Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Male Gaze

Laura Mulvey's definition of the male gaze is, in my understanding, the perfect female figure as seen in a man's eye; the female partially nude figure is supposed to play on a male's fantasies and keep them drawn or hooked. Today's media is riddled with perfect examples of the male gaze. We only need to go as far as mellow pornography on cable channels such as Cinemax or HBO to see some examples. On these channels, the male gaze comes from the director's perspective and his (or her) choices in editing. The male gaze in this case sees the entire female body nude, whereas male frontal is completely left out.

John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" sets up Mulvey's definition by explaining to us what women in paintings, photography and pronography do, and how they are portrayed to make what we see, truly, a male's gaze. Berger gives examples of paintings and portraits which portray women in certain poses that would catch a man's eye and arouse his fantasies. He also uses a scientific approach to one painting to say that the woman's body is asymmetrical around where the blanket covers certain parts of her body (p. 16). In this sense, my belief is that the male gaze has been set up and conditioned in us, so much so as explained by Berger and Mulvey, that even women seem to have it.

Bell Hooks then introduces us to the Oppositional Gaze, which she defines as an "overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire" in black people. She also attributes the word resistance to the gaze saying: "Subordinates in relations of power learn experientially that there is a critical gaze, one that 'looks' to document, one that is oppositional." The images of resistance and opposition give backbone to Hooks' gaze as she argues for black people what Berger and Mulvey argue for women: The gaze is instilled in our minds to look at something which we define as beautiful and attractive.

My understanding of these structures is that in today's media, we see women as sexual symbols or objects drawing the male to gaze at, for example, a magazine or television advertisement with an anorexic girl sprawled across the cover or screen, respectively. The oppositional gaze is also apparent in black entertainment, which Hooks either praises or discredits depending on who is behind the production of anything black-entertainment-related: She will support something written and produced by a respected black person and discredit something advertised as black entertainment by white writers and producers.

At this point in my life, I feel I have become too numb to let anything affect me when it comes to relating with people in various media. I feel we are being thrown many things and ideas and opinions from all directions, peoples and walks of life, that one cannot be blamed for becoming short, numb and sometimes emotionless.

No comments:

Post a Comment