"WAYS OF SEEING"
If a man is looking at a woman who is clothed or nude, then one could say it is the presence of the "Male Gaze." As this black female is being watched by her male spectators for their enjoyment. This painting is pervasive in how men look at a woman with a one sided view of sexism and objectivity and the hands are pointed up towards her as to imply, she was created just for man.
This image is a powerful example of the "male gaze" where a woman is looking back at the camera as she is the symbol of mysogony, sexsism and she knows she is desired. According to Berger "Those seen beautiful are given a prize to be owned and available." She is on display to appeal to the spectators sexuality, Berger says "the male gaze has reprecussions in society." This open display to the spectator is demeaning and degrading to women just for the pleasure of the male viewer.
What is the "Male Gaze"? According to bell hooks it is confrontational, authoritative and political. It is also dangerous(115) because there is a certain power that when the male looks, he holds this power over a woman. It is a strategy of domination males possess of females as an apparatus and mechanisms of control. It is a power system that does not give room for freedom(116). hook says "Women learn to have a rebellious and opposing gaze to look a certain way in order to resist the "male gaze"(116).
There are various ways of seeing and to think about art. It can be subjectivity and how identity is constructed within representation(131). Racism and sexism dictates spectatorship in terms of what we look at and who we identify within art, film, television, etc.
hooks says in her video on "cultural criticism" that in popular culture is "all representation motivated by power, can be a way to empower" and it is important that we not accept anything just for face value. It is of a political world we all frame our lives in relationships to. Sexism and feminist capitalism is constantly being perpetuated in every media of art just to make a profit. hooks also says it is important to understand "Patriarchy" as whites males dominating women in art and media in general as men put these images of women in forms of violence and sexism. It is a value system that puts men in a position of superiority over women. We see images of women in art, film and television in demeaning, exploited and sexually objectified all over the world.
"Popular Culture" is where the learning takes place" says hooks in the video "cultural criticism."
It shapes our thinking and the way we see the world. Art teaches us the world views and values of others. Power relations and the mis-representation of blacks has always been historically visible because of the patriarchal systems throughout our society. Popular culture for hooks also means that being part of an education system that replicates and emulates power figures and is how society learns certain social behaviors and practices.
The black community has no sense of agency because they are not of a privileged race, so they do not have a the ability to have representation of an economic, political power. Therefore, whatever is shown about blacks on the television or in film is usually negative and what the world perceives as real and true.
For example; in the movie "Smoke" the Asian director chose to make the thief a black male because that is how blacks are depicted in most films and the first to die. It is the capitalists greed that drives them to make these images that under represent an entire race.
How I see myself, is more important than how the world sees me. As media and technology evolves, I am optimistic that more positive representation will be shown by the ruling class system and the hands that have the power relations to tell the discourses of blacks and others on an equal playing level and with dignity.
bell hooks. In Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: (1992) South End Press 115-31
The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators