In film, the Female Gaze can be defined as the way women view themselves through the eyes of men. The Female Gaze presents work from the perspective of the female and is mainly found in film created for women such as soap operas and romantic comedies. Unlike the Male Gaze, the Female Gaze is not limited to viewing good looking men and often results in empowering the male character instead of objectifying him.
In the movie Real Women Have Curves, a fresh perspective of the Female Gaze is displayed as the audience is introduced to the character of Ana, a first generation Mexican-American teenager struggling with the contrast between her family’s cultural traditions and her dreams. Additionally, Ana relates to a variety of females as she deals with self-image issues. Real Women Have Curves not only utilizes the Female Gaze to give the audience insight into Ana’s romantic relationship but also insight into a variety of issues modern women understand.
One use of the Female Gaze occurs in the scene where Jimmy and Ana make love. Ana tells Jimmy to turn on the light. Ana gazes at her reflection in the mirror, again struggling with body image issues. She tells Jimmy that she wants him to see what she looks like. When he responds in Spanish that she is beautiful, her expression turns to one of happiness and her gaze turns to Jimmy. For the audience, Jimmy is now empowered and is viewed as a character who accepts Ana.
The scene following also utilizes the Female Gaze in a different way. When Jimmy offers to stay in touch after they have made love, Ana tells him not to worry about her. This is heartbreaking as the audience knows of Ana’s intellectual capabilities. She tells Jimmy that when he goes away to college they will have nothing to talk about and he will probably date a skinny girl. The Female Gaze occurs after this statement. At this moment, a look of longing is shown on Ana’s face as she waits for Jimmy to respond. The female audience can relate to this moment when there is a contradiction between what is said and what is felt. Any woman who has ever hid her true feelings in an effort to save face can relate to Ana at this moment.
The final example of the Female Gaze occurs in the last scene of the movie. Ana has chosen to abandon her work at the dress factory and her mother’s traditional view of women. Ana leaves to chase her ambitions in New York City. This time, the Female Gaze does not display an attraction to a man but to a city and a fresh new life. When Ana first boards the plane, we see a look of trepidation. However, when she emerges from the subway, the audience is reassured that Ana has made the right decision and females can relate to her pride and excitement for what is ahead. In this case, the Female Gaze works to empower the female instead of the male. At this moment, Ana’s battle with her mother’s traditional beliefs and her plus size figure is over and Ana has won.
Real Women Have Curves offers a fresh perspective on the Female Gaze. While soap operas and romantic comedies may display more obvious examples, Real Women Have Curves portrays a strong female lead that is relatable to real women in many ways. Through the use of the Female Gaze, the audience is able to understand Ana’s frustration, happiness, and longing.