|Stanford Prison Experiment|
Looking has power. The ability to look or to stop someone from looking is control. You can see this everywhere. For example, use of the aviator sunglasses by the"police" in the Stanford Prison experiment so that the "prisoners" could not see their eyes. The sunglasses allowed them to look into the eyes of the people who they dominated and eliminated accidental relinquishing by covering up their own eyes. Looking is a way that people learn. Taking away the ability to see or creating limits on what the person can is a way of manipulating that person's view on life.
The male gaze dominates our culture. Its domination is appearent in all aspects of media; magazines, movies, and billboards are just a few of the ways that the male gaze has monopolized communication. It echos relentlessly so that not a peep can be heard from the perspective of women leaving them in silence. It is a way of seeing the world through the eyes of man and making it the norm. As described by John Berger in his essay, "Ways of Seeing, it has created a world where women must always watch herself being watched. She must adjust who she is and what she does in order to satisfy a spectator who is male. Women are seen as passive, exhibiting minimal action, becoming an object or trophy instead of a being. It is men that act and so the audience is presupposed to be a man.
This can be seen in the way that a woman dresses. The way that she dresses and how she presents herself is to cause a reaction by men. Not all women are models but they all walk a runway. As Berger says, "Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated. To acquire some control over this process, women must contain it and interiorize it" (Berger 46). I guess it is not a surprise that most designers are men; it is a sure way to satisfy the need to get the approval of the male gaze. The male gaze brings with it a set of norms that a woman must follow if she wishes to be treated positively. Around there are constant reminders of the look to strive for. It is not only the way that other women appear but also the glances that judge the way a women looks. Every woman thinks about the way that she looks when she goes out because the way that she presents herself is always seen an external representation of what is within.
Both women and blacks have had a struggle because they are considered inferior to the white male. When there are movements to change the way they are treated it is always a white female as leader for women's rights or a black male as the "brain" of the operation. This makes me think of the fact that when thinking about a serial killer most people envision a white male but never a woman or someone black and most definitely not a combination of the two. Yet when thinking about a prostitute it is always a women and when thinking about a drug dealer it is always a black male. It is because the level of intelligence associated with the different criminals. A serial killer is seen as someone who plans out their every movement and has reasoning for every action they make and rarely gets caught. A prostitute or drug dealer is not seen as someone who thinks out what they are going to do and so get caught often. The jails of course are always thought of as full of these lower class criminals with very few of the white male serial killers.
Once you are consciously aware of a male gaze and of oppositional gaze what do you do? You still have to live in a world where the male gaze dominates. Changing that way that the world sees women as a spectator is not an easy task especially when you start seeing every little example of male gaze as you go through your day. I think it is important not to view women as a victim of men because it would give power to the idea that women are passive and that men act. It is important not to allow men to where the aviator sun glasses.
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England, 1972.
Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:
South End Press, 1992.