Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Male Gaze and Female Empowerment

This video is a perfect representation of the “male gaze. “To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men” (Berger, 46).  In our society, it is expected and acceptable for men to stare or gawk at women, whether they are walking down the street, dancing at a club, or just minding their own business in day to day life. No matter where women go,  the male gaze is there, reducing the woman from a complex human being to an object of the man’s pleasure, the sum of her appearance as judged by the male viewer. The woman is not there for her own purposes, she is there to be looked at, appraised, and judged, just like the woman in this video aren't necessarily going anywhere or dancing for themselves, they are there strictly for the male pleasure. Berger reitifies this point, saying that “A woman must continually watch herself....She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another" (Berger, 47).

Women experience the male gaze constantly, no matter where they go, and are judged accordingly. when I go to music shows and festivals, I tend to wear clothes that I would feel comfortable running and jumping around all day in the hot summer sun, which means I normally wear shorts and a light crop top, which is a pretty standard outfit for a show. However, in order to be comfortable and not overheat (at electronic shows, there is a very real risk of dehydration and overheating, especially during outdoor summertime festivals), I must sacrifice a different feeling of comfort: the comfort of being able to walk around and do what I please without being watched, hit on, and groped by men in the crowd. Due to the fact that I chose to show a little bit of skin for comfort, men assume that I am available and willing to be sexualized by them, without consideration for the fact that I am there for my own entertainment, not their own. It is this reason that breastfeeding in public, or walking around topless as a woman is stigmatized- the woman are no longer free agents of their own bodies but a sexual object. Women are not free to do as they please with their body, with the same comfort that a male may, without stigma. I am unable to wear what I feel is comfortable without knowing that I will without a doubt be objectified countless times throughout the night. In more repressed areas of the world, politics and laws are literally driven by the male gaze- women are required to cover themselves completely if they don’t want severe consequences, including rape, violence, and prison.   

We see male gaze consistently throughout our mainstream media. Advertisements present women strewn half naked in sexually implicit (or even explicit) positions, looking out towards the viewer in a manner that suggests that the woman is there to be viewed by the viewer, for the viewer’s pleasure, rather than of her own accord. “In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure which is styled accordingly.”  (Mulvey, 837) The male gaze is also ingrained into our own self awareness- young girls are taught from a young age that their appearance matters; little boys are called “strong” or “tough” while little girls called “pretty”. This importance placed on a woman’s looks from a young age later becomes an addiction to the pursuit of beauty- according to this Jezebel article, US women spend $7 billion dollars a year on cosmetics and beauty products.  As many as 10 million women in the US alone suffer from anorexia or bulimia, and body image issues are soaring. No matter what your accomplishments or who you are, a woman is not seen as valuable unless she is considered “pretty”. Her worth is defined by the judgment of her beauty by the viewer.

How can women empower themselves in the face of the male gaze? Bell Hooks finds the answer in what she calls the “oppositional gaze”. “Since I knew as a child that the dominating power adults exercised over me and over my gaze was never so absolute that I did not dare to look, to sneak a peep, to stare dangerously. I knew that the slaves had looked. That all attempts to repress our/black peoples’ rights to gaze had produced in us an overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire, an oppositional gaze. By courageously looking, we definatly declared; ‘Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality’” (Hooks, 116). Resistance lies, especially for women of color, in staring back at the gazer and challenging them. By gazing back, we reclaim our power. This oppositional gaze can also combat racism and underrepresentation of black women or women of color in the media. When Amos n’ Andy was aired, black women rejected and resented the portrayal of Sapphire, the African American woman. “They resented the way she was mocked. They resented the way these screen images could assault black womanhood…And in opposition they claimed Sapphire as their own” (Hooks, 120). Not only does gazing back reclaim power, it also allows for meaningful critique of mainstream media.

As Bell Hooks claims “There is power in looking” (Hooks, 116). As women, we can choose to allow men to take that power from us via the male gaze by allowing them to sexualize and objectify us. We can also choose to reclaim that power by looking back, by refusing to adhere to the beauty standards imposed onto women and to look critically at the media that we consume.

I think, therefore I am.

