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The Male Gaze vs. The Oppositional Gaze
by: Jennifer Ezeuka
The oppositional gaze or the “Black Female Spectators” was a very prevalent in history. “While slave owners punished enslaved black people for looking” (Hooks). For a very long time slaves were denied the right to gaze. The oppositional gaze was a female thing overall. In earlier films, black women were often depicted as slaves and maids. As a result they developed the “oppositional gaze.’ By “looking past race and gender for aspects of content, form and language” (Hooks,115 ). Women didn’t identify with these characters and therefore didn’t get hurt.
The oppositional gaze developed after the many years of misrepresentation and absence of black women in the movie industry. Characters such as ‘Saphire’ were characters that many black women did identify with. But on the other hand, black women resisted identification with many films.
|(actor for "black cinema)|
After reading and viewing videos on the male and oppositional gaze, my understanding has become a lot clearer. For example, I never heard of the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is a test done to show female bias in the film industry. I never knew it was so difficult to have two women speak to each other for at least 20 seconds, not talking about guys. I can honestly say that from now on I’ll be on the look out for woman to woman conversations and how long they actually last. In the art aspect, my eyes were also opened to see how women are actually portrayed in the nude shots. There’s not much a woman can do that doesn’t contribute to her presence and a woman must always watch herself. In the picture below, a man is shown holding a woman upside down in a very compromising position. The title is The Infidels. (Translated in English) Is it a coincidence that the lady just happens to be on the cover in this position? I think not, anyhow feel free to leave comments on this movie cover…
|(Movie cover for French film: Les Infideles)|
Hooks, Bell. Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:
South End Press, 1992. print