"This nakedness is not, however, an expression of her own feelings; it is a sign of her submission to the owner's feelings or demands." (Berger, 52) One present day picture which comes to mind is the following. It shows Kayne West a Hip Hop artist and a model, (at the time his girlfriend) Amber Rose in an ad for his sneakers. However, the main focus of the picture does not seem to be her sneaker, but rather her naked body. This is not exact but it reminds me of the Nell Gwynne painting by Lely. which was a painting owned by Charles the Second of his mistress, it showed her as an object which he owned. What makes this ad relevant in my opinion, it shows her submissiveness and her passiveness much like the painting to the men, the body language expresses she belongs to him and submits to him at any demand. Which in turn, makes the male the dominant one, the one in charge, and the women his mercy.
The Oppositional Gaze as Bell Hooks states is "There is power in looking."(Hooks, 115). Bell hooks begins with explaining how from childhood the gaze is dangerous, to learning in school how slaves were punished for looking. But all that repression of looking or gazing caused a desire to look, to gaze to stare, oppositional gaze. The oppositional gaze was not only to be defiant, but to look and make a change. "Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality."(Hooks, 116)
Media was the outlet for many enslaved to gaze Hooks states, There they "look' at white womanhood without a structure of domination overseeing the gaze, interpreting, and punishing." (Hooks, 118) Enslaved males were not allowed to look at white women, white males found that threatening. With media they were able to look without being punished.
One example is Emmet Till, "That white supremacist structure that had murdered Emmet Till after interpreting his look as violation, as "rape" of white womanhood." (Hooks, 118). It was a serious issue which took many lives and wounded others. A mans life was taken because the simple "looked", this expresses how these individuals were stripped of something we do everyday without thinking twice about it.
Another important part of the Oppositional Gaze is when male filmmakers became involved in media they portrayed black females from the male gaze perspective, basically stripping black women of everything. "Most of the black women I talked with were adamant that they never went to movies expecting to see compelling representations of black femaleness."(Hooks, 119) In cinema, white women though they are discriminated against they are "white", black males are enslaved but they are "males", enslaved women basically had neither so in theater they were portrayed poorly.So all they had was there oppositional gaze "Looking at films with an oppositional gaze, black women were able to critically assess the cinema's construction of white womanhood as object phallocentric gaze and choose not to identify with either the victim or the perpetrator.(Hooks, 12)
This two readings have really opened me up to a reality of how a look, or a gaze is important. Prior to this I never thought much about the message ads, pictures, and paintings were portraying. In the Berger reading, learning about women and how they were used as objects in painting and property. In the Oppositional Gaze many enslaved people could only gaze at whites through media. How I conclude is Looking and Seeing are two completing different things. Seeing something is going in depth researching and seeing a message, looking is just viewing it but not seeing into it.
Bell, Hooks, in Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 115-31
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England, 1972.