Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Why women can't stop ogling other women

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Girls love looking at pictures of other girls - often through the male gaze.Photo / AP
Girls love looking at pictures of other girls - often through the male gaze.Photo / AP

Ladies: you spend more time scanning each other's surface areas than you do checking out handsome men, apparently. According to research by a British swimwear company, half of the 2000 women polled said they "enjoy" comparing themselves to other women.

I don't know if "enjoy" is an actual quote or the efforts of an ineffectual media release minion, but what's certain is that common reactions to these sorts of findings can always be found in the form of a Daily Mail reader comment.

In response to the story 'Forget ogling men! We're FAR too busy checking out other women... and hoping they'll have more wrinkles and a bigger bottom than we do, confesses LINDA KELSEY', aptly named 'VisceralRage' responds thusly: "Women are the main ones objectifying women so they should stop having a go at men.

This also proves the continued assertion that women are inherently narcissistic and obsessed with themselves, which is why they are to blame for so many relationships breaking down."

I'm sorry for giving someone who calls themselves VisceralRage and writes to the Daily Mail website a snippet of limelight. That was wrong of me. But it's a shortcut to addressing old assumptions insinuated by 'new research'. I.e., that it's women who objectify themselves and each other, competing and comparing for the bitchy fun of it.

Because yes, women look at women. But every eyeball in the Western world looks at women: that's the deal we're lumped with. And isn't that to do with training - the kind you get as a human on earth, where female beauty is very, very important?

For some women that manifests as 'Is she hotter than me?', no doubt. To claim otherwise would be silly. How else can you explain the secret compulsion that is Stars Without Makeup? (I DON'T KNOW, BUT I CAN'T STOP CLICKING.) As Laura Mulvey says in her famous 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, the female gaze is also the male gaze, because ladies be looking at other ladies through the eyes of men, sort of. How can they not? Boys, girls, in betweens: we're all on the same pop-culture train.

Equally, though, women looking at other women is often just: 'That is the best handbag that ever lived' or 'I want my hair to look like hers so bad, oh she just caught me staring' or 'Is she wearing that dress I sold on Trademe last week?' Adornment is an art and therefore some ladies are walking works of art, and I for one quite like art.

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