Sunday, March 8

Male Gaze and the Temple

Among the many symbols in the Temple that I found confusing or hurtful was the veil that women wear on their heads and to cover their faces at times. I spent a lot of time reading varied interpretations of veiling coming from a wide array of sources- LDS, Catholic, Muslim, etc. One recurring explanation is that the veils are intended to shield the holy from the profane, and thus since women are veiled this means that they are holy. This always rang false to me, and failed to comfort me, because if you put a veil between God and me, it is obvious which side is profane and which side is holy. That men didn't wear a veil meant, to me, that men were less profane from women, and that God didn't need to be shielded from them.

Recently, while reading another instance of this sort of explanation the idea struck me that perhaps, at least as far as interpreting the Temple goes, I hadn't internalized the male gaze enough.

The male gaze is the idea that when viewing any sort of presentation the presumed audience is a heterosexual male. So, for example, movie directors assume that the audience would like the camera to linger on a woman's chest, rather than a man's physique. There are all sorts of reasons this is a bad thing, not the least of which is that girls and women have to relate to almost everything indirectly, by first imagining it from a male point of view and then interpreting that in a way that is applicable to themselves.

So when I go to the Temple, without my male gaze goggles on, I put on the veil, and then ask myself "what does this veil mean to me and my relationship to God?"

Perhaps what I should be asking is, "what would this veil mean to a man and and tell him about my relationship to him and what does *that* mean to me and my relationship to God?" In this way the reading that the veil denotes holiness could actually work, if you assume that the veil is there for men and not for women.

So perhaps the most feminist way to approach the Temple is to assume that everything there is actually for and about men.*

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