One probable reason for the wide spread of the male gaze comes from the story of Adam and Eve in the Judeo-Christian book of Genesis. In it, Eve is blamed for eating the the forbidden fruit first and therefore, it is implied that man is superior to women. This idea of men over women is amplified because of it was declared buy God.
A poignant sign that the gaze is still around can be be seen in today's advertising. In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that promise us happiness if we buy a certain product. From TV, billboards, radio commercials, all the way to the internet, we are constantly reminded of our imperfections. The one thing that is very striking about almost all ads is that they all contain one thing in common. That thing, or rather person, is a an above average looking female, preferably blond with breasts the size of her head and with as little cloths on as legally allowed. Just take a look at this ad by Dior.
Now let's be honest, how many bombshells like her do we see every day? Not many right? In fact, have you ever seen someone so perfect? Of course not, no amount of cosmetics can give you what a professional in Photoshop can. So what is the point of creating this ad? Ads purposely use these altered images of attractive women to degrade the average woman into buying products to make themselves feel better. This image of what's desirable is perpetuated by how men have viewed women for centuries. This also goes back to the idea that women constantly watch themselves, as proposed by Berger. He states that,"She [the woman] has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to to others,and ultimately how she appears to men is of crucial importance" (46). Due to ads like these, women are always second-guessing themselves. This reminds me of the conversation we had on cat calls in class. One could think of ads as cat calls for women. Of course they are two completely different things but they achieve the same end. That is, it forces women to look at themselves.
Now that we recognize the existence of male gaze in our society, surely there is something that counteracts it, something that opposes it. This oppositional gaze serves as a rebellion towards the patriarchy formed by the male gaze. That is, with the white male being at the very top of the peeking order and black women at the bottom. The origin of the oppositional gaze goes back to the time of slavery. As if being black weren't bad enough, being a woman was a whole lot worse. Back then, women of color were labeled as "mammies" and were often portrayed as large, working machines that took care of most of the housework and nagged, a lot. Bell Hooks touches on how the big screen painted black women in a negative light. In her book she describes the character "Sapphire" from the show Amos 'n' Andy as a "castrating bitch, as someone to be lied to, someone to be tricked, someone the white and black audience could hate. Scapegoated on all sides. She was not us" (Hooks, 120). Drawing from my own experience as a child, I remember a very similar character in the animated cartoon Tom and Jerry as seen below.
After realizing the male and oppositional gazes exist it's hard not to notice them in everything you watch. Especially in big production Hollywood movies like Transformers where actors like Megan Fox are thrown in just to give a guy a stiffy. I distinctly remember a scene in the second film where the characters are running away from danger and the camara slows down like some scene out of Baywatch. It is evident that society also recognizes these injustices. Very recently, a female friend of mine showed me a youtube video in where a women describes the best way to get ready for a date while humorously pointing out the flaws in this process. Youtube link
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England 1972. print
Hooks, Bell. Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:
South End Press, 1992. print