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Little Liliths

Contemporary feminist thought is correct to identify the male gaze as the default way of seeing, but has largely overlooked the fact that the gaze places power squarely in the hands of women, not men.

· 11 min read
Little Liliths
Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866–1868, 1872–1873. (wikicommons)

It’s Friday night. My teenage daughters have a group of friends over for a sleepover party. They’re making TikTok videos. I watch them watching themselves, dancing and giggling. They are admiring themselves. I can see the burgeoning femininity in them, their newly discovered sexual charm. They can see it, too. It is, in fact, exactly this that they’re looking for in themselves. They’re nurturing it, cultivating it, and as they do so, they feel their power increase. They finish dancing, and then sit together in a cuddle pile on the sofa, watching and rewatching their videos. They laugh at each other and at themselves, they tease each other, but they also compliment each other, telling each other how pretty they are, how well they move. They see this in each other but especially in themselves. It is a beautiful thing to behold, young adolescent girls loving each other and themselves. They choose the best videos from their drafts, which are often then heavily edited, to share publicly, displaying themselves to their friends and strangers alike. They are, in fact, objectifying themselves, turning themselves into little moving pictures, to be gazed upon and judged and appreciated. It is precisely this objectification that they want: their desire is to be desired.

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