First of all, I highly recommend that you listen to the Nerdette podcast. It's quickly become one of my favorite things to listen to and from work. The guests provide homework for the listeners, which I am so into and have fulfilled all of the assignments I've listened to so far (yes, I'm a nerd and it's the Hermione Granger in me that's coming out).
Second of all, if you haven't seen the film Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre and starring Jenny Slate, do yourself a favor and rent it on Amazon. To this day, it's still one of the best movie going experiences I shared with some of my close lady friends.
Now, with both of those things said, I want to share something that happened to me the other day while I was driving home from work, listening to Jenny Slate on the Nerdette podcast.
Jenny was speaking about how amazing Gillian is to work with, and as she was saying "while she loves men, she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze," I looked to my right and saw this old dude in a beat up mini van just staring at me in a very creepy manner. Jenny's voice continued, but I couldn't hear the rest of it. My ears seemed to stop working because all I could focus on out of my peripheral vision was that dude continuing to stare at me.
I tried to get back to Nerdette, but my mind was running all over the place. I thought of that 30 Rock scene when Liz mentions the male gaze and Hazel responds, "Yeah, they're all a bunch of gays." I thought of earlier in the day when a guy catcalled me from his car as I walking down the street. I though of when I learned about the male gaze in college and how that opened my eyes up to cinema more. I thought of Orange is the New Black, Wonder Woman, the manic pixie dream girl and the cool girl. And as I was thinking about each of those, I was focusing on the male gazing at me from his window. How dare he objectify me. How dare he stare at me. How dare he continue to do so even when I looked back at him, clearly seeming upset.
The light turned green and we each drove off, me in a slightly more raged state than before. I rewound the podcast to hear what I had missed. Jenny's voice calmly surrounded me in my car: "she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze, and I needed that. I needed a role model like that in my life. It changed everything from my personal style to how I think about myself in my community to how I pick my jobs. And I like that she allows me to play women who are sexually active, have sexual preferences, but are not sexualized in any way that is going to create a marketplace for the patriarchy. I like that."
We need more people like Gillian Robespierre.
In that moment, I breathed a little easier. I felt comforted, understood, and not alone. It was as if Gillian and Jenny were in the car with me, and we were driving off to create more badass feminist art. And we definitely don’t have time to deal with any of the bullshit that is the male gaze.