Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Male Gaze, Objectification

In the Art department as of late, specifically in the photography side of town, there has been a debate, pretty heated at times (so I've heard) about advertising, the objectification of women, and the "male gaze." [five commas in one sentence. Beat that.] Anna and Doug touched on the whole idea briefly between presentations last week, but the subject was hardly delved into. Doug wanted to talk about the word objectification and how it is used. He said to me yesterday that he feels the word is used incorrectly too often. If you read this, Doug, would you expound on that?

I have a two friends, both in photography, with differing opinions on the matter. The first bit is written by the female photographer, the second my the male. The photos are (or are similar to) a couple advertisements mentioned in the first piece.
I don't know what I think of the matter yet. Thoughts? Opinions? Reactions? Anything?

"While reading “Ways of Seeing” I was able to relate to the section on tackling they way men and women see one another and themselves. Berger implies men are the surveyors and women are the surveyed, and in turn women must survey themselves are men survey them. In my mind I was saying, “yes, yes, yes” to the small text and obvious script of what I had always known to be true, only this time it was worded so well right in front of me. I had constant flashes of advertisements, movies, magazines, television, and personal history going through my head, validating Berger’s words.

I purchased three magazines for this assignment and had expectations from each to further convince me of what I knew to be true, which they did; however, I was discovered other things in addition. Sure enough there were advertisements of scantily clad women, with the booties puckered, backs arched and waiting for the male gaze to ravish their bodies. It was apparent the sex appeal of this beautiful women was selling the product, pushing men to the outskirts of their imagination, and then it hit me, this was a magazine is directed toward women. This woman suddenly had her back arched and legs slightly apart for me, demonstrating the sex appeal I could have if I was dressed as she was dressed, or carried the purse displayed in foreground. I unexpectedly felt as accountable as the male viewer I had been resenting for endorsing this behavior. This woman is beautiful; however, she is no longer a woman, but a commodity to both males and females.

Advertisers know their audience, and they try to build a lifestyle their audience would accept. Women want to be desired, but this does not mean they want to give up their identity in the process. The previous advertisement discussed demonstrates a woman as a sexual object through the male gaze, but in turn women have to view this woman as an object as well because we have to observe not only ourselves through their eyes but other woman as well. Being aware of this forces women to make a choice, to be viewed as a merely a sexual object or insist that men see more. One add by Banana Republic shows a beautiful female playing the piano, giving the viewer more information than just a beautiful face, giving us a glimpse of her soul, and it is difficult to immediately defile someone when you are aware they are a person.

The thing that surprised me, was the objectification of men as well, they are put on the same pages as woman and are there as a visual stimulant, providing sex appeal for the product once again. Men are displayed for feminine desire as well; however, we do not need to see a man with his shirt off to know he is attractive. A little scruff, and hands tucked nonchalantly in his pockets is enough for the female viewer. The male’s magazine also had more text and political references then than the female magazines did."

"This Male Gaze has been quite the topic as of late. But never in my life has it been such an annoying topic. I agree that there is a method in advertising and media that objectifies women, but does it not also objectify men? The term Male Gaze is a feminist term but the Gaze is a historical term. We are talking about interactive voyeurism. If someone is looking at you isn’t it your reaction to see if they are sexually, mentally, physically, or any other way compatible with you, or you with them. Who is on top? The one who looks or the one being looked upon?

If you are being looked at as an object and not as subject you are being objectified. But if you are in power you are capable to objectify everything, this is not a one sided ordeal, but it is if only looking through a feminist lens. In modern times, which I consider a women’s world, I am objectified when the term male gaze is used, because I am being stripped of my human being and being told that because I am male, I am objectifying women, because it applies to heterosexual males and not to homosexual men gazing men or homosexual women's gaze on other women.

This term is not very objective, not in the least bit. Why should I have to take on the history of men just because I was born a man? Do I objectify women from just being male, or being attracted to women? It is of great value to know that the Gaze exists but to claim that the male gaze is the only gaze in existence, or only the one topic worthy gaze, seems strange and negates the whole purpose of making men, women and all kinds of people equals.

I am a man who was raised by a single mother, not knowing my father until the age of eleven, my stepfather never seemed to know or understand men, or himself (he was the only son of an abusive father with four sisters), I have surrounded myself by women, not because of my sexual prowess or need for nurturing, but because I am more compatible with them than I am with any other man. I do not understand MEN or masculinity. I do not understand myself. I do not know what MALE is, other than it means I have a dick and balls.
We shouldn’t be talking about the outward gaze but the inner gaze. Look inside yourself. Look inside of others. Is there a way to objectify the person inside the body?"

1 comment:

  1. I've got some thoughts which I will put up later...but in the meantime, I have invited Jill Dawsey, the curator of contemporary art at the UMFA (who happens to be a fan of the John Cage work that is there...more on that later) to become part of the conversation. She did her dissertation on feminist art...and she is a great thinker.