In 1975 the feminist writer and theorist, Laura Mulvey, highlighted a problem to be found in the film and media industry in how it portrays women. She suggested that:
The male gaze occurs when the camera puts the audience into the perspective of a heterosexual man. It may linger over the curves of a woman's body, for instance. The woman is usually displayed on two different levels: as an erotic object for both the characters within the film, as well as the spectator who is watching the film. The man emerges as the dominant power within the created film fantasy. The woman is passive to the active gaze from the man. This adds an element of 'patriarchal' order and it is often seen in "illusionistic narrative film". Mulvey argues that, in mainstream cinema, the male gaze typically takes precedence over the female gaze, reflecting an underlying power asymmetry.
The key element here is that women are essentially referenced by men in terms of value and function. I would suspect that very few evangelicals would disagree with her view that women are over sexualised in such a way. I would like to suggest, however, that the same critique can be used in response to complementarianism; in terms of value and function if not in sexualisation.
Let's see if this theory works:
1) The male gaze occurs when the preacher puts the congregation into the perspective of the heterosexual man.
2) The woman is usually displayed on two different levels: unregenerate whore or wholesome homemaker.
3) The man emerges as the dominant power within the created ecclesiology.
4) The woman is passive to the active leadership of the man.
5) In complementarian churches the male gaze typically takes precedent over the female gaze, reflecting an underlying power asymmetry.
The destructiveness found in the media industry is worthy of challenge. The effects of the theological male gaze in church is equally in need of question.