Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face

Authored by M. Jules, with credit to Barbara Krueger. Short-short written as a response to/reflection upon Ms. Krueger's Untitled (Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face).

Being a woman I was thoroughly unsatisfied. I saw in myself a quality that deserved far more that my predestined lot in life. Belonging to a sisterhood comprised chiefly of delicate, simpering, historically oppressed house pets, certain things were expected of my being. There existed a daily quota for me, in regards to those so desirable traits of obedience, loyalty, tact, practicality, etc. Possessing a beauty that seemed to be, or that was at least presented separate from myself—my character, who I was--I found myself cast between adoration and hate, jealously and distaste, compassion and violence, disgust and reverence, desire and repulsion. I discovered that I was eternally weighted down with a gross overestimation of my character; too much and not nearly enough was expected of me. Being wild though, being untamable, and possessing a soul not yet tied down by your ideal, I was disagreeable. Being disagreeable, I was, good sir, a woman.

As such, two things—and only two—were naturally expected of me: I was supposed to be pretty for your eyes and I was supposed to be mild-mannered for your mind. Excelling so impressively at the first subject, it only made sense that I would perform likewise in the second; as the two are so connected. But I was defective, as so many of us are. I lacked the modesty that was required of me in order to be acceptable. As such, I was never fully accepted. I never truly belonged.

But that was OK. It was barely permissible, but still tolerated. Obedience could be taught—you tried so hard to teach me. My lack of it was not an issue impossible to solve. At the very least I was pretty. My physical appearance complied entirely with those idealized images of feminine perfection. A certain expression, a certain pose, and a certain dress—if any at all—and I was set.

I was pretty for you. Always. I was supposed to be. Those other women, unlike me in appearance, they failed you; but I rose to the standards (and beyond) that a woman's beauty, you proclaimed, should be. "I am here for your general viewing pleasure." You are the judge, the decider of womanly worth. You are free to give approval to those quite lovely enough, or the opposite to those not. You are the definer of that word "pretty," because it is your staring that pretty is meant for—that I'm here for. I am here for you presumably innocuous gaze.

But your gaze hits the side of my face—I can feel it. It kicks at my ribs and pounds at my chest. It bruises those curves and that face. It belts my cheek, and my side slams against it. It makes everything sore. It makes all of me ache, and as you look on it keeps on slamming against me until I am molded, battered and beaten and bruised, shaped, hammered into your vision of beauty.