Kate Elliott is the author of the Spiritwalker Trilogy (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and the forthcoming Cold Steel), the Crossroads Trilogy, the Crown of Stars septology, and the Novels of the Jaran. She lives in Hawaii. Thanks to Charles Tan for advice on this post.
My reading experience of fantasy & science fiction over forty years is that it is mostly written with the male gaze. By this I don’t mean it is written from the point of view of a male character, although that is often the case. Nor am I speaking about the gender of the writer: a male writer does not automatically write every line of every book with a male gaze just because he is a man; in fact, a male writer can write with a female gaze, and women can (and often do) write with a male gaze.
How am I using the terms “male gaze” and “female gaze?”
In fiction it is easy to simplistically understand the male gaze as, for instance, the gaze of a male author reflected across the entirety of his story; he’s a man so therefore he has a male gaze. It’s easy to understand it as that of the male reader reading the story. I have heard people say “but if it is a male character, then of course the character is seeing with a male gaze.”
The idea of “the gaze” is a theoretical concept about how we look at things, especially in visual culture. Who is presumed to be the viewer, and how does the viewer view the people in the frame? A relatively short and clear discussion of the term “male gaze” can be found here. For the purposes of this post I will use two short definitions.