The Gaze

Empowering gaze is possible

arun simon
4 min readJun 20, 2024

Gaze is to look at something or someone for a long time, especially in surprise or admiration, or because you are thinking about something else (dictionary definition)

Gaze is not the same as look; All the looks are not gazes.

One of the most influential terms in philosophy, sociology, psychology and equally applicable term in religion and culture is the male gaze. In a society where we can’t still say that men and women are equal (in some case, inequality is so bad) or where the vestiges of patriarchy are strong, male gaze is an influential concept. The most simplest expression of this will be experience of the woman as objects (and not as persons) in their daily ordinary lives.

What is the male gaze? Filmmaker and theorist Laura Mulvey first coined the term “the male gaze” in her seminal 1973 paper Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Mulvey’s essay, published two years later in Screen magazine, was written for an academic audience so it can be a little difficult to understand. First of all, Mulvey was talking about how our society is structured by, and for the benefit of heterosexual men (i.e., “the Patriarchy”). Men are considered the “active” do-ers of the world, while women are expected to take a more “passive” role supporting the men and/or men’s goals.

This general theory doesn’t mean it can be applied to all men in all cases. But this general phenomenon can’t be overlooked. There is also the term female gaze; I don’t want to enter that complicated area of discussion as this term can be considered the opposite of male-gaze by some, whereas its proponents say, “the term alludes to the right of women to adopt the active and objectifying gaze that has traditionally and stereotypically been associated with males, undermining the dominant cultural alignment of masculinity with activity and femininity with passivity.”

One common difficulty of many forms of gaze can be that it tries to fit the other person into some models that I appreciate or enjoy. This is also true about all our gazes we encounter in the society. There is a parental gaze, peer gaze, and gaze from your fans and strangers. When sports persons are extolled for the great victories by the fans, they are royally trolled and abused for the horrible performances. You as an individual is forgotten for some of your talents or attributes. Yes, it gives us a kick when we are extolled, but kicks us down too when it is the other way around.

Sadly some of our spiritual life and experiences are equally influenced by the same logic. When Bible is clear on the uniqueness and singularity of each individual created in the image and likeness of God, and in their dignity as a child of God, we forget these dimensions for some of ours or theirs attributes and tendencies. Many of our discussions on sins do struggle with this difficulty. Jesus never encourages us to look at sin or struggles from any other perspective, but that of his immense love and mercy.

Two of the events in the Bible, I consider as very closely related, are the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (Jn 11) and Zacchaeus (Lk 19). Both these people were considered sinners by their society. Their acts were sinful. But one difficulty with the societal gaze is a sharp focus on one particular aspect of life, forgetting everything else. The difficulty of this approach is that the person finds it so difficult to trace or find the redeeming path. Here in both the stories, these persons are transformed by an encounter with Jesus. Jesus is not giving any lecture or homilies to either of them. They both find Jesus as home, whereas they two were hell for all all the public. (Philosophically inclined can think of Sartre and his concept, hell is the other). There was a gaze of Jesus, which was more wholesome.

Invitations lie there for us too… to have that wholesome gaze, atleast with some people.

If you have a friend who does this wholesome gaze on you, if not always, atleast many a times, it’s a blessing.

Invitation for your gaze to you to become more wholesome.

And there is always this gaze of Jesus…. Not only look at Jesus, but see how he sees you… That’s wholesome…

Now read the scene of the baptism of Jesus, where there was a wholesome gaze of the father on his son. It is applicable to all of us too.

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arun simon

A Jesuit with all the crazyness… Loves Jesus…Loves church, but loves to challenge too… Loves post modern philosophy & Gilles Deleuze.. Loves deep conversations…