In Film Theory, specifically in Feminist Theory, there is a concept called "the gaze," which is typically male. The evidence for this is everywhere in film, but I think it can also be included into graphic novels/comics. If you think of superhero comics from the past two decades, the depiction of women has become increasingly more objectifying, with Barbie-esque heroines who seemingly defy gravity. The women in Watchmen aren't objectified to this extent, but they do seem to possess "super" assets, while all the women in Concrete look like they could be pin up girls on a magazine cover. If you apply the idea of the male gaze into comics, it becomes evident that there is an inherent inequity in power between the genders, both in terms of characters in the story and in the way the story is told visually.
There are a plethora of examples to choose from to prove this point, but I'm looking into including comics/graphic novels written and drawn by women to try to define the female gaze. There is female nudity in Fun House, but it doesn't convey the same idea of sexuality present in other graphic novels. In other works, there is a voyeuristic feel to female nudity, where the nudity in Fun House comes off as common place, because there isn't an inordinate amount of attention being drawn to it. I'm basically going to outline the defining characteristics of the male gaze and try to create an idea of the female gaze based on this understanding.
I want to try and balance the paper between establishing the male gaze that is predominant in most comics and trying to define what the female gaze is. One problem/distinction I know I'm going to encounter is the role of sexual orientation of the author/illustrator. I'm not sure if the gaze of Bechdel would be the same of an illustrator who is a heterosexual female. Also, there's the problem of women who use the male gaze, so I'll need to address the issue of gender of the author being different from gender of the gaze.
If I break the paper into two main parts, the male and the female gaze, I won't be able to fully explore the aspects of the gaze that I've talked about. I'm not sure whether to discuss everything in terms of male/female, or to discuss the male gaze, the female gaze, the role gender of the author/illustrator plays (if any), and the role sexual orientation plays (again, if any). The problem with all these distinctions is the size of the paper, so I'm not completely sure what direction the paper will take.
Also, since this is a course of graphic narratives, I was thinking of including images in my paper, but I'm not sure whether I should have them in text or form some sort of appendix to my paper, where I can freely refer to specific images.