“Everything could have been anything else and had just as much meaning.”
-Mr. Nobody

I’m a million different people from one day to the next…
— The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony

Who am I? For some reason, this question leaves me at a blank.  Who I am right now may not be the same as who I was yesterday, or who I will be when you, whoever you are out there, will read this. That’s the beauty of being in my 20’s. I am allowed, even encouraged, to label myself, to brand myself in any way I see fit, and yet I have no desire to do so for perhaps the first time in my life.  I can tell who I’ve been before – the 12 year old tomboy who would rather play football with the guys than jump rope with the girls, the idealist activist of my high school years whose frustuation at the world was reflected through angsty poetry, or the college girl with a penchant for mischief living in a city chock full of it. However, I don’t believe these experiences are what define who I am.  I can try to explain who I am by telling you what I do. I can tell you I am a student, studying Neuropsychology and Media Studies and finishing a minor in Sociology. I go to as many electronic shows and festivals as I can afford at the moment, often dressed in ridiculous outfits just for the hell of it and with a crew of some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I can spend a whole day sitting up on my roof in with a good dystopian novel and a pack of camel crushes.  I collect unfinished hobbies and activities, all with the notion that I’ll finish it some day. I never stay in one place too long, and love to travel and move around and experience new, novel things and ideas. I consistently argue with my parents, whose traditional values do not suit the lifestyle I envision for myself, and who don’t understand my choices and yet still love me despite their confusion.  Yet these things do not define me. I am still unwritten, undecided, and unlabeled. I am free to choose, to dictate where my life will go and what I will become. I am able to wake up every morning and decide who I will be for that day, even if I was someone completely different yesterday. I am fluid and evolving. I am simply…me.

However, I can say that living in NYC, a city that people worldwide dream of visiting,  has influenced who I am on a day to day basis more than anything else has. I mean, how could it not, being one of the biggest cultural and media hubs of the world?! I love consuming the media made around me as well, whether it be a documentary, internet forums, a new show that everyone is raving about (or that I introduce to my friends), books, or street art. Although I consume some mainstream media, including popular shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, I mostly consume alternative media. I have a minor obsession with the street art, which often depicts political and social ideas in a public space beautifully. Below is a picture of one that I really enjoy. I also love watching movies that are not well known but really alter the way you perceive things, basically anything off this thread on reddit. Just trust me, it'll change the way you think about everything. I typically can't stand social media, except to communicate with friends at a distance. Since this is my first media analysis course, I look forward to learning how to think about media in a more analytical and critical manner.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Analyzing the Gaze-Male and Oppositional

The male gaze refers to the way in which men view women in patriarchal society. It is a persistent surveillance and definition of woman through a male heteronormative lens. It is the male right to look at a woman's body with judgment and a sense of entitlement because his look has the power to define. The male gaze defines woman as passive, sexual object and makes woman view herself through the same lens thus making her transform herself into an object, a "sight" to be admired by men (Berger, 47). 

This is something we see everywhere today, on our televisions, on billboards, in movies and especially in our day to day lives. Woman is a sight to be admired and everyone feels a right to it. In the popular TV show Big Bang Theory (, when introduced to Penny (the only woman in the group at first and of course a sight for men to enjoy as a sexual object), Sheldon and Leonard do not first hear her speak or run into her in the stairwell, which would make sense since they are neighbors. Instead, Penny has left the door to her new apartment wide open so anyone (any male) walking by can stare in at her (without her permission to do so) in her short shorts and low cut t-shirt. And of course, what is the first thing said about her? She is a "significant improvement" from the last neighbor. Why is this? Because she's an object they can admire? Because her shorts are very short and her t-shirt is low cut and rides up?  
In "Ways of Seeing," John Berger tells us that how woman "appears to men is of crucial importance for...the success of her life" because "her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another" (46). Therefore, woman does not exist as her own autonomous being. Instead, she is a vision to be put on display. The vision of her as the glamorous, sexualized object "stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other" (Mulvey, 834). As Berger reminds us, "men act and women appear" (47). In, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Laura Mulvey tells us the same thing: women "are bearers of the look of the spectator" (838). 

