most times my creative high is supplied by the coffee high. It’s ecstatic to watch 3D world turn into 2D to represent your daydreams.
As with anything, once you label something, it becomes a commodity. It becomes narrow. It should be easily defined.
In this instance, Female Gaze is defined by female creators telling their own stories. It is usually a pure, virgin, representation. If you look for #girlgaze on Instagram, you’ll find an epitome of Female Gaze. There’s a lot of millennial pink. So much millennial pink. There’s a lot of fists in the air. It’s a lot of cheeks squeezed to one another. A lot of belly rolls. Mastectomies. A lot of flowers smashed between legs. Breastfeeding.
All the gorgeous marks that life leaves on our bodies. That define our lives. Not perfectly glamoured ones, but real, often painful, disappointing, ugly parts of our life that make it our own.
I am in awe of this movement. Yet sometimes it makes me mad.
The New York Times review of a new museum in New York dedicated exclusively to photography, Fotografiska, bashed a retrospective exhibition of a german fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth. It’s called “Devocion! 30 Years of Photographing Women”. Presented, are countless photographs of famous women, often pictured as provocative, lustful. The reviewer’s opinion on it: “Ellen von Unwerth, a German fashion photographer who inherited her compatriot Helmut Newton’s vulgarity without the leavening of his originality and wit. “
She inherited Helmut Newton’s Vulgarity without leavening of his originality and wit.
I do not possess a level of sophistication The New York Times reporter and reviewer does, neither do I absolutely disagree with the statement. It saddens me, however, that this female photographer is being pinned against a male photographer, yes, one of the greatest photographers, only to be dismissed as a mere echo of Helmut Newton’s work.
Did Helmut Newton invent sex and vulgarity? Or was he the only one who saw it in a critics’ accepted way? The questions that I’ve been trying to reconcile with…
I get mad at the Female Gaze, because there’s only one way of gazing that is accepted. Female Gaze being an antithesis to the stereotypical Male Gaze is, by definition, asexual.
And that is one big problem that I have with all this. The fact that we need to bounce off of men to create our own identity. We are taking their rib to create ourselves, instead of creating ourselves all on our own.
Women are complex, and so are men.
We can generalize one and make it a trivial version of itself. Which is what, arguably, men have done to women for centuries. But what is it if not trivial to be creating co-working spaces for women that are all plush and pink, publishing feminist books that are all, once again, pink. Performing stand ups where the topic is always menstruation. And toothy blow jobs. But mostly menstruation. What is it if not trivial to sell razors, shampoos, anti-aging creams, concealers as tools for female empowerment. What is it if not trivial to be accepting all kinds of images created by women except the ones that are too close to what is traditionally deemed as Male Gaze. That is – sexy.
Men are not the only ones who have desires. Not to mention, you don’t have to have sexual desire towards someone to see and recognize their sexuality. ‘Sexy’ is not a dirty word.
‘Sexy’ is not just what men want us to be. It’s not how much makeup we put on. Not how high our heels are, or how short our skirts are. It’s an inseparable part of being human. It’s what we all want to experience as we breach pubescent years.
So if a woman portraying sexuality of other women is not Female Gaze, then I don’t want a part in it.
Look 2: T-shirt, RE/DONE; Skirt, Nili Lotan; Boots, RE/DONE
Sneakers, Model’s Own Vans
Look 3: Tank Top, Leset; Jeans, Acne Studios
Look 4: Jacket, Acne Studios; Dress (worn as skirt), Vince
Look 6: Lace Slip, Kiki de Montparnasse
Look 7: Jacket, Frankie Shop; Bra, Lonely; Jeans, Acne Studios
Look 8: Dress, Proenza Schouler; Boots, RE/DONE
Shot at The Current Residence.
Maybe this creative duo-Bogdana and Christina-is the main reason I keep coming back here every once in a while…inspiring, witty, gorgeous piece of work!
Yohanna! Your appreciation is the biggest reward for our work. Thank you!
very well written Bogdana and I agree with what you are saying. You can read the article from yesterday’s New York Times about female athletes photographed in Agent Provocateur, which may bring more food for thoughts!
I totally agree with you. But this topic is not addressed in the same way at all in France. We had our first ad with red blood and not blue liquid for tampons and pads and people were really shocked. Talking about toothy blow jobs, sex in general and women’s desire is so not politically correct and it’s really sad. It’s considered dirty.
Do we have aging cream or concealer ad for men: of course we don’t! They even put hygiene washing liquid ad during female soccer games when men get razors, aftershave and masculine product ads. It was really outrageous and sexist.
