seeing and being seen
EB LE_Wong

Penelope Wong



Ryza Vasquez

Graphic Artist

Seeing And Being Seen


The most fundamental and basic of all binaries, sex. Girlhood has always been defined by the experience of being observed. It is to be seen by others and seeing yourself through their lenses. What you are, preordained by their whim, by notions and stereotypes.

Femininity is shameful. They are taught that their interests hold no value because it’s something done by them. Girls were belittled for their hobbies, pushed into abandoning it for more acceptable pursuits. On the chance that they did happen to like their femininity, then they were vilified. If you weren’t a girl yourself, you are taught that anything effeminate is below you. Females are what the world doesn’t want, what it wishes to get rid of, the antithesis of our culture’s ideal.

The norms and roles prescribed towards women are of subservience and acquiescence, to act as yielding wives and daughters. All of these traits tend to emotional and social needs. These expectations allow women to be vulnerable without being shamed, even being praised for conforming to it. This sort of vulnerability is encouraged only in girls, which, later on as women, they are obligated to provide. As the saying goes, love only comes with a woman’s touch, and this notion aptly sums up the issue. 

Throughout history and the span of all cultures, the ideal had always been masculinity, centered on its strength, competitiveness, and individualism. This fact needs no elaboration. It is upheld not only by boys who are subject to it but by the adults who surround them as well, by reinforcing and rewarding the practice of these behaviors – behaviors that can be recognized as toxic masculinity.

Nowadays, these old norms are being stripped away. The restrictiveness and damage brought by the pursuit of traditional masculinity is more openly talked about. More are willing to criticize and challenge the practice of it. How toxic masculinity isn’t an isolated phenomenon, but is an instrument that reinforces sexist and misogynist beliefs that are much better left behind.

In spite of how damaging and regressive the enforcement of masculinity is, it was still a goal for men to strive towards. In a way, society has strippped them of a framework of what men should be. With no male archetype, all they’ve got left to themselves are remnants of a bygone age, upholding attitudes that were once seen as good. There is no shortage of modern female ideals for girls to pursue, especially as gender roles are being broken down. Yet, an equivalent modern male ideal is lacking.

In this period of time where men have no choice but to acclimate and change, why is it women who have to turn the other cheek? Why is it that women are the ones who console, provide, and stand in? When all this time effeminacy was the worst of all school-yard taunts? Female identity, all that is inseparable from the self, has been for eons of human culture what they looked down upon. 

The vulnerability that denoted the object of their disdain is now what men cling to. One can blame those age-old ideals for their inability to tend to their own emotional needs. Who can blame them when attempts to branch out are met by ridicule from their peers? There’s this notion, as a result of this particular brand of stuntedness, that it falls to the women in a man’s life to help him through every emotional turbulence and struggle. The roles of sister, mother, friend, and wife and its corresponding burdens, instead of being separate, are all sublimated, condensing and burdening a single woman only. 

Isn’t it frustrating to find that women not only have to participate in this male led system, but also have to hold their hand as they bemoan it, cry out at having to strip themselves of the ideals that created this male led system in the first place? 

With this in mind, it could be expected that women tend to react to men with revulsion or fear. When weaned in a society with so many bad men, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that women see men as a threat, indiscriminately. Women fear the capacity men have for violence, and rightfully so. If being seen and stalked is the experience of girlhood, then observing is what defines boys. When any action taken is an immediate threat, they are resigned to do nothing but watch, to being the bitter voyeur to better men. Where anything less than the male gold standard, anything less than the Giga-Chad is resigning yourself to Beta Cuck. 

Despite being the opposite of each other, the object and its viewer, there’s not much difference between them. Whichever side of the spectrum one may lie, both experiences invoke a lingering sense of disposability and disillusionment. No one is exempt from seeing and being seen. No man or woman is exempt from the disposability of human life that persists in capitalism. All are subject to the same indifferent churning of the machine. It’s just that society expects different products out of each individual.

Disillusionment and the sadness that follows it, the spinelessness and feeling of being lost, is a common experience. Perhaps this commonality is what drives women to put up with men in spite of the fear and apprehension. Both the object and its viewer feel the same grievances, harbor the same anger, and carry the same pride.

Ultimately, try as women might, the solution does not lie within them. No amount of goading or coddling will create a new ideal for men. This is one thing that is not within a woman’s place to create. Whatever it is that men have to do to salvage the rotting corpse of long dead ideals and what they ought to be in this day and age is up for them to decide.


Godsil, R. D., & Tropp, L. R. (2016, October). The Effects of Gender Roles, Implicit Bias, and Stereotype Threat on the Lives of Women and Girls. Perception Institute.

O’Malley, R., & Holt, K. (2020, September 24). An Exploration of the Involuntary Celibate (Incel) Subculture Online. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Sculos, B. (2017). Who’s Afraid of Toxic Masculinity?

Stephan, W., & Yamada, A. (2006, July 28). Women’s Attitudes Towards Men: An Integrated Threat Theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Winton, T. (2018, April 8). About the Boys: How Toxic Masculinity is Shackling Men to Misogyny. The Guardian.…men%20to%20misogyny%20%7C%20Books%20%7C%20The%20Guardian.pdf

Yates, M. (2011, June 1). The Human-As-Waste, the Labor Theory of Value and Disposability in Contemporary Capitalism.,