chapter  5
20 Pages

Missing Mothers/Desiring Daughters: Framing the Sight of Women

Much feminist film theory has focused on the nature of the gaze, both that of the characters within a film and that of the spectator addressed by the film. Questions have been raised about relations of the gaze to subjectivity, to gender, and to sexuality, and about relations among those three. 2 In particular, it has been argued, most notably by Laura Mulvey, that the cinematic gaze is gendered male and characterized by the taking of the female body as the quintessential and deeply problematic object of sight. In such accounts the female gaze~and along with it female subjectivity ~becomes impossible. 3

Yet women do, of course, see movies. Furthermore, many classic Hollywood films were made with a specifically female audience in mind, dearly not addressing that audience as though it were in masculine drag. And there are movies, in particular many of the same movies, that include women characters who see in ways that are coded as distinctively female.4 There are also specifically feminist films, made from and for an oppositional spectatorial position, and there are feminist film viewers, critics, and theorists looking at all sorts of films. 5 How shall we account for all these gazes and for the subjectivities behind them?