Thursday, September 20, 2012

the male gaze and oppositional gaze

The male gaze can be defined a stereo typical way that males see women. As John Berger says, men look at women; women watch themselves being looked at. A woman always thinks about her appearance and how she appears to men. Since the early times women have considered men as the surveyor meaning that they watch women continually to understand them and realize how they should be treated. For example, Berger states, “If a woman throws a glass on the floor, this is an example of how she treats her own emotion of anger and so of how she would wish to be treated by others. If a man does the same, his action is only read as an expression of his anger” (Berger 47).
This picture is a perfect representation of how women contribute to the male gaze. “She is Venus. But the way her body is arranged has nothing to do with their kissing. Her body is arranged in the way it is, to display it to the man looking at the picture. This picture is made to appeal to his sexuality. It has nothing to do with her sexuality” (Berger 55). Women always think of themselves of how they want to appear to men, that is why in this painting, Venus’s body is at an angle so the viewer can see her nude.
The oppositional gaze on the other hand, is a way to passively criticize another culture or another person, it is used in this situation where African Americans where they didn’t have the ability to stand out. They did not have the ability to judge or the ability to act on their own emotions. It is a way to stereotype just like the male gaze is to stereotype females the oppositional gaze is a way to stereotype higher authority.
A person’s gaze can say much more than you may think. It can say whether the feel threatened by you, whether they want to show dominance, and many other things. As Bell Hooks states, “by courageously looking, we defiantly declared: ‘Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality.’ Even in the worse circumstances of domination, the ability to manipulate one’s gaze in the face of structures of domination that would contain it. Opens up the possibility of agency” (Hooks 116). For example, in some scenarios, when a policeman or a body guard is approaching a suspect they give them a look and everyone knows that the body guard or policeman will take over the situation.
The male gaze and the oppositional gaze are two different things yet they have many things in common with one another. The male gaze is a way that males view females. “Men act. Women appear” (Berger). The oppositional gaze is a way that people can rebel against a higher authority so they feel in control.

Works cited
Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts: South End Press, 1992.
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England, 1972
"Bodyguarding/PPO." Bodyguarding/PPO. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <>.
"Of Cabbages and Kings." Of Cabbages and Kings. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <>.


  1. I liked this!! Your response was straight to the point and made complete sense, I also felt that you used the right quotes ad didn't just quote to quote something. Nice job!!

  2. I liked the mention of the gaze applied to law enforcement. It is true, but, is that wrong to be the one to try to gain control of a situation? Virtually every culture that has had any violence in their history has such elements, the stare before the battle. While it may be the similar to the male gaze towards women, i would submit that they are different at their funadamental. These gazes are meant towards not even equals, but rivals, where there is no objectification.

    1. I agree, the look given by law enforcement to a potential rival or criminal is different than the look a man has towards a woman or a female group. However, they do say that more women get away with things when it comes to law enforcement, and THAT perhaps is because of that male gaze. They don't exactly take them as seriously as a male subject.

    2. Hi Debbie,
      I find it interesting you see the oppositional gaze "a way to stereotype just like the male gaze is to stereotype females"; are you saying that both gazes are fundamentally wrong?

      In addition, although theoretically law enforcement SHOULDN'T be the same, I believe that in reality they are. The law enforcement labor force is primarily composed of men. Those men often believe themselves to be "above the law" or in a position of higher authority (they have a badge, or they have a gun, or they think they can beat the crap out of you...). Additionally, these law enforcers often objectify suspects.

      An example: police come into a crime scene where a women was shot to death with a shotgun, and one lone bystander was there. The bystander could be judged harshly, thrown into prison as a suspect, and treated horridly. That judgement is not-so-different from the male gaze in that, as soon as the bystander became a suspect of a crime, he was depersonalized ("a normal human being would never do that"), and treated much differently.

      Sorry for the long oost. TL;DR:
      law enforcers can objectify and judge people as inhumane in a similar manner that men judged and objectified women.
      Thoughts? Maybe I'm off my rocker...

  3. I liked how you used the quote from Berger about how if a woman was to throw a glass on the floor it is an example of how she treats her emotions. It made me think about how everyone in society is always judging a woman and every single thing she does, she is always being watched but a man can do anything and nobody will ever point a finger at him. It truly is frustrating.

  4. Your responses to the questions seem direct and to the point, however i suggest you look at the wordplay of your sentences more closely before finishing.

  5. Your response to questions were well exampled and straight to the point. I liked the quotes you used and how smoothly you went about putting together both the male gaze and the oppositional gaze together. I loved the example about the policeman or bodyguard and how they give them a look and everyone knows they will take over the situation. Your responses made me think about how woman are being judge by what she does, for anything so little she is judged and watched. Good Job

  6. This was easy to understand which made it enjoyable to read. I especially liked when you quoted about when a woman throws a glass on the floor, that is how she wants to be treated and how she wants to be treated. By emphasizing this point, it really shows how a woman can't something without being judged. Its like when saying women are expected to wear dresses or to cook and clean. The clearness of this is a plus for this post.

  7. What I found interesting was that Venus didn't show much of her hair in the painting of Allegory of Time and Love. The reason for that was a woman's hair displayed sexual power and in European paintings the naked was not allowed to show any power. All the power were in the hands of man.