Object Lessons: Magic Mike, the Male Gaze and More

You’ve pretty much had to be living under a rock to not hear about Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, which opens in U.S. theaters tomorrow. Loosely based on the life of lead actor Channing Tatum, from its promo campaign you could safely assume it’s two hours of nonstop thongs and gyrations. “Plot, what plot?” is the question that keeps coming to mind. Of course, since it’s a Soderbergh picture, you can actually expect there to be a story … not that it matters one bit. The PR blitz has been selling sex from the get-go, and the target audience for the sales pitch, women, have been whipping out their dollars to buy it.

Cue the pearl-clutching, the nay-saying, some people uncomfortable with male sexuality being exploited in such a flagrant manner. No, don’t laugh, that last one is a legitimate concern. Stripping, while it’s been considered more and more empowering with pole-based workouts and interest in burlesque, is hardly the most equalizing and enlightened of professions. No matter who is taking off their clothes.

Look, I’m not going to claim any moral high ground because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks shamelessly staring at shirtless pictures of Matt Bomer and Joe Mangianello. It’s all a little icky. I’ve never been one of those people who thinks something isn’t an “ist” or an “ism” if it’s being perpetuated by an oppressed minority. Objectification is problematic all around. Is it sexist to be reducing the cast of Magic Mike to pieces of meat? Hell yeah. Is it gross to slow down every time I pass the shirtless athlete-emblazoned covers of Jaci Burton’s sizzling Play-By-Play series? You bet. But guess what…? Welcome to our world. It’s nothing women don’t face on a daily basis from men … except that we’re doing it in a far less personal context. Rewinding a red band trailer, or clicking through a slideshow, is not claiming any sort of ownership over what we’re looking at.

When you’re a woman, it’s a given that your body will draw the male gaze, be it in admiration or in judgment. We live in a society where the simple act of breathing gives men the right to stare at your chest as it expands with air … where getting in a cab late at night somehow makes the driver think he can ask if you’re a virgin … where the man sitting next to you on the subway can give you a once-over and proceed to stare down your shirt as you try to read. Lose weight to keep your man! Gain weight to keep your man! We’re practically bombarded with messages about how our bodies are not our own. Constant appraisal from the opposite sex is the status quo when it’s coming from men. So why is it such a freaking surprise that women can do it, too?

We have eyeballs. We have hormones. And, I know this is the part that troubles a large segment of the male population, we have mouths and brains, too. And that whole package seems to terrify some of the guys out there. You’ve got a political party trying to legislate our uteruses in a much-talked about War on Women. You’ve got Adam Carolla saying women aren’t funny. You’ve got Mitch Albom wringing his hands over Fifty Shades of Grey and declaring “I’ve become a prude.” Funny how that prudery only seems to involve media targeted to, and encompassing, women. Hysteria. Girls. Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23. “Modesty is a lost word,” moans Albom. Female modesty, he means.

Because we’re not supposed to look, not supposed to leer, not supposed to act or react, ask or demand. We’re supposed to lie back and take it. Close your eyes and think of God and country, etc.

Frankly, I’d rather keep my eyes wide open … and thank God for this:




One thought on “Object Lessons: Magic Mike, the Male Gaze and More

  1. Translation: I know its wrong and I complain about it when its directed at women, but I’m going to enjoy it anyway. Hypocrisy?


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