A Story Of The Male Gaze

A friend writes: “I had the experience several years ago in a social group with a breastfeeding woman in which I didn’t avert my eyes, but didn’t stare either – all of the men present reacted as if it were a normal activity – only to be subjected to a harangue from the nursing woman about how uptight white guys are. What offended her was that us white guys kept talking about what we had been talking about before she opened her blouse. Nothing much changed beyond that she was feeding her baby as we talked. The fact is that we had all seen breast before and hers were not particularly remarkable. Indeed we had all seen women nurse before. It’s a pretty normal thing, which is what women say it should be, until it is.”

Well, this is what Eric Berne would have called “gamy” behaviour. As my friend realised, no possible behaviour on his part would have been treated as correct. The object of the exercise was to manufacture imaginary demerits for all the others. In a zero-sum system, this would necessarily give her self-esteem points.

Where I live, breast-feeding women do not seem to demand that everything be “all about them” in the way described, resenting the male attention not being on their breasts while at the same time being ready to rebuke them for precisely that. I get the impression that they are more intent on satisfying their babies. That is what normality looks like! In the culture described, perhaps feeding a baby in public is the narcissist’s best game?

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