However, Mulvey doesn't stop at paintings. For her the male gaze can be clearly seen in cinema where "man controls the film phantasy" and woman is an oversexualized, passive object to be looked at. Man is thus the controlling figure, the one whom "the spectator can identify (with)," it is his action that demands a fuller identification of himself and of his character. Mulvey informs us that the active male "demands a three-dimensional space" by making things happen, by controlling the events in the movie while the woman is "still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning" (834). She is subjected to bear the look, to be the sexualized object, the silent image and look forward to nothing else except being looked at, judged and defined by her appearance. Woman in film then becomes an icon meant for the enjoyment men get from looking at her and nothing else.
Mulvey tells us that film usually opens with "woman as object of the combined gaze of spectator and all the male protagonists in the film. She is isolated, glamorous, on display, sexualized" (840). This isolation and sexualization of women as objects can be seen in movies like The Graduate. Mrs. Robinson is an object to be admired. She is sexualized; she serves no other purpose but to be seen and be the sexual object of the male protagonist (and through him the male spectator). However, this isn't just the case with movies, it is seen in paintings (as pointed out by Berger), music videos, ads, television and in everyday life. This clip of an episode of Friends shows woman, exactly as described by Mulvey. Here, she is isolated, sexualized, she is completely the bearer of the spectator's and male protagonists' looks (every time she is in the picture taking her hair down, time moves slower, emphasizing her appearance and that the spectator is meant to look and by the way, here is some more time to do so): This way of seeing, especially in our culture today, is so pervasive, so infiltrated in our day to day lives because, put simply, we live in a patriarchal society that perpetuates these types of views of women.

In "The Oppositional Gaze," bell hooks tells us "there is power in looking," and that looking for black people was a confrontational will to change reality, a "site of resistance for colonized black people globally" (115, 117). However, there is a clear difference between how black men can view things and how they are looked at and how black women see things and are looked at by others. She says that "the black male gaze had a different scope from that of the black female...(because) early black male independent filmmakers represented black women in their films as objects of male gaze" (hooks, 118). When describing the character of Sapphire from the show Amos 'n' Andy, hooks says she was "foil...bitch-nag...there to soften images of black men, to make them seem vulnerable, easygoing, funny and unthreatening to a white audience. She was castrating bitch, someone to be lied to, to be tricked, someone the white and black audience could hate...she was not us" (hooks, 120). Because of this and the fact that feminist film criticism never acknowledged black female spectators, black women had to develop an oppositional gaze to do away with the silencing of discussions regarding racialized sexual difference. Black women were forced to actively critique and analyze/deconstruct stereotypes of themselves they saw on screen because feminist film theory was still rooted in an "ahistorical psychoanalytic framework that privileges sexual difference" (hooks, 123). Notice that in music videos in which the artists are minority women, the women become more animalistic, primal. Many of Beyonce's videos do this:

It is hard to see these structures in place and actively critique and choose to act against them when it is something that has been ingrained in us for so long. The concept of the male gaze is something I hadn't even thought of but knew all along that it was there. The fact that men feel entitled and that we let them feel entitled to stop us on the street and tell us to smile or to stare at us when we walk into a room, to rape us if we wear a provocative outfit, walk down a deserted path or have one too many drinks and then feel guilty about it is just crazy and ridiculous to me. At the same time, it's hard to notice the subtle things in our daily lives, in the media we consume that give us these messages that we can't seem to shake. Understanding the male gaze, its constructs and bell hook's oppositional gaze makes me think critically about the kind of media I am consuming (do I really want to be taking in these messages blindly?). It also makes me think a little harder about the kind of woman I want to be and less about how I want to be seen by others (which is, I think, what we usually think of-how will others perceive me as opposed to who do I want to be for myself).

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Just Have A lot of Feelings

Okay, so I know that there isn't an assignment to post anything, but as my title suggests, I have a lot of feelings that I need to express. (By the way, if anyone caught that Mean Girls reference, it would make me so happy.) Anyhow, onto my purpose.

