Monday, September 17, 2012

(pol de limbourg)

The Male Gaze vs. The Oppositional Gaze
by: Jennifer Ezeuka

One may look at being naked as being nude.  But in actuality, an actual nude is very different than being naked.  For instance, nakedness is created in the mind of the beholder.  A nude is an object; it applies awareness of being seen by the spectator.  Which brings me to the male gaze.  The “male gaze” is a feminist theory that basically puts the viewer in the perspective of a heterosexual male.  Women are always watched.  “Men survey women before treating them” (Berger, 46).  Therefore anything a woman does is under the watch of a man.  “Men look at women.  Women watch themselves being looked at”  (Berger, 46).  All this is very true, but men still have to keep up to a certain standard.  “His presence maybe fabricated, in the sense that he pretends to be capable of what he is not”  (Berger,58 ).  Men put up almost a façade to the public to appear as a certain type of being. 
        How is the male gaze pervasive in art/popular culture?  For one thing, the male gaze is very prominent in art.  “The social presence of a woman is different in kind from that of a man”  (Berger,60).  All throughout history this difference was very prevalent.  For instance, in the bible with the story of Adam and Eve: Eve was punished by being made subservient to man.  This is just one of many examples in art.  In the world of art, a woman’s attention is rarely paid to the man, but to the spectator.  
        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)
Work Cited

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England 1972. print

Hooks, Bell. Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:

      South End Press, 1992. print

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