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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

female gazing at: Matthias Schoenaerts


It’s been a while since we did some female gazing, and I am inspired to get back into it by Belgian cutie Matthias Schoenaerts and his turn as a civilized Nazi in Suite Française (currently in U.K cinemas and coming to North America sometime this year, hopefully):

Schoenaerts has typically been playing tough guys — in flicks like Rust and Bone, Blood Ties, and The Drop — and he’s always really good. But tough guys aren’t really my thing, and it was only in A Little Chaos, in which he portrays a 17th-century garden designer at Versailles, when I took particular notice of him:


(I saw A Little Chaos at London Film Festival last autumn; it opens in the U.K. next month. No word yet on a U.S. release.)


Very nice:


(If you have a suggestion for someone we should female-gaze at, feel free to email me with a name or a link to a particular photo. But check to see whom we’ve already gazed at.)

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  • Radanon

    I do respect your work. And do agree with your system of female misrepresentation in movies. But I’m not sure the best way to combat the male gaze is by introducing a female gaze. ‘Neither’ is the aim, I guess, not ‘both’. :)

  • LaSargenta

    But, women *do* gaze. There just isn’t an acknowledgment of that in the dominant culture.

  • Bluejay

    MaryAnn used to include this link in all of her Female Gaze posts; I’m not sure why she stopped. But it explains her perspective in detail.

    Now, caveats: The male gaze is not necessarily lascivious (though sometimes it is) — women’s bodies are beautiful. And critiquing the male gaze is not to say that there’s anything wrong with straight men finding women beautiful. The problem with the male gaze — and the desperate need for a more prominent female gaze — is its dominance, not just visually but as the provider of the perspective.

    She further clarifies her thoughts in the comments section there, too.

  • Radanon

    Thanks, Bluejay, for the clarification. :)

    I am just of the opinion that it harms society as a whole when bodies, male or female, are seen as things ‘worth looking at’ from the male or female ‘perspective’. To quote MaryAnn herself, beauty is something we learn. When society is ‘taught’ female ‘beauty’ from the male perspective, it leads to dieting problems, unattainable, unrealistic standards, insecurity, etc. in women. So I do not see how teaching society what male ‘beauty’ is supposed to look like from the female perspective will help. Let alone the fact that females themselves are, in part, taught male ‘beauty’ from the already existing (and proven harmful) male perspective. I believe the way forward is for society to ‘unlearn’ the hetero-white-male perspective.

    But then again, that’s just my opinion; I also have a problem with makeup, Victoria’s Secret, society’s gendered clothing standards among other things, so I’m not really what you’d call a ‘fun’ person. :D

  • Danielm80

    MaryAnn just posted this link on Twitter:


    But it reminds me how much I like Lilo and Stitch, which shows the value of everyday beauty. Here’s a little essay someone wrote about it:


  • Bluejay

    I think what you’re criticizing is the narrowness of the socially accepted parameters for “beauty.” I agree that we could (as a society and personally as individuals) try to expand our perspective and celebrate the whole range of body types and appearances, male and female, so that no one feels pressured to conform to any one narrow standard of beauty. That’s not incompatible with saying that women (and men) can be beautiful, in many different ways, and can be appreciated for their beauty without turning them merely into beautiful objects.

    MaryAnn posts pictures of men that she finds attractive, but not, in my opinion, in a way that degrades them or enforces a narrow standard; her picks include a range of ages and ethnicities, as well as face/body types that don’t conform to the supposed “tall, chiseled” norm (e.g. she’s featured Philip Seymour Hoffman, Simon Pegg, and Peter Dinklage).

  • Oh dear. You think I *invented* the female gaze?

    You think women don’t look?

    Oh dear.

  • what male ‘beauty’ is supposed to look like

    But I’m not doing that at all.

    I believe the way forward is for society to ‘unlearn’ the hetero-white-male perspective.

    I agree. And part of the way to do that is to demonstrate that the male gaze, which is so entrenched in our culture as to be seen as a neutral default, is in fact no such thing.

  • Radanon

    No, MaryAnn. I am sorry if my misarticulation caused you to make that assumption. I think that we ‘look’ because we’re taught by society to. And that this ‘looking’ (male or female directed) is harmful for society. You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.

  • Radanon

    Yes. Not just that, but yes, the narrowness is despicable. :-/

  • Danielm80

    I think it’s harmful to say, “I’d rate her boobs a ten and her ass a seven.” Do you think it’s also harmful to say, “The Mona Lisa has a beautiful smile” or “My husband has the most soulful eyes”?

  • Looking is not harmful. What we do with that look can be, and frequently is.

    We are sexual beings. We are never going to NOT find attractive people attractive. This is a completely different issue from the dominance of a male gaze that defines that attractiveness very narrowly and uses the gaze as a weapon to diminish who is gazed at.

  • Women have always ‘gazed’ at men…that’s why Clark Gable, Rudolph Valentino were so popular. Actually Matthias is gorgeous and he has an inspiring personality, maybe he could be the new Valentino, as opposed to the new Brando. Myself and my friend had to fan ourselves after Far From The Madding Crowd. Like Carrie Bradshaw with the ‘Russian’ it’s even a bit too much, tho not really complaining!

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