A Look or a Leer? She Misses the Male Gaze, He Defends Our Right to Admire

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I read two pieces in Toronto’s Globe and Mail daily newspaper today that expressed basically the same idea but from a woman’s then from a man’s perspective. It was a topic that with the coming of spring, pops up every year just like the reliable daffodils. It was about looking at pretty women, and being looked at by men if you’re a woman.

First up was a column by Margaret Wente, lamenting the loss of that once-familiar male gaze. She remembers as a younger women getting looked and leered at, and now as she is definitely older than 40, it’s a fading memory that hurts. For the record, I think Ms Wente looks very attractive, at least in this tiny thumbnail image on her column.

Wente got annoyed with another columnist, Ian Brown, who had just written a column about how much he loved girl watching and how hard it is these days, and why men should never stop admiring pretty women. Brown went out and asked many men and women on a lovely warm day in Toronto about it and included a lot of their comments basically endorsing men’s looking at women and the women saying that they had no problem as long as the looks didn’t turn into lears.

But Wente got mad when Brown made a classic error, referring to a woman at 50 as ‘still looking good.’ Ouch! It is the asymmetry of aging, she says, that really ticks her off, the unfairness that men can get older and older and find nubile young things to take care of them and admire them, yet woman get simply ignored.

The French, she asserts, have a much fairer appreciation of older women, and acknowledge that even older women still have beating libidos. These columns raised quite a lot of comments, more than 1100 for Browns’ and hundreds for Wentes. What do you think?