“To be clear, the show about boys got way too much credit, and the show about girls got way too little. This is how we approach male vs. female work. Let’s call it the “male glance,” the narrative corollary to the male gaze. We all have it, and it’s ruining our ability to see good art.
The effects are poisonous and cumulative, and have resulted in an absolutely massive talent drain. We’ve been hemorrhaging great work for decades, partly because we were so bad at seeing it.”
“The male glance is how comedies about women become chick flicks. It’s how discussions of serious movies with female protagonists consign them to the unappealing stable of “strong female characters.” It’s how soap operas and reality television become synonymous with trash. It tricks us into pronouncing mothers intrinsically boring, and it quietly convinces us that female friendships come in two strains: conventional jealousy or the even less appealing non-plot of saccharine love. The third narrative possibility, frenemy-cum-friend, is an only slightly less shallow conversion myth. Who consumes these stories? Who could want to?”
“The male glance is the opposite of the male gaze. Rather than linger lovingly on the parts it wants most to penetrate, it looks, assumes, and moves on. It is, above all else, quick. Under its influence, we rejoice in our distant diagnostic speed. The glance is social and ethical the way advice columns are social and ethical, a communal pulse declaring—briefly, definitively, and with minimal information—which narrative textures constitute turgid substance, which diastolic fluff. This is the male glance’s sub rosa work, and it feeds an inchoate, almost erotic hunger to know without attending—to omnisciently not-attend, to reject without taking the trouble of analytical labor because our intuition is so searingly accurate it doesn’t require it. Here again, we’re closer to the amateur astronomer than to the explorer. Rather than investigate or discover, we point and classify.”
“We are capable of more. This is a clarion call to every person challenged by this culture-wide reckoning: To see more, we have to lose the blinders that have long and faithfully guided our vision. This will be uncomfortable. It begins with an acknowledgment of how dominant the male glance has been, and how the cosmetic analyses we deploy in response to femaleness bind us to surface and blind us to depth. And consign us, in consequence, to a culture defined by casually diagnostic (and artistically cataclysmic) dismissals.
“The next step is harder. Before we can start connecting the dots in non-male stories—and finding vocabularies for the textures and shapes we find there—we must first assume there’s something there worth seeing. This means resisting the snap judgment and the taxonomic impulse. Before we let the wes quiet machinery tar a text as clichéd or preachy, messy or sentimental or bitchy or undercooked, let’s provisionally grant that there might be some deliberate effect lurking therein—particularly under whichever womanish performative sign we spotted that flattered us into looking no further.