The male gaze is the unwanted silent threat to women. Walking down any ordinary street, a man watches a lady up and down from head to toe. With such invasive behavior, women can’t help but to feel objectified and vulnerable. John Berger explains it perfectly in Ways of Seeing saying, “Men act. Women appear.” Men are freer to live where women are constantly under a microscope. Men do the watching, the gazing. And women are only perceived as objects to admire or look at without hesitation. Berger also says, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Women are persistently scrutinized on the basis of our society’s structure. The social order we’ve created requires us to maintain an image. Whether we admit it or not, we have a very materialistic viewpoint on the world surrounding us. Material things construct the entirety of our lives. There is no escaping it; rather we need to embrace it, and ultimately revolutionize the way we look at each other and more importantly, ourselves.
As a model, I’ve first handedly witnessed prejudice based on gender as well as racial background. Women are so subjectified to the point where they fall in love with the attention. From liquor commercials to car commercials, from raunchy restaurants (ex: Hooters) to lingerie advertisements, women are told what to look like in order to be ‘happy’ and ‘successful’. Our society has created a false pedestal on which many women desire to stand upon not concerning themselves with self-respect. The attention feels too damn good to give up. They objectify themselves because they settle for the male gaze. They aren’t willing to wait for gentlemen to come their way. They want numerous looks. They want to flaunt a sexy persona that is, for the majority, a self-told lie. But women are forced to lie to themselves because we only engage or react to a certain way women look and behave.
The oppositional gaze is one of retaliation. It serves an instant gratification of being rebellious to the normalcy of subjecting women, but it does not tackle the root of the problem. This alter gaze brings awareness that there is a certain power in looking. Acknowledging one’s own power allows one to control the way they feel when others look at them. Observed by Bell Hooks, we see a dual battle of sexism and racism. She describes how mainstream media lacks diversity and actually promotes an unconscious segregated society. She strives to cure the ignorance through her own profession in the film world. She focuses on the purpose of films noting that they are not mirrors of reality, but a representational art form which enables us to discover who we are.
There is hope for the human race. Some of us, men and women, are able to step outside of reality and manifest a life solely for us, not buying into the mainstream way of doing things. We aren’t all caught up in the sex-crazed matrix most of humanity has trapped itself in, nor are we old-fashioned conservatives. Some of us have successfully managed to be ourselves, be comfortable in our own skin, and be happy. We know that popular culture is a lie. We know that humans are speeding down the wrong path. They are searching in all dark places in search for the light. This isn’t a sexist issue. This is a humanity case. We are always pointing fingers at the opposite sex not realizing we’re both guilty.
We have to redefine our morals and standards because as of recently, we’ve derailed so far off the track that people don’t stand for anything anymore. We fall for everything that comes our way, we get hurt, and then we put up massive walls the size of the one in China so that no one can ever again hurt us. We’ve developed a psychological problem that installs a fear of other people. We fear what other people think about us, how other people look at us, and what people will say about us. We’ve learned to not trust anyone but ourselves. We’ve taken being an individual out of context. We’ve created monsters that we really don’t like staring at in front of the mirror or rather, we’ve tricked ourselves in believing that the image in the mirror is the most lovable versions of ourselves.
There are people who oversee advertising with a moral code in mind, but there's a gray area of what's socially acceptable.