Friday, February 25, 2011

The male gaze is the way a man looks at a woman. This is seen as a judging look, not an act of simply looking. According to Berger men survey women and that surveying determines how a man will treat that particular woman (Page 46). Therefore woman are supposed to understand a man is constantly looking and you must act or look accordingly. This is where the idea that women watch themselves being looked at comes into play. Berger shows this idea in that of nude paintings throughout history but it continues to stay as true today as it did 2000 years ago.

Advertising loves to depict women as either the perfect mother type or the sex object, each one serving the man. We all know the saying “sex sells” but it always seems like it’s the women that are used for that sexual pleasure. Just take a look at any perfume or cologne ad and there is the proof.

Films are another form of media where the male gaze comes into play. Mulvey mentions the fact that the male takes an active role while women take the passive role (Page 837). This explains why a woman is always considered the sex object. In film the classic example is the femme fatale. This woman uses her sexuality to stay one step ahead of men. It can be seen in characters as far back as Kathie from the classic film noir Out of the Past or a more modern femme fatale such as Sharon Stone’s character Catherine from Basic Instinct.

Oppositional gaze according to Bell Hooks is the rebellious gaze created through a “longing to look” (Page 116). Hooks explains that as a child black females were told that their gaze was dangerous and seen as confrontational. Hooks talks about how as a child she was punished for using her gaze and that punishment created a sense of “power in looking” (Page 115). Now she uses that look to push through those boundaries. Later in life Hooks explains how she used oppositional gaze to look critically at works (Page 122).

For me the more I read and understand women in the media, the angrier I get. But I don’t look at that as a bad thing. If all women were angry then we would be that much closer to ending these stereotypes that seem to just get worse and worse. I want a place for myself in the media because I am not a sex object and I am not a perfect housewife. In the Hooks reading she remembers a character from Amos N Andy who was supposed to represent black females. Hooks wrote how she laughed because this person was not representing any black female she knew “She was not us.” (Page 120). I understand the feeling because I often have the urge to simply laugh about these women in the media that are supposed to be the representation of the everyday woman. I think the more you understand the structure of media the more critically you look at it. It’s tough for me to watch a film or skim through a magazine without seeing women objectified. Hooks and Mulvey both talk about women being passive and I see where they are coming from. I find myself to be passive sometimes simply because there really isn’t much one person can do to change something this big. The only thing I know is I will continue to look critically at media and hope that others will do the same.

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