And true, ‘sexy’ is not a dirty word, and we are who we want to be and we don’t need to be validated by men or society, it’s stressful enough to be a woman.
I stopped trying to act like people wanted me to do and I’m feeling so much better. This is what I am teaching my twin daughters too: to be themselves and only compare who they are to themselves as well and not other people.
Great article and amazing pictures. Mesmerising.
I’m trying to say something interesting but nothing comes to my mind unless:
Bravo for this Amazing Article , Girls !!! Bravo Mrs Bog Fergunson ( loved your words and your perspective too!!! ), Bravo Chris Holevas!!! Both of you are Always steppin’ it up a notch so… naturally a fan !
Also, just shared this Article and Doré to a couple a friends from work and their reaction were like :
« _ WOW , AMAZING …Didn’t realize that you were into this !!! Whaaaaaat ???»
As for the Photos ??? *Tsssssssssssssss And SuperTasteful !!!
(*sound of temperatures rising! Hot as hell !!! With All do Respect, of course!!! )
Super interesting read and gorgeous photos, thank you very much for your lovely work!
and I also agree with you : women should be free to embrace themselves, the way they want to embrace it, whether it be labeled « sexy » or not. Women should be free to please whoever they want to please, if that’s what they want :)
Thank you so much for reading and leaving a note. I really appreciate it!
The female gaze does include sexy – is sometimes very sexy.
At last! We women are and can be sexual. Ain´t we human? Surely it should also be part of the Female Gaze. Anyway, those photos are the perfect representation of the idea.
Loved this!! Yes why is it that we are always being told of only one way to be female? And the whole idea of the female gaze is to reject the male gaze right? But is there only one male gaze? All these labels are so exhausting. As a designer and artist myself I’m always struggling not to let these presumptions affect what I choose to create.
I’m reading Glennon Doyle’s new book Untamed which talks about this subject and more.We don’t need permission from men what we need is to respect ourselves and our bodies because it is YOURS.
Thank you! Enough rose gold & pink as coded third wave feminism.
I love you! I have for years. I have a few pieces of your art. I have long used your site as an example of one that inspires me.
A dear friend sent me this post, which I had not seen. I am with you. This « female gaze » idea makes me mad.
And I am gratefull to know about Ellen’s show, because I adore her work and have every book she has ever done (including the Taschen Limited Edition with print enclosed). I had a chance to buy Helmut’s book, « Sumo » the year it first came out. I knew it was « important » as a fellow photographer, but I could not bring myself to buy it, because I truly don’t like the way he saw or portrayed women. So I didn’t buy the book. I should have. I would have made a lot of money re-selling it! Ellen’s work speaks to me as a woman. Helmut’s does not. His vision feels like a cliche of how men see women. So boring to me.
Your work speaks to me. The words, and the images. So thank you. People you don’t even know are grateful for you! Namaste.
Thank you Tanya! I’m glad my writing spoke to you.
Ahhhhh, so timely as I am a painter who paints women and botanicals with lush, sensual overtones. I have asked myself the nagging question of whether this is the « right » message since well known female artists portraying women paint a a version of « pained sexuality » while I celebrate it in a much more intimate way. This article has just whispered to me… »there is a place for you… »
‘And that is one big problem that I have with all this. The fact that we need to bounce off of men to create our own identity. We are taking their rib to create ourselves, instead of creating ourselves all on our own. Women are complex, and so are men
Couldn’t agree more. I sincerely believe we need to ask what do we want to be valued for. Our productivity, creativity, child rearing in relation to Jennie on our own terms. The past has been patriarchal but the future bring feminine is also bouncing off men. Surely what we all want is integration. The freedom to choose how we contribute and where applying our skills where they are needed, adding our point of view where it can have impact, empowering others through our own empowerment. My work is in branding and I integrate yoga and meditation as part of the client journey for those who are willing. When they go the results are extraordinary. They feel a deeper truth , trust and connection with themselves which then transforms how they go everything else. We’re all in this together as co-creative beings. Such a beautiful co-creation this article was. Keep doing your good work. Maybe the enforced reflection of the corona virus will inspire us to contemplate who we really are and what really matters. So much love always love xx
Eilish, thank you for reading and taking the time to write your response. Agree with you. Much love !
This is so true! Your words are fresh air in a dusty room where women are being contained this time by other women. This is kind of ridiculous first to fight for the right of self-determination only to get into a trap of another stereotype.
Hello, wonderful work and who is this wonderful woman in the photos, can you give her name ?