Uncut Gems actress Julia Fox, whose new memoir Down the Drain was published last month, has been making headlines for her unconventional, eccentric looks. Fox is known for wearing outfits that “girls would appreciate” and “men would despise,” according to a recent interview with the New Yorker. This perspective is being celebrated by Gen Z fashion girlies on TikTok.
“Whether I was realizing it or not, I think my appearance was very much to please the ‘male gaze,’ in a way,” she says during the interview. “And then something happened, I don’t know if it was motherhood or just being thrust into the public eye, and I was like, Wait, I don’t want to uphold this anymore. I want to dress for the girls.”
“And men hate my outfits. They’re so mad that I’m not ‘hot’ like how I was in Uncut Gems. I hear that all the time. But I don’t care because the girls love it. The girls and the gays love it, and that’s really who I’m dressing for,” Fox adds.
Recently, the sound bite has been making waves on the video-sharing platform, as women on TikTok are using it to show off their outfits that go against what some men find traditionally appealing. More and more, Gen Z fashion girlies — like Fox — are owning their preference of dressing for themselves.
What is the ‘male gaze’?
Sophie Cress, a licensed therapist and mental health expert, spoke to In The Know by Yahoo about the male gaze and the ways that it caters to a “heterosexual male viewpoint.” The term “male gaze” was coined by film critic Laura Mulvey in the early 1970s.
“In the realm of fashion and personal style, the male gaze exerts an influence on women’s choice of clothing by generating a pervasive societal pressure to conform to traditional standards of beauty and attractiveness constructed by male expectations. Women may feel obligated to dress in a way that adheres to these expectations in order to gain approval or evade criticism,” Cress explained in an email.
Why women are embracing this trend
Erika Dwyer (@erika.dwyer) is a New York City-based fashion creator whose style negates the male gaze — but not consciously. Instead, she prioritizes outfits that meet her own ideals.
“It couldn’t be of less concern to me if my outfit is too feminine or too masculine or not showing enough skin or too over the top for men who might pass me on the street,” Dwyer, who boasts more than 300,000 followers on TikTok wrote in an email. “I want to reflect me, who I am, not a fabricated ideal for anyone else.”
And while she’s no longer as impressionable as she was when she was younger, Dwyer does admit that as she was growing up she felt pressured to dress in a way that appealed to men.
“I think the male gaze pertains to women’s choices, including that of clothing, even as children,” she said, before revealing her current sartorial influences. “I want to have fun with what I’m wearing as an art and interest. I do however find myself building outfits that align myself with my friends or people who have similar interests to me: whether its a graphic of a musician I like or wearing a growing brand that feels like a secret club to connect with someone over in passing.”
Cress believes that Fox’s statement, that she’d rather dress for the girls and members of the LGBTQ community, expresses a “reclamation” of not only her agency but identity as well.
“Dressing for oneself enables women to connect with their genuine selves, promoting a sense of self-acceptance and self-love. When individuals prioritize their own comfort and preferences over societal expectations, it can lead to a healthier self-image and improved mental well-being,” Cress revealed. “This shift away from external validation, particularly from the male gaze, decreases the chances of internalizing societal beauty standards that may contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.”
Fox, Cress adds, advocates for a “collective rejection” of male-driven expectations that have pressured women to look a certain way to avoid ridicule and gain approval.
“In a broader sense, Julia Fox’s decision to prioritize the opinions and approval of women and the LGBTQ+ community challenges conventional gender norms and expectations,” she added. “This shift promotes a more inclusive and diverse understanding of beauty and fashion, encouraging a culture where individuals are free to express themselves genuinely without the constraints of societal norms.”
Julie Riess (@partypretzel), a TikToker in Zurich, Switzerland, used to feel the need to “look nice for boys.” After all, she told In The Know by Yahoo in an email, “Who doesn’t want to hear that they think you’re the pretty girl of the class?”
This mentality, however, is one that she eventually grew out of.
“As I’m growing up and I’m out of that school environment, I find myself having more courage to actually experiment with style and looks that I don’t only find pretty or pleasing to the eye but also understand that something might just feel cool to wear because it’s intentionally unconventional or interesting,” she explained.
How you can be more mindful of the male gaze when choosing your outfits
Finding camaraderie with others, Cress explains, is a crucial way to unlearn ingrained, societal expectations, like letting the opinion of men dictate what you can and cannot wear.
“Surround yourself with people who appreciate and celebrate different expressions of femininity. Join groups that prioritize individuality and empowerment, either online or in person. Sharing experiences and receiving positive reinforcement from like-minded individuals can help counteract the influence of the male gaze,” Cress suggested.
Cress also urges women to consider experimenting with their style.
“Take the time to explore a variety of styles that resonate with your authentic self, irrespective of societal norms,” she added. “Try out styles that prioritize comfort, personal expression, or reflect the values you’ve identified during self-reflection. Embrace the journey of discovering what makes you feel genuinely confident and empowered.”
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