Monday, September 17, 2012

The Way of Seeing 

By: Leslie Fernandez

     What is the male gaze? The male gaze is defined as how men perceive women. It is when you are looking at an object and you begin to see something more than just the thing itself, this is when you see a relation between the object and yourself. This is what men related too. Referring to an article by Berger, Ways of Seeing, male gaze is seeing through the eyes of men.  Berger states, “ Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” (47). This statement explains how women became not only became an object but, “an object of vision: a sight” (47). Basing this among the subject of European oil painting, the nude oil paintings were mostly focused on this subject. 

     The main idea of the nude oil painting was to define the difference between naked and nudity. According to Berger, “ Naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen by others and yet not recognized for oneself “ (54). These nudes were made to attract viewers, especially men.  Even till this day in the modern society, there are many ways that women are being looked at. It is seen in modern day television, fashion, and photography that these women are a sight for men too look at and see women as an appetite.  Berger states, “ A woman’s presence expresses her own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be done to her- her presence is manifest in her gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings, taste” (46). 

 Even these examples that inquire the same similarities among these two images and how they are seen to men, also known as spectator. 
 A famous artist made the first image on the right and the other is a magazine cover in the 1950s, on the left.  Looking at both images it is easily pointed out the body language that each woman portrays. For the first image the woman is laying down, giving a desiring look to her viewer, declaring that is available to him. The body language that she express gives away the message she is trying to send to her viewer automatically. As well as the next image being a girl in a magazine cover, her body language gives away the same message as the first image. They are both images used to advertise for men. Even that the last image is a magazine, only read among woman, it is selling for a male’s attention as well.  Women are made to appear as objects of desire based on their status by the way they pose. A women’s pose is a way of her, “ offering up her femininity as the surveyed” (55). This comes to show that the male gaze itself is a pervasive art and popular culture because men seek many needs in a woman in which she can provide and fulfill. 

This Oppositional Gaze as Bell Hooks states, “By courageously looking, we defiantly declared: “Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality.” The ability to manipulate contain it, opens up the possibility of agency.” (116).  This states how we perceive the images as one that can cause us to be analytical. For example, if you were to look at a picture of Rihanna, you would just see a face until you read about how she was abused by Chris Brown. Once you analyze the picture you can see sadness in her eyes and how her face seems to be serious. Hook even explains how there is the concept of this necessity to seek out than image’s main meaning. “In terms of “relations of power” as part of an effort to challenge the assumption that power is a system of domination which controls everything and which leaves no room for freedom.” Emphatically stating that in all relations of power “there is necessarily the possibility of resistance,” he invites the critical thinker to search those margins, gaps, and locations on and through the body where agency can be found” (116). Hooks also states how black people were suppressed by the gaze when it was shown under the white supremacy especially when, "Looking at films with an oppositional gaze, black women were able to critically assess the cinema's construction of white womanhood as object of the phallocentric gaze and choose not to identify with either the victim or the perpetrator" (122).  Bell hooks developed this oppositional gaze.

Referring to the male gaze and oppositional gaze I came to realize how different I would see art now. Being that I am a woman the male gaze seems to take women as an object rather than anything else. I came to understand these structures by understanding how each structure gave a specific outlook.  I understood how each structure brought upon a different type of audience in art. Being that the male gaze observes the art and judges the object. Even when I walk down the street now and hear a man trying to “spit game” this reminds of the male gaze itself and how men are to act when women appear. Lastly, the oppositional gaze gave me a point of view on how black people and spectators history. In my opinion I have an oppositional gaze, especially since I am not a male, but regardless when I look at media or see what is around me I tend to find myself to always look. So after reading this I do remind myself not to be the one looking.

Works Citied

Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston,Massachusetts: South End Press, 1992.

John, Berger. Ways of Seeing. London, England, 1972.

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