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Thoughts while watching Magic Mike XXL: Can we return the gaze?

On July 1st, the sequel to the hit movie, Magic Mike slammed head-first into theaters. Although this movie is meant to be fun and light, there are some serious issues to be addressed in this Hollywood blockbuster, including the way audiences view male stripping vs. female stripping, and the sexualization of the male body.

Typically, when one thinks of a female stripper, we’ve been conditioned to think of a trashy, yet hot, more than likely drug-addicted woman who has no morals. Many people instantly jump to this conclusion after being enchanted by how attractive these women can be. Rather than seeing female strippers as women who come from various walks of life and have various reasons for stripping, we reduce them to sex objects that are used, and seen as gross once we are done gazing at them. Sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like a more overt and obvious display of sexism?

Now think of the movie, Magic Mike. More than likely you’re thinking about how good Channing Tatum looks with his shirt off, which yeah he does. But go past that. Are you thinking about how male strippers are disgusting people who can be treated poorly and abused, the way women have been thought of to be? More than likely, no. Most people associate male strippers with fun events, such as bachelor parties and do not view them as less human because of their profession.

While Magic Mike may be a fun and light-hearted movie, as feminist movie-goers, we need to examine how the values idealized in this movie and other shows portray our societal values. We see television programs that constantly use female strippers for sexual gratification and then to abuse; rarely, do we see that done with male strippers. So, is it really possible to return the male gaze?

Yes, women (or any gender for that matter) can sexually objectify the male body. However, as a whole, society still values male sexuality and the male body as superior to that of females, which is why male sexuality is not so openly shamed. Why is the objectification of people necessary for entertainment value?

And no, sexualizing and objectifying men does not take away or make any less of the objectification of women.

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Written by Katherine Rendon

Katherine Rendon is a second year student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, pursuing a degree in English and Environmental Studies. When not arguing with people at parties over the importance of feminism and/ or veganism, she can be found reading, binge watching Netflix, at a concert, or tweeting long rants. She doesn't go anywhere without a reusable water bottle and firmly believes that selfies are important.

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