I respect everyone's opinion in this class. I value everyone's opinion in this class, and I look forward to hearing everyone's opinion on this subject matter. However, I would just like to state that it feels like a somewhat hostile environment to voice my own thoughts. Granted, I am not one who is afraid to debate a topic (although I'd really rather not), and I generally have the same thoughts, opinions, and beliefs as many of you. I am just saying that when it comes to voicing an opinion that may not be agreed upon, or may just be worded in a way that is offensive, it may be hard for others to come forward and say something.

 I highly doubt that anyone has the intention of being malicious, or attacking a fellow classmate, but from last week's class I would just like to say that it got very heated and I got uncomfortable just sitting in silence while I watched and listened to people being in a sense, executed for an opinion or word choice. Everyone has an opinion that they are entitled to voice.

I am not saying that we have to agree with everyone, and sit in a circle singing "Kumbaya" or what have you, because that is bullshit, and defeats the purpose of the class I feel. I do feel, however that people should be allowed to speak without being in fear of attack. I felt attacked when I was just trying to rescue a fellow classmate who unfortunately keeps digging himself into a large grave due to his poor choice in words. I also believe that some other guys in class may speak if there were not a hypothetical angry mob of townswomen carrying torches and pitchforks. Not to be mean, but it feels like a sort of men vs. women situation occurring in class, which I suppose the class is about in a sense, but I'm sure the men in the class are not "against" you (but if they are, then I guess you have every right to attack).

So as we venture into tomorrow, and no one reads this, let's not go into battle please, because it's stressful and causes tension, and ain't nobody got time for that.

Hope this wasn't offensive in any way.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


         In film and art, one will find that the gaze is something significant for both the subject and the viewer. When one looks at the female body, there's more than what meets the eye and this could range depending on the race and gender of the viewer. A male isn't the only type of person to feel impact of the female, because it is the female too who's also influenced by a woman's appearance, whether it's another woman or herself. Writers John Berger, Bell Hooks, and Laura Mulvey have contributed their ideas to the topic.
          In John Berger's Way of Seeing, he discusses the contrasts between male and female presence. The male's presence will reflect his excess world, which concerns whether he's macho or has good economic status. As for the female, it's a reflection of who she is to herself ,and it is at times uncontrollable. He writes, " To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. The social presence of women has developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space."(Berger, 46) He adds that when a woman is in her own company, she isn't really by herself, because she has her own identity as well as the image of herself that is perceived by others. This is something I could relate to because as a girl, I feel like I always have to keep up appearances, and it's definitely influenced by society's expectations. Often, when I'm at home or by myself, I'll dress down, relax and eat what I desire, but I can't completely let myself go. I have to eventually work out and fix my hair, otherwise it will affect my self esteem. 
          Going back to Berger's book, he talks about the difference between nudity and nakedness. "To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not be recognized for oneself."(Berger, 54) His work includes various nude painting and photographs, as describes each and compares their similarities. In both the Nell Gwynne portrait and the Venus and Cupid painting, the spectator is aware that the female is drawing her attention towards him. Just by the way their bodies are positioned, he can tell that they're aware of his gaze. Male musicians are no stranger to the gaze, as they often direct their lyrics to the opposite sex. In Pitbull's song, I Know You Want Me, he's both speaking to the female spectacle while describing his experience to the listener. He tells the female, "I know you want me, you know I want you." Then he tells the listener, "Mami got an ass like a donkey, with a monkey. Look like King Kong, welcome to the crib 305, That's what it is with a woman down here the shit don't play games." 

          Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema offers a twisted view on the female gaze by using psychoanalysis. The idea of the female being castrated is the appeal of this male gaze. Mulvey writes, "The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of a castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her to desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies." (Mulvey, 833) Sometimes the female body becomes a threat to the man because he is reminded of castration, and there are two ways to avoid the anxiety that comes with that thought. He could turn this castration into a fetish or look into the reenactment of the trauma that punished her, and he could use fetishistic scopophilia. This fetishistic scopophilia "builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself." (Mulvey, 840)
          Bell Hooks's Oppositional Gaze analyzes the female body from a black person's perspective. She starts off by talking about how African Americans were not legally allowed to have eye contact with their white owners. Later on, when television first came out, it gave African American men the opportunity to stare at white women without having to face harsh consequences. However, for the black female it was a different story, because she couldn't watch the white female on screen without feeling she couldn't relate to them. When black females were involved in the cinema, the whites would constantly stereotype, as shown in Amos and Andy, where Sapphire was the castrating bitch the audience was supposed to hate. When there was black cinema, it was in its own category and could never cross paths with mainstream cinema. Overall, black woman felt unrelated to mainstream cinema and had to resort to blocking out their identities. "Responding to this assualt, many black women spectators blocked out the image, looked the other way, accorded cinema no importance in their lives." (Hooks, 120) Then there were those females who chose to block out racism and give into the world of the movie. Hooks sums up the experience of a working class woman. "To experience pleasure, Miss Pauline sitting in the dark must imagine to herself transformed, turned into the white woman portrayed on the screen. After watching movies, feeling the pleasure, she says, 'But it made coming home hard.'"(Hooks, 121) Some of these women would have to come back home with the realization that they weren't the women portrayed on the screen. 
         Personally, I feel like the media has come a long way and is still evolving into a culture where different societies are crossing paths. Surely, we see that there are different races starring on our favorite TV shows and movies. However, it's still apparent that there's continuous stereotyping. I've always been familiar with this, but Bell Hook's writing has opened my eyes to how it really must of felt before there was an intermix of blacks and whites in film culture. These black females weren't given a reason to feel part of the mainstream experience  unless they blocked out their identities. If they were to see which direction the media is headed in today, they would be much prouder of our conditions, even though we have a long way to go. In ways I see a lot of stereotyping concerning my race in American TV. Nowadays, Hispanic girls are still perceived as cholas or sultry sex symbols on the television screen, which is fine but sometimes exaggerated. My favorite stereotype is the latin maid or house cleaner supporting a low-income family. Now, my mom was a maid/house cleaner and my aunt is still a house cleaner, but besides the point, it doesn't necessarily apply to all of us. What keeps me positive is that people are aware of mainstreams flaw in perceiving certain cultures, and as viewers they can change what sells to the public. 

The Eye of the Beholder

“If we are ever to understand human behavior we must know as much about the eye that sees as about the object seen…[T]he eye that sees is not a mere physical organ but a means of perception conditioned by the tradition in which it possessor has been reared.”
– Ruth Benedict, 1943

SHIT, I’M LATE – is all that comes to mind as I run up the subway stairs in haste trying to catch my train. Excuse me. Pardon me. Sorry about that sir. Wheew! I made it! Yes! I’m breathing heavy, hot as hell, sweaty, slightly irritated but I should get to class on time. Thank GOD, there’s a seat, my bag is too heavy to carry today. Augh-FINALLY- I can catch my breath. Oh My God, I’m soaking wet! I wipe the sweat from my chest first, not my whole chest of course, just the part in the middle that’s exposed through my V-neck shirt. The only part that seems to be getting some air. That’s when I feel it – that look or better yet stare from the eyes of the unfamiliar, a stranger. “Good Morning”, I say to the man who appears to find comfort in looking at me, I don’t want to be rude – its waaaaay too early for drama. He replies with a nod and smile and says “Good Morning Beautiful”.

                I wipe my face, then my head. The sweat just won’t stop. Finally I’m cool. Now I can put my makeup on. Since I was running late, I didn’t have time to do it at the house. First the eye shadow. Then mascara and last my lips. As I arch my brow to apply the first stroke, my eyes meet those of the stranger, the smiling head nodding man. Why is he still looking at me? Who knows? It’s New York City and I’m on mass transit. “You know you really don’t need that stuff. It ain’t good for your skin. You know you real pretty, even with a bald head.” I brush it off and continue to put on my face. Now comes the 2nd eye – still looking. Then the mascara – still looking and finally comes the lip liner and lip gloss (which I must admit I was a bit apprehensive to put on by this time) and out of the nowhere all I hear is, “DAMN YOU GOT SOME PRETTY ASS LIPS!” I look up and of course he’s still watching, I cut him a look of disdain that would have killed his mother, rolled my eyes and continued with my face. “Well FUCK YOU then, I was just trying to give you a FUCKIN complement. OH BITCH!

