Saturday, February 26, 2011

Way of Seeing

Types of gaze are categorized by who is doing the looking and who is being looked at. According to John Berger’s point of view, male gaze is the ideology of image ownership came from the oil painting in Western Europe. Female model is always put on display to spectator-owner directly or indirectly through a mirror. Her attention usually directed towards male spectator-owner. Her body and her beauty offered up the pleasure for the male spectator. He sees her in the painting as his domain under his gaze. Male gaze is not simply the object of the gaze. It is also the relationship between the object and the self. “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” (John Berger, 47)

There are several reasons that the male gaze is so pervasive in popular culture. First of all, “the attitudes and values which informed that tradition are expressed through other more widely diffused media.” (John Berger, 63) Secondly, this ideology roots in people’s mind deeply. People usually take it for granted. People tend to think that women should be shown for the pleasure of male spectators. In addition, we are living in a society that men have more power than women. Men have higher social status than women. As John Berger mentions in the essay, “a men’s presence is dependent upon the promise of power, which he embodies.” (John Berger,45)

At the same time, Laura Mulvey argues that film provides visual pleasure through scopophilia. Mass media always serves to sexually objectify women, especially, the film. The male audience usually relates himself with the male character in the film. This perspective allows the male audience to take the female character as his own personal sex object. “Through participation in his power, the spectator can indirectly possess her too.” (Laura Mulvey, 840)

Bell Hooks argues that “gaze had informed black parenting and black spectatorship.” (Bell Hooks, 115) Moreover, “the gaze has been and is a site of resistance for colonized black people globally.” (Bell, Hooks, 116) She argues that black female spectatorship was not considered important enough in our society. Mass media always helped maintain white supremacy. They are presenting white people as dominance viewers. On the other hand, black women can assess the cinema’s construction of white womanhood as object with an oppositional gaze.

Even there is some of black spectatorship of black films, but they focus on men rather than women. “This gendered relation to looking made the experience of the black male spectator radically different from that of the black female spectator.” (Bell Hooks, 118) There are few positive images of black women in the movies. Moreover, Hollywood likes to use white women film stats rather than black women. Black women don’t identify themselves in the movies because the movies don’t include their race. So many black women choose not to identify with Hollywood films. “The impact of racism and sexism [is] so over-determining spectatorship.” (Bell Hooks, 130) As a result, black women view film is still underdevelopment.

Before I get into the media major, I didn’t pay attention on this issue. I thought it has no effect on me. But now, I realize that the male gaze is so pervasive in mass media, especially in advertising. There is no doubt that the main purpose of the advertisement is to sell produce. But they not only sell produce, but also sell images, concept of sexuality and ideal female beauty. I found that there is only one part of women’s bodies is focus on. Breast is used to sell any produce. The male gaze makes women to be an object to help the products to get sold. On the other hand, I did affect by those advertising. I have learned to view myself as the photographer and spectators views the female model. As a result, I spent much money and time to make myself to become more like the models that I saw in advertising.

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