I hear this brought up quite a bit, the male gaze. I have more or less written it off as one of those feminist buzz phrases that most feminists don't actually know what it means. They just pepper it into any given statement like "patriarchy" and "rape culture" throw in a couple of "wage gap" references and end the rant, call it a day. Yet, why is it harmful? The answer is in 99% of cases it isn't at all. Obviously in a very small percentage of cases you have one or two men who take the objectification of women far too literally. However, in those cases that can be boiled down to mental illness. Not some sort of institutionalized plot to change all women into objects.
Objectification of PEOPLE (Men/Women/whatever else you identify as) isn't an actual problem. It's not evil, it's not harmful, and it also doesn't promote evil or harmful behavior. If a man looks at a picture of a woman, such as in a Playboy magazine he may objectify her in his mind. Yet, at the end of the day if you were to question those men about if that woman was an actual person, if he thought she had feelings, if he thought she had a personality, he'd say yes. He doesn't actually believe this woman on a page is an actual object. Sexualization and objectification is also done mainly to strangers. It usually never leads to any actual problems. On occasion you do have a mentally imbalanced person that takes it too far. Yet, the male gaze isn't what caused that person to react. Their pre-existing mental illness is what caused them to react. One doesn't connect with the other. If male gaze was actually harmful there would be far more instances of men acting on it when there isn't.
Since Rainn.org says that sexual assault is on the decline, not the incline, that must mean this male gaze that gets so heavily complained about isn't actually causing as many problems as feminists want it to cause. The idea that fantasizing about a person, male or female, by looking at them and imagining them in sexual situations, is harmful...is absolutely bat shit insane. Plus, feminists love to ignore that a lot of women actually want this treatment.
There are women who work for years to get their bodies in perfect shape for Playboy. There are women who work tirelessly in order to become sexual objects and be viewed as such. For any commercial where you see a really hot, sexy woman, I promise you there were 100 other women at those auditions trying to be that one spokeswoman. Every last hot girl you see on TV, there were hundreds if not thousands of others trying to be that hot girl. If this is the case, then what's so harmful about it? If the male gaze was so detrimental to society then girls wouldn't want to be a part of it.
What feminists especially fail to understand is the power that comes with being one of these "hot girls". There is a lot of power, dominance, control. Once you are a hot girl, a celebrity A-lister, or someone in Playboy you have the world at your feet. You get to make choices, turn men away, have people hand you things. You are in demand, making money, you are at the top of your game. There is every reason why a woman would want this and it's also very beneficial to a woman.
Feminists, on the other hand, seem to want to quell the idea that woman not only like sex but also would ever want to be seen as a sexual object. There are a lot of women who do want to be seen that way. Even if they don't take a job in a sex profession or in the public eye. A lot of women dress up, go out, and make themselves look as sexy as possible because they love the attention that it gets them. They are completely fine with that. The feminists who fight against this, I can't imagine why they do it. Most likely it boils down to low self-esteem or actually being ugly people. They don't like watching how pretty girls get treated so they think the male gaze should be for everyone or for no one.
On top of that fact, you have plenty of women who do this to men. Objectify them. Feminists argue that when women do it to men it's just not the same thing, or it's okay because men do it to women on a larger scale. There is such a bullshit double standard of "gazing". This is by far one of the most ludicrous complaints because ultimately it's a phenomenon that actually hurts very few people. Considering how elevated women are in the first world, there is no way that men looking at them like objects (and doing little more than that) is harming anyone. Yet time and again this stupid argument comes up like it's an actual problem. To put it frankly, it's really only a problem for the women who let it be a problem, and have run out of actual things to complain about.