Saturday, February 27, 2010


“Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at,” (Berger 47). John Berger explains the male gaze perfectly with this sentence. The male gaze is part of the patriarchal structure of Western culture, like mentioned in class, the patriarchal structure that was set up by Judeo Christian views. Deeper than a structure the male gaze dominants the way a female sees herself, again quoting Berger, “The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female,” (Berger 47). The male gaze suggests that women do not have much agency or say in what they do. What women do is controlled by this underlying structure that they learn from childhood, a structure that molds women into what men want from them. Taking this understanding of the male gaze and applying it to modern media, different from what Berger does in his text it is now apparent to me that when models are glaring at the audience in an ad, magazine or even in movies, they are really looking at the men staring at them. Furthermore, these readings directly spoke to me as a woman, when I look at magazines, on websites, and ads those empty glares on the faces’ of the models have never been there for me! I was never supposed to identify with them, because they were appealing to men! Knowing this now within the perspective of the readings, I feel like I always knew this. I knew that when I looked at a model and what she was selling, I felt like “oooh that’s cute, look at how pretty that make-up makes her look” I would want to “look” pretty too and being pretty meant people would look at me and recognize this beauty.

However when I looked at billboards or any form of media I could not identify with the models not only because I was not suppose to, she was only there for the male gaze. But I could not identify with them because most of the time they are White models and actresses. As a Dominican-American woman my identification with the media is through some Hispanic or African-American female figures in media. My lack of identification in the media is due to the limited representation of women of ethnic backgrounds. Bell Hooks examines this limited representation in her reading, titled “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” The oppositional gaze developed as a way to resist the lack of representation of African-Americans in the media, and more specifically the absence of black women. Hooks argues that the oppositional gaze was constructed as a tool to resist not only the lack of representation of black women and men, but also the negative representation of blacks in the media. According to Bell Hooks the oppositional gaze was what responded to the negative representation of blacks by developing black independent films, (Hooks 117). One of the things that I related to in her reading was her statement in regards to the absence of black women in films:
“Black female spectators have had to develop looking relations within cinematic context that constructs our presence as absence, that denies the “body” of the black female so as to perpetuate White supremacy and with it a phallocentric spectatorship where the woman to be looked at and desired is white,” (Hooks 118). These lines reminded me of the scene in “Precious” where the protagonist is getting ready to go to school in front of the mirror, and her reflection is of a young white, blonde hair, blue eyes girl and not herself. Hook’s emphasis on the lack of black positive representation forced me to wonder whether this denial of the black female body is what allows the media to portray women of ethnic backgrounds as animals, body parts, or caricatures and not people! Interesting enough Bell Hooks also mentions that when black women watched films they needed to forget and not look too “deep” into the negation of black characters, in order to enjoy the film.

These readings compel me to think about the male gaze in modern media and about the oppositional gaze for Hispanic women. Not that we have awareness what is the next step, how do we take this understanding and do more than just think. I am pretty sure that the male gaze affects all women of different races and socio-economic statuses, but how can we still be sexual, confident and assertive without doing it for anyone else, but ourselves. Not for the female surveyor who is male, but for the female surveyor who is female. I’ll leave you guys with a picture of Kanye West and Amber Rose who is idolized for her voluptuous body. What do you think about the picture does she have ownership of her sexuality, is the male gaze present in this picture? Picture found on

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