In media the male gaze, a term introduced by Malvey, identifies the asymmetric, biased, and unequal male perspective that is yielded to and present in most forms of mass media. There is a hegemonic set of norms that are in place which cater to the desires and pleasure of men, while somewhat marginalizing women and objectifying them instead of respectably portraying their essence. It is the male gaze that serves as the primary cause of this objectification of women in media. The woman is usually labeled as the image in any form of media production and the man is designated as the bearer of the look. In other words men are the ones doing the looking and women are cognizant of themselves being looked at by the male. Women are consciously aware that this is inherently the reality which is why many images containing women display women acting provocatively, looking into a mirror analyzing her reflection, or returning the gaze back at the surveyor and thus acknowledging the male gaze. As the John Berger article explains, the power and influence of the male gaze is such that even if there is a male subject/lover in an image alongside a woman, “the woman’s attention is very rarely directed towards him. Often she looks away from him or she looks out of the picture towards the one who considers himself her true lover-the spectator owner.” This sort of technique is constantly used in current forms of media, and shows how the male gaze is still dominant as well as how it has manifested itself over generations.
When it comes to the racial origin of the predominant male gaze in the United States, it has usually been one relegated to the white male. The suppression of African Americans dictated that they were not permitted to even look at their white masters. In the settings of the theaters were the only place where Blacks were allowed to view their white counterparts and comprehend the disconnect that existed between the representations of the two race groups. And all of these images portraying African American men and women were blatantly racist and demeaning to the population. Bell Hooks says in her article that while many blacks who saw the glorification of the white race, especially white females, actually enjoyed the time spent watching movies and saw little wrong or incorrect about the stereotypes they were victims of. Some other black spectators who participated did not submit to the process of regression that film produced, and did not identify with the spectacles shown on screen. Hooks does however say how some black women chose the radical option of not ever going to the theater because of the simple fact they knew the images they would see would be degrading. “That some of us chose to stop looking was a gesture of resistance, turning away was one way to protest, to reject negation.” This resistance is at the core of the oppositional gaze that Hooks endorses, which is supposed to act as a catalyst meant to foster the critique and closer analysis of the racism that existed during segregation, but also exists somewhat in many aspects of contemporary film. A prime example being the scrutiny director Spike Lee receives for the films he makes, and as to whether he is a successful film maker in comparison with other directors such as Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino.
It is difficult to comprehend the substantial amount of suppressed sexism as well as racism that persist in today’s mass media. Despite the nearly half century struggle the feminist movement has been waging, and almost a century since women gained the right to vote and increasingly participate in society, the structural patriarchal hierarchy has remained in tact. While much is taught about how much the glass ceiling has been lowered over the years, and how it has been “shattered” in American society today, it is hard to ignore the constant objectification of the female in all forms of media. This remains true when it comes to the racist sentiment that is still pre-eminent in many southern states and throughout American culture. Just because America has recently elected its first African American president does not holistically eliminate hundreds of years of racism that has been instilled in children by their inherently racist parents. I have experienced the perils and detriments of mass media, and how acting chauvinistic or racist is seen as cool, trendy, or popular thing to do among certain subgroups in the United States. When I play X-box live and chat with various people, this racist rhetoric is constantly on display likely because those spewing it know there will be no repercussions or backlash. As Erving Goffman says the backstage acting of social players, which takes place in private settings or places of comfort, is much different from the front-acting one displays during scenes of direct social interaction with other players. While it is not likely that anyone can say they have never been racist or sexist at some point in their existence, whether blatant or inadvertently, I have always been one to respect every individual I come across. Be it if they are a man, a woman, of a different sexual orientation, or of a different ethnic background.