Male Gaze for a Male Church
In film, the male gaze occurs when the audience is put into the perspective of a heterosexual man.
Awhile ago I hit on the idea that when approaching the Temple ceremony it was much easier for me to have a positive experience by adopting a Male Gaze- by forcing myself to look at the ceremony as if I were a man, rather than engaging the ceremony directly as a woman.
For example it is fairly well known that women wear a veil over their faces in one part of the ceremony. When I first attended the Temple that veil was very hurtful to me. I understood veils within the temple to be barrier between the profane and the divine. When the veil was between me and God it should be obvious which side is profane and which is divine.
In reading and pondering that veil and it’s meaning, I had the idea that the question to be asking isn’t “What is this veil supposed to say to me about my relationship to men and God?” Instead the question to be asking was “What is this veil supposed to say to men about me, and what does that say about my relationship to men and God?” Nearly all the answers I could find to the first question were hurtful, while there are many potentially positive answers to the second question.
Oddly enough I’ve found that by running nearly everything said in the Temple, the scriptures, manuals, and general conference through a “male gaze filter” I feel much more at home and loved in the church. My experiences and enjoyment of church meetings have improved dramatically by assuming that everything said is said to men- then extrapolating meaning for me as a woman from that.
While it isn’t ideal, and I still very much long for religious experiences that are for and about women I’ve found that this is an effective stop-gap to keep my church related experiences from being actively hurtful.