Friday, February 25, 2011

The Watched.

The already obvious notion that women are watched, is given an interesting and relevant history. John Berger argues that men act and women are watched, men create an image of women, and then hold utilize it for their own pleasure. Many times women are portrayed while looking at themselves, which Berger argues "You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and called the painting vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure" (Berger, 8). Most of Berger's examples come from oil painting from the middle ages, where naked women were painted, to be looked at. The interesting thing is that the women faced an audience, in this case man, who realized that the woman was looking at him, for him.

"Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality."- Bell Hooks. The quote not only speaks for women of color, which the remark stems from, but for all women. And having said that the "gaze" does not only refer to the gaze at which men look at women, or how women look at other women or themselves, but how we look at media. Media does not change, because the gaze does not change, even if we all look at it with the notions of it being slighted, wrong and demeaning. It is interesting to think that the "gaze" is controlled, in this article hooks argues it is controlled by upper class white men.
From this I gather that I might not all be about the gaze itself, but how we look through it. What types of media are we using, and what does that specific media do in order to relate to the gaze. The oppositional gaze developed through cinema. Black and other ethnic races, all portrayed the "perfect Anglo-Saxon" woman with blond hair and blue eyes. This type of appearance and sexuality was gazed upon by men, even white women with darker features had to change their appearance, in order to comply with this gaze. Black women decided to take on an oppositional gaze, which resulted in not siding with the gazer, or the gazed, because they did not want to portray white beauty.
I have come to understand these structures almost innately, I know that I am being watched, and critiqued by men and even women I don't know. It is interesting to think that now even women watch each other, while knowing that being watched makes us feel uncomfortable. if women (all women) are meant to be just looked at, of course this notion becomes problematic, not just for issues involving appearance, but with roles within society. If i am created to be looked at by men, why on earth would I be a mans boss?
Media outlets such as cinema and magazines, have always been a place where women have been put on a pedestal to be looked at. I never considered art, as one of these outlets unless I saw something that offended me. Berger's article really enlightened me, I particularly liked the image of the woman looking over her shoulder compared to a picture of a girl taken from a men's magazine.

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