Monday, September 17, 2012

Ways of Seeing

The male gaze, in the simplest of terms, is when "Men look at women (47)." The action of a man looking at a woman and turning them into an object to be seen instead of a human being defines the male gaze as well.  The woman being seen is no longer just a woman, "she turns herself into an object- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight (47)."  The woman takes it upon herself to become something of interest to the man who is looking at her.  She tries to portray herself as a piece of art, in the traditional sense.  She unconsciously makes the choice to be treated as an object because of the society she has been raised in.
"Men survey women before treating them (46)." As a whole, society has taught women to behave the way they would like to be treated, art further reinforces that statement.  Men survey women in art just as they do in daily life.  This has become the norm in art because of the patriarchal society we live in.  Men have historically been known to "rule over women," in art it is also reflected in the depiction of men.  According to John Berger, "But the pretence is always towards a power which he excercises on others (46)," describes how artists actively paint men in a position of dominance.  Men being the "dominant gender" created the male gaze.
The male gaze does not only objectify women but also gives a male the sense of ownership, ownership over the woman not just the work of art.  "To be born a woman has been to be born within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men (46)."
In the majority of paintings women give the impression of looking at their lover or owner.  Their gaze or expressions are meant to captivate their "owners" attention.
The oppositional gaze on the other hand describes the "looks that were seen as confrontational as gestures of resistance, challenges to authority (115)."  The gaze that is seen as rebellious and something that needs to be controlled or repressed.  According to Bell Hooks, "By courageously looking we defiantly declared: 'Not only will I stare.  I want my look to change reality' (116)."
A gaze that defies not only the patriarchal rule but also racial restricions.
The oppositional gaze was created as a form of defiance against tryrany.  "all attempts to repress our/black peoples' right to gaze had producd in us an overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire, an oppositional gaze (116.)"  The slave owners' will to repress any form of "rebellion" actually encouraged slaves to look at their "masters." This gaze lasted and gained momentum as well as inspired future generations to look.  "I knew that the slaves had looked (116)."
As for myself  although I now know that most of the art I admired in museums were created with men in mind, I do not care.  I will continue to admire and analyze the work.  Even though it was created for a man I will look at the works of art as the "owner" and appreciate the technical aspects of the work of art while questioning the message behind the art.  I believe art to be a message from the artist but also open to interpretation from the audience.

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

Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks; Race and Representation. Boston Massachusetts:

      South End Press, 1992.

No comments:

Post a Comment