                In her article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Laura Mulvey addresses the look and/or stare, that women of all races and classes arguably experience daily, when she describes the male gaze. Interestingly enough, she inform us that the male gaze is so much more than a simple stare. It is an action imposed on women by men and the media to inflict feelings of powerlessness, disinterest, and devalue. The male gaze is constant surveillance and policing of the female body that is often framed as rewarding and fulfilling, even empowering, yet the woman with the dead eyes and finger hanging from her pouty mouth appears to be longing for so much more than approval from her male (and female) audience but rather the need to understand why she’s being placed on display in the first place.  The male gaze is rooted in patriarchy and constructed through a heteronormative lens, objecting women and rendering them passive and inactive as well as eroticized and fetishized. While Mulvey focused primarily on film, this gaze is not confined to the big screen. Instead it lurks everywhere. From billboards and magazine advertisement, to commercials to pornography, the unified message is that not only are women watched but we really want to be watched and no, it doesn’t have to offer pleasure or excitement –  to is it simply, look good and be quite.  “Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.” (Mulvey, p. 834)

                While all women are subjected to the male gaze in our everyday experiences, women of color often find their journey even more complicated as race and class become contributing factors when assessing what’s seen through the gaze. “Every narration places the spectator in position of agency; and race, class and sexual relations influence the way in which this subjecthood is filled by the spectator.” (hooks, p. 117) As a Black woman, what I like to refer to as the “What The Fuck” or “are you really talking to me, because that’s not who I am – you don’t see me – and that’s a problem within itself” gaze is an everyday reality and vicious cycle with no end in sight. What do you do when you’re either a slave, mammie, emasculating bitch who can’t get, let alone keep a man, with three babies by different men, no education and on welfare? I guess close your eyes and hope you don’t bump into anything because that’s about as much variation as you get for Black female presentation within media. In her essay, “The Oppositional Gaze”, bell hooks vividly and candidly addresses the experiences and attitudes of Black women and their relationship with the media, particularly film, while calling to question mainstream feminist film critics’ ambivalence toward Black women and Black female spectatorship.  

“Looking at films with an oppositional gaze, black women were able to critically assess the cinema’s construction of white womenhood as object of phallocentric gaze and choose not to identify with either the victim or the perpetrator. Black female spectators, who refused to identify with white womanhood, who would not take on the phallocentric gaze of desire and possession, created a critical space where the binary opposition Mulvey posits of “woman as image, man as bearer of the look” was continually deconstructed.”(hooks, p. 122)

hooks challenges us to think about who Black women are and how we’re represented. She also forces us to identify our allies in a struggle, which becomes increasingly difficult when you’re usually invisible.

The oppositional gaze is a necessary tool of analysis when addressing Black female representation within media. Considering the controlling images and stereotypes that have been practically ingrained on the psyche and social structures (i.e. politics, religion, education) of our society; regardless of how conscious, progressive or unbiased we may think we are, they continue to be a critical contributing force to the construction of Blackness when depicted in media. While I often feel torn and divided, sometimes even forced to choose between my race and gender, the reality is that all the intersections (i.e. race, class, gender, sexual orientation) of society are simultaneously impacting my life and compartmentalizing my existence is not an option, nor would I want it to be. I am clear that the mass media can be jaded, fearful of the unknown and often responsible for devaluing and trivializing the human experience. However, I am also aware that media serves as platform to ignite real positive social change. Therefore, I must first ensure that I am pleased with myself, as self- awareness, self-esteem and self-worth are my best defense mechanisms. Then when I’m bombarded with images that don’t speak to who I am; images that produce and perpetuate monolithic ideologies of Blackness; images that devalue my womanness, I am able to employ my oppositional gaze and work to create and sustain diversity within media depiction of Blackness and Black womanhood.  In 1851, Sojourner Truth asked “Ain’t I a Woman?” and in 2013, I often worry that Black women are STILL asking the same question.  
Sojourner Truth
  "Ain't I A Woman" - Delivered 1851
   Women's Convention - Akron, OH
Works Cited
Berger. John. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Group, 1973. Print.
hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992.
Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44.