Most women can understand that great feeling when you are walking down the street one day and you turn a few heads. But sometimes the looks by too many men can feel uncomfortable and you feel like an object. In films and art it is also noticeable that girls are only put in there to be stared down at. In society we can call this the male gaze which reflects the dominance of men in our creative society. Most movies are made by men and make women their objects, something to be gazed at. This feminist theory usually shows how women are objectified by all heterosexual males in their paintings, films, and media in general ever since the beginning of time.
This is such a pervasive concept in art and media because women are not as equal as men in everyday life even though we assume they are. A woman gets paid an average of 80 cents to a man's dollar. So if a woman is not treated equal in the workplace, painters and filmmakers still assume a male dominance as well. In the middle of the 17th century women were inspirations for nudes. Ever since then it has just been difficult for women to eradicate this concept.
The biggest example of the male gaze in today’s popular culture would the infamous Playboy magazines. They are created for the sole purpose of the male gaze and show some similarities to nudes from the past. In this photo of Kim Kardashian is shown naked with a sheet barely covering herself. In the painting on the right by Isidore Pils , a woman is also laying with sheets also not covered. From this painting one can see over 170 years ago women were objectified and painted to be gazed at by men and even in today's media the women pose so men can stare at them all day.
Photo Credit: 2007 Playboy Photo Credit: Isidore Pils, 1841
The oppositional gaze is a act of rebellion from women from being the main source of the male gaze. More specifically, this is the opposing views of black women as described in Bell Hooks' work. The typical stereotype of black women was shown in films and the black women opposed this. This is how the oppositional gaze came to be, from rebellion. In the earlier years, "white slave owners punished enslaved black people for looking" and this was thought be completely ridiculous by the blacks, which it is (Hooks 115). The black women critiqued the concept of not being able to look but others can gaze at them. In "Do You Remember Sapphire?" also by Bell Hooks, the black women can identity with Sapphire since it shows the black women being objectified.
A lot of these structures and various art works really appear more sexist than they appear on the outside. Women have become easily the objects of men's eyes and in today's society women start to objectify themselves because society has made it okay for us to do that. The concept of "male gaze" most definitely exists in the media and things that influence us everyday such as television, magazines and movies. My own identity in society I feel should be kept as a women, not object. A lot of what girls wears allows the male gaze to occur then they go and complain about it. I know that is certainly what I can do different for myself and as a women in society who respects herself.
A little more on Bell Hooks: http://www.education.miami.edu/ep/contemporaryed/bell_hooks/bell_hooks.html
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London, England 1972.
Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:
South End Press, 1992.