Saturday, May 2, 2009


Feminists might crib about the ‘male gaze’ and how it reduces women into commodities to be consumed, possessed or bartered.

When I was a just-turned-teen, we cared two hoots for all that feminist rant. We were all too busy being ‘feminine. The ‘male gaze’ ruled our thoughts and dreams, in fact, the more males, the merrier.

‘How to attract the male (s) gaze (s)’ – was one of the most important problems of life. Elaborate strategies were planned and executed. We would spend hours hemming up our skirts to show more leg. My school-uniform-skirt had begun life as two-inches-below-the-knee, but when I passed out, it was an-inch-above, and all through strategic sewing. To achieve the same purpose, socks were compulsorily rolled down. Only the goody-two-shoes-type wore knee-length socks.

As visits to beauty parlours were supervised by strict mothers and were usually for haircuts only, we waxed our legs and tweezed our eyebrows at home, often with rather uneven results.

Resourcefulness was the key in our strategic preparation. One carefully purchased lipstick (after prudently saving on pocket money) would multifunction as eye-shadow and blusher. Shirts and T-shirts would be filched from fathers and brothers to give the fashionably appropriate ‘baggy’-effect on top of tight short skirts. Acrylic fabric paints were used to give old outfits a new zing. Hair-scrunchies would double-up as wrist-ornaments. And mismatched earrings (one dangler, one stud) were surefire eye-catchers.

Festivals would send us into flirting frenzies. The preparations were elaborate. Often, we would spend three hours dressing up for an half-hour jaunt. Much of the preliminary discussion would centre around who would be wearing what. Outfits were co-ordinated, but not duplicated. And it was all a friendly competition - we would help each other with the ‘getting ready’ businesss.

Armed to the teeth in an 'array of loveliness' (our natural loveliness considerably enhanced by the careful applocation of a whole lot of artificial aids), we would descend into the warzone of the battle-of-the-sexes. And then, the swagger in our strut and the covert, swift look back to see who noticed whom. The flutter of the eyelashes and the disdainful look away (if you wanted somebody to notice you, you ALWAYS looked AT and then AWAY).

Boys, hapless under the carefully-planned onslaught, would fall for our constructed charms like ninepins. We would sometimes do a tally on the number of scalps in our belts. Reverse feminism, in a way: we just regarded the poor fellows as so many notches on our victory registers.

It was all great fun, and completely frivolous. Serious relationships were few and far-between and would usually come much later in the day. For the rest of us, the ‘male gaze’ was enough.



Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember one lady told me once that when she was single she used to gaze me and find me handsome.

Kavi said...

The other side of the story has many tales to tell as well ! And definitely not to this scale !!

But i must say, this is indeed an insightful post !! ;)

Particularly insightful was :

"we just regarded the poor fellows as so many notches on our victory registers"

It did wonders to self esteem ! ;)

Lazyani said...

Fatafati post. Makes me remember a famous song sung by Tarun Bandyapadhyay--'Tumi jotoi bhabo shejecho aaj Apsari, tomakey amar moto aek jono keu na bolley shundori, tumi hobe na to, hobbey nato shundori.':)

sukku said...

Thanks for the enlightenment....I didn't know that you gals actually planned the whole thing...for the male gaze...anyway thanks for sharing your insights....

seanag said...

I remember one of my professors, wise soul that she was, saying that the whole looking at and away is some sort of universal flirting body language. It's quite interesting to hear you acknowledge it as a conscious strategy.

Not to get too controversial here on what is a delightful memory post, but there are all sorts of Male Gazes, aren't there? And some not so welcome as others.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

You're saying that this STOPPED after your teens?



Indrani said...

I was smiling through out. :)
You have recollected the minor pleasures of life so well.

The Scatterbrain said...

I'd forgotten all about the consciouus "look at & look away" technique!! Now that it's rusty, all that happens is "look at, get caught looking at & feel embarrassed!"

Ankit said...

I am so reilieved that I am not a girl.

Man this is some serious stuff on poor guys.....

And on top of that its intentional

Niladri said...

such a fun post... brought back fond memories of all the silly things we did back then!! Those were good days....we could act funny and even feel proud and self-important about it!!

Rajesh said...

Yes, at that age both girls and boys were in the same boat. More the attention for good reasons it is better.

Mampi said...

kahani girl girl ki..